The Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes don’t have much history, except for that outstanding seven-game series in the 2006 Cup finals. The ending wasn’t great for the Oilers and their fans, but the 24 games between April 21st and June 19th created some outstanding memories.
I’m guessing most Oiler remember where they were when Pisani scored shorthanded, in overtime no less, to send the series back to Edmonton for games six. Game six was the best atmosphere in an NHL arena that I’ve ever experienced. It was Saturday night, 6 p.m. start, but the building was packed by 4:30. The emotion and excitement inside Rexall Place was intense, heart pounding and euphoric, all before the game even started.
One of the coolest parts was when the fans showed great respect by singing the Star Spangled Banner prior to belting out Oh Canada.
Or how about the goal at 4:00 of this video…I’d say it is the nicest goal of Ryan Smyth’s career, and it came in game six of the Stanley Cup finals.
It was a magical run. Shirts off for Horcoff was an actual thing. The Human Rake was a beast on the blueline. Fernando Pisani was a local here in Edmonton, especially in Little Italy. The Oilers had an outstanding combination of skill, experience, toughness, size, grit and a strong desire to win.
The Rake should have won the Conn Smyth despite losing. He did everything, including scoring on a penalty shot in game one of the Finals.
The forward group had skill in Horcoff, Hemsky, Samsonov, Pisani and Smyth. Grit and toughness with Peca, Torres, Stoll, Moreau and a 4th line that found ways to contribute with Murray, Winchester, Laraque, Dvorak, and Harvey.
Behind the Rake, he played 31 freaking minutes a game, Spacek played the best hockey of his career, while Smith and Staios were all heart and determination, and made the opposition battle for every inch on the ice. The 3rd pair was a mixture of Greene, a big, strong, young D-man who played 10 minutes a game, and Tarnstrom and Bergeron who played 13 minutes a night, mainly ES with 2 min of PP time.
Roloson was a journeyman goalie, who battled on every shot, and Jussi Markanen played very well considering the situation he inherited between games 2-7 of the Cup Final.
Overall, it was an epic journey, and even though the Oilers lost, I’d bet that for most of you reading this, it was the best time of their hockey fan life. Some of you are lucky enough to have been around for the five Cup runs, but the 2006 run was so unexpected that many fans have told me it was the best two months they’d ever experienced, despite the gut-wrenching game seven defeat.
Of course the ending sucked, but that shouldn’t overshadow how fun and exciting the previous two months were. That loss likely toughened you up enough that you’ve been able to sit through eight subsequent seasons of losing.
As you get set for a game 32 of an already frustrating season, take a moment to remember who freakin awesome the ’06 run was. For fun, do a quick comparison of those teams, and you will see how many changes the current Oilers need to made if they ever want to reach the Stanley Cup Finals again.
Craig MacTavish was the coach in 2006 and saw first hand the type of 12 forwards you need in order to win. This group’s natural maturation will help, but it is clear he’ll need to change over at least half of the aforementioned group before this team can win regularly.
We all know MacT’s biggest test will be re-shaping the blueline over the next few years. Marincin has looked decent, and I think he is on a solid developmental curve at this point. How far he can improve from here will determine if he can become a solid NHLer, or just a fringe D-man.
- Chris Kunitz had 25 and 21 goal seasons in Anaheim, (60 and 50 points) before being traded to the Penguins. In his first three seasons in Pittsburgh he scored 50-13-19-32, 66-23-25-48 and 82-26-35-61. If you combine last season and the first 32 games this year, Kunitz has tallied 80-39-44-83 and that is why he is in the mix for team Canada.
His best 80 game stretch has come at the best possible time for him to be considered for the Olympic team. Playing with Crosby helps, for sure, but over the past 80 games only Ovechkin (54), Stamkos (43), Tavares (40) and P. Kane (39) have scored as much as Kunitz.
I understand why he is in the conversation for the Olympic team, but he wouldn’t be my first choice. Seventeen of his 39 goals have come on the PP, only Ovechkin has more 25, and if he does make team Canada, is he going to be on the first PP unit? I doubt it. That is a factor.
Kunitz and Crosby have chemistry and Kunitz;’ 83 points are 6th most over the past calendar year. He is producing, and often a player who is playing the best right now will make it over someone who played great two years ago. Kunitz deserves to be in the conversation, but he is a bubble guy at best.
- Speaking of Crosby, he only plays :38/game on the PK, while Malkin, Kunitz and Neal don’t play PK. Craig Adams, Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis are the three main guys, while Tanner Glass is 4th at 1:14/game. The Penguins don’t take many penalties; they’ve been on the PK for only 151 minutes this year, 7th best in the NHL.
- The Oilers have been on the PK for 181 minutes, 23rd most in the NHL, but they’ve had 192 minutes of PP time, 2nd most in the NHL. The Oilers spend more time on special teams than every other team in the league. They have played 373:33, about an average of 12:04/game. The PP and PK are 13th and 15th respectively, and the only way the Oilers can win is if their PP sits top-five, because their 5-on-5 play is horrible.
- The Oilers have given up 72 goals 5-on-5, but they’ve only scored 47. The organization needs to stop focusing so much on the PP, stop believing that the PP is the engine that drives the team, and realize that until they improve at ES they won’t win. It is painfully obvious.
- The Oilers have scored 22 PP goals, and allowed 19 PK. Their special teams basically cancel each other out.
- Richard Bachman was re-assigned to OKC today. Jason LaBarbera will be sent down once Bryzgalov has another practice or two. Jeff Petry practiced, but won’t play. He is day-to-day.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The ghosts of game-six past will appear and help the Oilers win 4-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hurricanes are 0-3 when the second game of a back-to-back is on the road. The Canes have outshot teams in the first game of those sets, but they’ve been outshot 78-104 in the 2nd games. Oilers will outshoot the Canes 33-24.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Riley Nash, Oilers first round pick, 21st overall, in 2007 will be booed every time he touches the puck. If Ladislav Smid can be booed, there is no reason that a former draft pick you refused to sign in Edmonton can’t. When you don’t have much to cheer for, the fans need to find something that will entertain them throughout the game. Riley wears #20, in case you were wondering.
DAY EIGHT…MONTH OF GIVING…
Thank you to the Edmonton Rush for donating their VIP package yesterday and to Robert for bidding on it. Through seven days we have raised $22,450 for charities.
Today’s package is unique. There are two items up for grabs, and the winning bid can choose which one they want.
Supply and install one High Efficiency Furnace or a 13 Seer Air Conditioning System courtesy of
G & H Heating and Cooling Solutions.
This is what you get with the furnace:
- One high efficiency furnace
- All venting
- All electrical connections
- All drains
- All sheet metal modifications to maximize performance of new equipment.
- City permit and City inspection fees
- Removal of old furnace
This is what you get with the Air Conditioning System:
- One 13 Seer Central Air Conditioning System
- All electrical connections with outdoor safety disconnect
- Anti-vibration pad
- One heat/cool thermostat
- City permit and inspection fees
You will receive a site visit from one of their comfort advisors before installation to take measurements and determine proper size of Air Conditioning system/Furnace for the home and where it will be installed.
To bid you can call 780.444.1260 between 2-6 p.m. today. Thanks in advance for your bid. All proceeds will go to Operation Friendship Seniors Society.