Hockey Day in Canada has become an NHL tradition, although I’m not sure if has become an NHL fan’s tradition yet. Will you be playing the great game of hockey today? Maybe you’ll be in the stands watching your son, daughter, nephew or niece or maybe you’ll strap on the blades and play shinny with your buddies. I love the idea of Hockey Day in Canada, I’m just not sure if it is more about watching NHLers than actually playing it yourself?
Thrity of us will be playing shinny outdoors at Saikers Acres, the home pf the World’s (2nd) Longest game (record was recently broken by a group, indoors though) and I’m sure the fellas will be remembering the days when we were decent and could go up and down the ice more than once without needing gasping for air.
For me, skating on the outdoor rink or the pond was always the best hockey. There was no ref, no "official" rules and you could play for hours. It would be great if the Sens and Oilers mirrored the Hawks/Oilers game from last week, and played some pond hockey today, but I doubt we’ll see that.
The Sens are a hard team to read. They’ve been incredibly steaky this year. Here’s how their season has gone.
They started 1-5 out of the gate.
Then they won 6 straight.
Then they lost 5 in a row.
Then they had a solid stretch of 7-6-4.
Followed by a huge upswing at 10-1-1.
Then they lost seven straight again before winning on Thursday.
Maybe they will get on another run, or maybe it was a just a lucky win, and they’ll go back to losing. The Sens have dominated the Oil since the lockout. The Oilers are 1-6-2 v. the Sens since the lockout. They’ve lost five straight at Rexall, including a 5-2 loss on November 17th, and their only win in the last seven years came last November in Ottawa when Andrew Cogliano scored the winner and Gilbert Brule, Cogliano and Dustin Penner each had two point nights.
- It would be nice to see Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall playing more minutes right now, but not on the PK. The suggestions that these two offensive-minded sophomores should be on the PK seem misguided to me. Eberle needs to play more EV before worrying about his PK minutes. Eberle is 169th amongst forwards (min. 20 GP) in EV icetime. That is ridiculous.
- Tom Renney should make sure that Eberle, Hall and Sam Gagner are on the ice immediately after ever PK right now. I don’t care if other guys have been sitting for awhile, this trio is your most dangerous line and they need to play a few extra shifts.
- Many have told me, "Look at Parise, he’s killing penalties and producing." Yes, he has a stunning 7 SH points in 54 games this year, but in his previous 420 he had a whopping 5 SH points. He is one of the Devils main penalty killers this year, averaging 2:12/game, but he’s in his 7th NHL season. He didn’t kill penalties before other than the odd shift the past two seasons, and he still managed to put up 94 and 82 points in 2009 and 2010. There is no need to have Eberle playing more taxing minutes, when Renney could just give him a few more EV shifts.
- Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky have never scored a goal v. the Senators. Hemsky’s never scored v. the Sens, Capitals or Oilers, while Horcoff has been shutout by the Sens, Devils and Oilers. Will one of them break their drought this afternoon?
- Nice to see a classy guy like Chris Phillips score the game winner, and his first two goals of the season, in his 1,000 game v. the Preds on Thursday. The former 1st overall pick in 1996 became the 3rd player in his draft year to play 1,000 games. Dainius Zubrus leads with 1,036, while Matt Cullen has dressed for 1,010. Derek Morris (993) Zdeno Chara (978), Tomas Kaberle (957) and Pavel Kubina (950) will likely reach the coveted plateau sometime in the 2012 calender year.
It looks like the only change will come on the backend. Andy Sutton returns and he’ll replace the struggling Cam Barker. Right now I’d rather re-sign Sutton than Barker, and I know for a fact Sutton wants to stay in Edmonton. He told me before the road trip that he’d like to initiate talks on a new one-year deal. If your top four next year are Smid, Gilbert, Whitney and Petry, then I’d want Sutton’s size and experience in my 3rd pairing instead of Barker.
Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start. Why, I’m not sure. I thought it was "win and you’re in" for the goalies. Some have suggested that maybe a team is interested in Khabibulin and they want to see more of him. I don’t buy that for a second. They know what type of goalie he is, but most importantly they know he’ll be 40 next season with a $3.75 million cap hit. If Steve Tambellini finds a trading partner for him, I’d be shocked.
THIS IS AWESOME
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Sam freaking Gagner continues his hot-streak and the Oilers win their only game in seven days, 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Most of you watched the video twice, especially the ladies, and thought of at least three situations that you’d experienced. Guys were likely laughing out loud, because they’ve done many of those things.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Jones ends his 19-game goalless drought, and celebrates accordingly. After the game Jones will credit Gagner for helping end his drought. "I noticed how a fight got Gags playing better, so I did the same. I actually think the fight softened up my hands, which is why my goal today bounced in off my shin."