Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, because some people will still be upset or annoyed. In his 550th career game, Ales Hemsky produced his first career hat-trick, and added an assist, in a surprising 6-4 win over the Predators. Prior to Tuesday’s outburst Hemsky had a paltry six goals in 59 games. He’s never been a prolific goal scorer, but you’d expect for than six goals from him.
I’ve stated all year that Hemsky wasn’t healthy to start the year, and he likely shouldn’t have played early on. Many feel that if a guy is healthy enough to play he should produce, and while I respect that opinion, I think you are underestimating the fine line between an average player and an offensive threat.
Hemsky was coming off of consecutive shoulder surgeries, and it showed in his play for the first 45 games of the season. He was tentative, something he’d never been, he wasn’t scaring any D-man with his speed, he wasn’t producing and like Jason Strudwick wrote yesterday he likely was worrying about a contract. It was hard to watch, and some felt he was destined to be injury-prone and a shadow of his former self for the remainder of his career.
When Hemsky finally notched his first career hat-trick I received many tweets and emails from upset Oiler fans. "He scores now that it doesn’t matter," or "Doesn’t make up for only six goals in previous 58 games," or "He’ll be hurt next year, so it doesn’t matter."
It must be hard being a fan that has become so jaded that when a guy has a four-point night you can’t even enjoy it.
Two weeks doesn’t make up for a disappointing season, but if you don’t recognize that Hemsky is healthy and a threat again you are clearly just bitter. I’m not saying he’s guaranteed to keep producing, but he hasn’t lost his ability to be a game breaker. Oiler fans should be pumped that #83 can still produce, because that will give the Oilers four legitimate threats next season.
Hemsky scored his four points having none of the "kids" on his line. If he plays with Hall while Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle are together the Oilers have two dangerous duos. That should excite you, not have you moaning about a guy who didn’t produce because he clearly was tentative coming off of two shoulder surgeries.
I sympathize with fans who are hesitant to believe he’ll stay healthy, for fear of being disappointed again, but I’ve never understood the fan who takes it personally. Hell, I can’t stand what my Miami Dolphins are doing, but if Matt Moore suddenly passes for 300 yards in a game, I get caught up in the moment, rather than worry about if it is only a one-time miracle.
I doubt Hemsky will become a goal-scoring machine because of his hat-trick, but if he returns to being the dangerous offensive threat he’s been for the past six years, you should be ecstatic.
Nikolai Khabibulin will start, meaning Devan Dubnyk won’t be getting his 6th consecutive game after another solid performance in Nashville. He is 12-8-2 in 2012 and in his last five starts he’s 3-1-1 with a 1.80 GAA and a .943 SV%. He hasn’t allowed one soft/weak goal in that stretch, and while it is only five games, I think this this is the most consistent he’s played during a five-game stretch all year.
I would have started him tonight and tomorrow to see if he can maintain his consistency, strength and focus on back-to-back nights. True #1s do that, and legit starters play seven, eight or even more consecutively. Why not see if Dubnyk could maintain it? I’d be more curious than anything.
Resting him tonight and playing him in Florida tomorrow shouldn’t disrupt his hot streak, but with the games essentially meaningless I’d have done it just to see how he’d react.
The need for another D-man and a few big, skilled forwards is key, but the search for a reliable goaltender has to be their first priority. Few teams can win without consistent goaltending.
Lennart Petrell left last game with a groin injury so he’s likely out…And if so then Omark will draw in…
Jones – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Hartikainen – Gagner – Hemsky
Smyth -Horcoff – Petrell/Omark
Eager – Belanger – Hordichuk
Smid – Petry
Whitney – Schultz
Peckham – Potter
- Last week Ryan Smyth tied Kevin Lowe for 7th all-time on the Oilers assist list with 309. Smyth is also 3rd all-time in PP goals with 121. Wayne Gretzky had 125 and Glenn Anderson 126.
- On Tuesday Hemsky became the 5th Oiler, RNH, Hall, Jones and Gagner were the others, to score a hat-trick this year. The last time the Oilers had five different players get a trick was in 1990 when Mark Messier (3), Glenn Anderson, Norm Lacombe, Adam Graves and Martin Gelinas did it. The record is seven set in 1988 when Anderson (3), Gretzky (2), Messier, Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Esa Tikkanen and Geoff Courtnall potted three.
- Sam Gagner tied his career high in goals with his 16th vs. Nashville. He has an outside shot at scoring 20 for the first time in his career.
- Teddy Purcell is quietly putting together a solid season with 57 points (20G, 37A) in 71 games. He also leads the Bolts with a +9 rating.
- Taylor Hall didn’t skate this morning. The Oilers didn’t want to call it a set-back, but he has a concussion and everyone reacts differently to them. Resting him is the best thing to do. With every passing day it seems more likely we won’t see #4 again this season.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have always played well v. the Bolts, but a victory would put them within one point of Montreal for 28th, so I’ll predict a 4-3 loss for those who want the #2 overall pick.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Steven Stamkos will score a goal. He’s hasn’t scored in three game since he buried his 50th v. Boston. Only once this season has Stamkos went four or more games without a goal. He went goal-less for five games between Dec 3rd and 10th, but other than that he’s hasn’t had any lengthy dry spells.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: It is one of the few games where Khabibulin isn’t the oldest goalie on the ice, and he’ll by amped up about it. Khabibulin and the "Fading Fossil" Dwayne Roloson will turn back the clock and make a series of acrobatic saves. Roloson will lose his mask at least three times tonight, prompting Oiler fans to gleefully remember the 2006 run. Sportsnet will then ruin the memories by panning to Marc-Andre Bergeron sitting in the pressbox, and instantly Wanye and many of you will curse his name.