After a dominating performance over an injury-riddled, not-much-talent Flames team on Tuesday, the Oilers will have a tougher test tonight. Outside of proving the Oilers have much more skill than Calgary, I was impressed by how hard they worked and skated on Tuesday. When their effort, desire and work ethic matches their natural skill level this team is fun to watch and hard to play against.
It takes time to realize how to play that way most nights, but if they can bring the same effort tonight, we should be in for a hell of a game. The Flyers are big, tough, physical and loaded with skill. Claude Giroux is one of the best players in the game. Scott Hartnell is having a great year. Wayne Simmonds is on pace to score 30 goals. Jaromir Jagr is still dangerous, and even without the Human Rake, their backend is solid.
The only question is if Ilya Bryzgalov can break the 25-year curse that hangs over goaltenders who go to Philly.
Bryzgalov is a classic. He was hilarious on 24/7, and I genuinely think he cares. Recently he changed his pads from the old school brown to all black in hopes of changing his luck. Darth Galov would be a good moniker for him. His teammates admit he’s a different guy, but they all said he truly cares and they expect him to turn things around before the playoffs.
Smyth – Gagner – Eberle
Hall- Horcoff – Hemsky
Paajarvi – Belanger – Eager
Petrell- Lander – Hordichuk
Smid – Petry
Whitney – Gilbert
Sutton – Potter
After a 6-1 victory there is no reason to change things up, so Ryan Jones will sit out his 2nd straight along with Cam Barker. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins skated today, but he won’t play tonight and likely not on Saturday. He is getting closer, but he will need to be 100% for at least a week before he gets back in the lineup.
What started as a joke on twitter has morphed into a fundraiser for charity, mostly because Scott Hartnell can poke fun at himself. Hockey fan Seth Hastings came up with #HartnellDown, story here, but it took off when Hartnell himself joined in on the fun.
Hastings’ definition of Hartnell Down is, “A moment where something other than Scott’s skates or stick are on the ice and attached to his body… if Scott puts a glove hand on the ice, he’s down but if Scott tosses his gloves to fight, he is not down until he inevitably ends up flat on his back during said fight.”
Hartnell isn’t the best skater, and his reckless style has him falling to the ice an average of three times a game. Last year Hastings tallied 241 scenarios where Hartnell Down occured. .
Hartnell decided to play along and launched www.hartnelldown.com. They track his falls, he’s at 224 so far this year, and they sell T-shirts for $15 with all the proceeds going to charity. "It is a funny thing that has turned out great. It’s blown up bigger than I could have imagined," said Hartnell.
"It’s not like I try to fall down that often, but it happens. Now it seems every time I fall, or someone on our team falls it is ‘Hartnell Down.’ It’s really fun. Some people tweet me and say, ‘You are embarrassing, stand up or you’re a piece of whatever,’ but I think it is hilarious, and it is good for people to come together on something and help some kids."
Hartnell is having a career year with 28 goals and 56 points. He’s also one of the emotional leaders for the Flyers. Hartnell got off to a brutal start. He was on the fourth line. He pinched a nerve in his neck in early August, and he wasn’t able to work out for weeks leading up to training camp. That set him back, and early in the year many around the league were wondering if they’d trade him. He had two points in the first seven games, but Peter Laviolette had faith in him and put him with Claude Giroux and he took off.
Hartnell rewarded Laviolette with a breakout season, and he’s become way more disciplined. He’s cut down on the stupid penalties, and his play combined with Hartnell Down has made him a huge fan favourite in Philly and around the league.
- The Oilers are 16-8-6 v. the Flyers in Edmonton. Jeff Deslauriers shutout the Flyers the last time they were at Rexall, 1-0 on February 3rd, 2010.
- Ryan Whitney and Ryan Smyth have the most career goals, 4, v. the Flyers. Eric Belanger, Ales Hemsky and Andy Sutton have two goals and Shawn Horcoff has one v. the Flyers. It is very likely one Oiler will score their first goal against Philly tonight.
- The St. Louis Blues are the first team in NHL history to have two goalies with six shutouts in the same season. Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak each have six. They have 12 as a team. The last team with 15 was Chicago in 1970. Prior to the Hawks, the other teams to do it all came in the 1920s when offence wasn’t at a premium. If the Blues reach 16, they will tie the New York Americans, 1929, for 2nd most. The Habs had the most, 22, in 1929 when George Hainsworth earned all 22. The Blues goaltending and team defence has been outstanding.
- Please stop saying Linus Omark will replace Ales Hemsky. It won’t happen. Omark might, a big might, score 40 points, but he’ll likely never be a 60+ point player. Whether Hemsky is here or somewhere else, I expect he’ll top 60 at least three more times in his career. Omark does not have the same skill or drive as Hemsky.
- Speaking of Hemsky, his camp is open to any deal. They made it clear to me today that they aren’t set on a long-term deal. Like any player they’d love security, but if the deal is shorter then obviously the term goes up. When I asked about a two-year deal for $11 million it wasn’t laughed at and it sounded like they’d seriously consider that option. Hemsky already gave up two years of free agency in his last deal, so I understand if he wants a longer term deal, but he likes Edmonton and his teammates want him here. I think a two or three year deal could be worked out. They have 96 hours to try and figure it out. Make no mistake though, trading Hemsky would set this team back a bit. You can’t replace proven top-six forwards very easily.
- The Oilers paid Hemsky $5 million this year ($4.1 cap hit) so his cap hit would go up, but the actual dollars paid out isn’t that different. Keep in mind that Ryan Smyth’s $6.25 cap hit won’t be close to that next season, so I don’t see why a $5 to $5.5 million cap hit for Hemsky is an issue.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: We ‘ll witness an exciting, upbeat game with the Oilers sneaking out a 4-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hartnell gets credit with four "HartnellDown" tonight, and he chips in a greasy goal from the top of the crease.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With his idol, Jaromir Jagr, in town, Hemsky has a strong game. They went for dinner last night, and tonight Hemsky will display why Jagr almost signed in Edmonton. Jagr is a huge fan of Hemsky, "I think he’s one of the most dangerous players in the league at full speed," Jagr said. Hemsky and Hall combine for two highlight reel goals tonight.