Teemu Selanne burst onto the NHL scene on October 6th, 1992. He tallied two assists in his first game vs. Detroit, a 4-1 victory, then he scored his first goal two days later in San Jose and on October 14th he tallied his first hat-trick against, you guessed it, the Edmonton Oilers.
In only his 5th NHL game, Selanne had his first of 22 hat tricks. Selanne has 49 goals and 91 career points in 82 games against Edmonton, but in his rookie season he absolutely dominated the Oilers. Selanne had 7 goals and 19 points in 9 games (yes, they played 9 games in one year) as the Jets went 8-1 against Edmonton.
Even though he’s lit up the Oilers over the years, I’ve yet to find an Oiler fan who doesn’t like Selanne. He is truly one of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen and tonight could be the last time Oilers fans get to watch him live.
I know the Ducks are back in Edmonton on April 6th, but Selanne might not play that night. The Ducks play in Vancouver tomorrow, and then they play in Vancouver again on April 7th. Selanne is playing tonight, but he will sit out tomorrow, and I’m guessing he will sit in Edmonton on the 6th and play in Vancouver on the 7th.
The Ducks have played 10 sets of back-to-back games so far and Selanne has only played in both games once, and I doubt we see him play both next week, so if you want to see The Finnish Flash one final time in Edmonton, I recommend going tonight.
Selanne is a guaranteed Hall of Famer, but he is a better person than he is a player. He is extremely genuine. I’ve spoke to thousands of visiting team players over the years, and none have been as nice as Selanne. He treats everyone with respect, and 22 years after he entered the league he is still extremely excited to come to the rink, hangout with his teammates, talk to the media and play the game. I’m not sure I’ll meet another player who matches Selanne’s class and grace. He is a true gentleman.
Even though he’s lost half a step, he is still one of the best skaters in the league, and I hope we see a few flashes of brilliance tonight.
Andrew Ference mentioned the element of Selanne’s game that likely gets overlooked,”He comes right back at you if you hit him or stand up on him or try to be tough on him in the corners. He doesn’t back away or shy away from driving the net or hitting you back or getting in on the forecheck or even giving you a quick little shot. You don’t score that many points without earning your space on the ice, and you were never going to get the upperhand on him competitive-wise.”
The young Oilers should read that quote, and then blow it up and put it on their fridge so they can read it every day. I find Hall is the closest one to having that style of game, but all of the Oilers skilled forwards must learn that you need to battle all the time if you want to be an elite, consistent scorer in the NHL.
You will notice Dallas Eakins was on the ice for Selanne’s record-breaking goal and he actually dropped the glove that Selanne tossed. “For me it was a Forrest Gump moment, what am I doing there,” said Eakins. Tie Domi assisted on the goal, so that is two guys you wouldn’t expect to be on the ice during that play.
Gagner didn’t practice yesterday, but he’ll play tonight. This has been a season to forget for Gagner, and he’s trying desperately to end the season with a glimpse of positivity. He needs to find his game soon.
Klefbom will move to his natural left side and play with Schultz. I think Schultz has improved a lot away from the puck the last few months. I’ve watched him closely in the defensive end, and while he’ll never be a shut down guy he has become better positionally. Klefbom is the steady defensive guy and the Oilers are hoping they can become a solid pairing in the future.
Belov has played the right side before and he told me he is comfortable playing either side, so he’ll play with Marincin.
Andrew Cogliano has 21 goals, and all of them are at ES. Brad Marchand has 21 goals and they are the only two players in the NHL with 21 or more goals, but none on the PP. Cogliano has flourished since moving to the wing and I asked him why he thinks he’s having more success not playing centre.
“Wing gives me the opportunity to be ahead of the play more, be first on the forecheck and not have do as much down low in D zone. I also don’t have to focus on faceoffs and use a lot of energy in the dot. I’m able to anticipate where pucks are going more from the wing and I can use my speed more to get to pucks.”
He admitted that when he was in Edmonton he felt he was better suited to play centre. “I was stubborn, I thought I’d never get the puck with speed if I played
the wing, but that isn’t the case. The wing is better for me. I’ve had to play centre a few shifts this year, and to be honest, now I hate it.”
Cogliano isn’t very big, but he forechecks hard and his speed allows him to get on D-men quickly, pressure them and often that leads to turnovers. Cogliano also shared with me that he changed up his off-season routine this past summer.
“I worked a lot on the mental side of the game this off season. I worked on getting my confidence back, believing I could make plays and score. It has worked very well. I feel like I’m hungrier to score now. I believe I can do it,” Cogliano explained.
The mental part of the game is huge, but it is something that can’t be tracked in stats or by simply watching the game. It is the huge wildcard in sports, and it will always have a major impact on how players perform regardless of what we see or track.
Cogliano is 3rd on the Ducks in shots on goal this year. He is getting more chances, but he said much of that is a direct result of the mental work he did this summer. He believes he can score so he is wiling to shoot more.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ducks win 4-3. Selanne scores his 50th career goal vs. the Oilers and the fans give him a standing ovation.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Cogliano, a former Oiler, scores his 22nd of the season and takes over the lead for most ES goals without a PP goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers manage two powerplay goals. They haven’t scored two PP goals in a game since January 26th.
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