Okay. So I missed the first half-hour of the Oilers - Predators game last night. I admit it! I spent the entire long weekend working, making catching the Oil awfully difficult and driving my already dangerous misanthropy to new heights. But I am a Serious Journalist with Serious Journalistic Ethics and so I will not compound my sin by playing the mediocre columnist's game of saying he saw what he didn't saw.
Although I am a mediocre columnist, I prefer to be my own mediocre columnist. Also, I'm still at work so I have quite enough lying in my day.
Unfortunately, in all the excitement we neglected to do a post-game report. Oh, readers, how my teammates let me down! Bruce is "traveling" and "doing stuff". Scott did the actual gameday post and Derek is apparently too lazy to provide more than his usual 96% of the site's content. So once again it falls to me to fill the gulf of ignorance with my own unique brand of ignorance.
And a fantastic game like this deserves all of our love. Sure, some (DEREK) will tell you that the Oilers are being outshot and outchanced and there's no way the good times will roll. But all I know is that the Vaunt is back and Stanley's parade will follow the usual route.
Even catching half the game - and the boring second half at that - it was easy for me to get excited. The Oilers are joint best in the West with a 4.0 goals-for average, tied with the Calgary How-'bout-Them-Blackhawks. We're a game over .500 for the first time since February 5. Not only did Jeff Deslauriers look like the poor man's Dominik Hasek, but I might have to start calling Hasek the poor man's Jeff Deslauriers.
In spite of Pete Peeters's departure, it's good to see no curriculum changes at the Jeff Deslauriers School of Goaltending. Watching Deslauriers pound rubber is always a delicious blend of horror and ecstasy. He flings body parts in front of the puck with all the sophistication of a cat in heat, and if the rebound kicks out nineteen feet to an opposing forward well then he'll just stop that too!
Balls out! No mercy! Rebound control is just admitting you can't make the second save!
Is it smoke and mirrors or is it ability? Deslauriers looked good last season in a small sample. His only goal against wasn't a rebound but a nice play by veteran finisher Jason Arnott after a Strudwick brain cramp. The Predators mustered 41 shots on goal and Deslauriers made quality stops off of Michael Santorelli, Ryan Jones, and Dan Hamhuis among others, to say nothing of his first-class pokecheck on a Steve Sullivan breakaway. Nashville wasn't firing blanks out there and the Predators have skill to spare (Shea Weber, owner of a world-class slapshot, bombed eight on Deslauriers). At some point, we need to consider that Deslauriers's skill and athleticism may compensate for his obvious weaknesses and turn him into an NHL goaltender after all.
Defensively, Deslauriers had to cope with the sloppiest own-zone effort I've seen in a 6-1 win for some time. I don't have the fourth line's Corsi on the night in front of me but I would conservatively peg them at -infinity. Struds logged 20:27 and looked worse than Taylor Chorney, who played only 14:29 and picked up his first NHL point in the process even if he clearly isn't ready for the big league. Aside from Denis Grebeshkov, the defense was cutting corners all night, and how sad is it when we're getting our most complete effort from Denis Grebeshkov?
I always complain, though. This was a game to smile upon, not whine about. The Oilers were hurt and playing their backup goaltender on the road against a team that's probably going to make the playoffs and they thumped 'em. Life's good.
Must-Read Oiler News of the Day: Marc Pouliot will be out an indecent length of time after his pubis thing turned into a hernia surgery thing. Among the things that have stalled Pouliot's career to date: pubic problems, a concussion, and mononucleosis. This kid's body is just rebelling against the concept of playing professional hockey.
Things That Will Make You Giggle: Go to any Flames site and read the post comments. Your bad day will turn delightful, I guarantee it. Following up the Oilers game with the Flames game was like eating a great Thanksgiving dinner then having bacon for dessert.
The Copper & Blue We-Need-A-Sponsor-For-This-Thing Reverse Three Stars of the Game:
18th Star: D Tom Gilbert. No insult to the kid, who wasn't bad (the third-worst player in a 6-1 thrashing is usually going to be a pretty okay player). But he wasn't his usual self providing an electric shock to both defense and offense, didn't really get involved moving the puck up, and got taken wide (Bucky) a little too often. After the Oilers started to run away with affairs he shifted right into cruise control and may as well have been eating hot dogs in the press box.
Now, if Gilbert's going to take two periods off this season he picked the perfect time to get things out of the way, and while he didn't do much right he didn't really do anything wrong either. In a normal game, I'd have no real complaints about Gilbert, and he suffers only by comparison.
19th Star: LW Ethan Moreau. Another ticky-tack stick foul and not much achieved on a night when his teammates were shooting the lights out. His defense was bad and his offense was worse all night. Doogie2K mentions in our Ethan Moreau thread that the penalty may have been a blown call but a player of Moreau's experience should know that you can't stuff your stick into those areas and expect to get away with it. Air Moreau was offensively ineffective for every second of his fourteen and a half minutes, managed to stay off the scoresheet in spite of Stortini's brace, and generally stank.
Because I haven't gone back and done the earlier games this season, this is Ethan Moreau's first appearance in the race for the Golden Rooster. I can assure you it shall not be his last.
20th Star: D Jason Strudwick. Had an assist. Nice! Where the hell were you the other nineteen minutes? Directly caused the Predators' lone goal with an "I'm Bobby Fucking Orr!" moment chugging into the Predators zone like a British car from the '70s and, also like a British car in the '70s, coming up short in the corners and running out of gas. He was stripped of the puck without ceremony and (this is the most offensive part) lolly-gagged it back into his own zone, not arriving in time to get involved in the play before Arnott had cashed in.
That wasn't his only awful moment. He missed checks, skated lazily, and was a major part of the reason Deslauriers had 41 shots to deal with. On a less fortunate night, we'd be burning him in effigy. Instead, we accept him as a negative part of a fantastic game, forget about him, and move on with our lives. Such is sports.
5 points: Jean-Francois Jacques, Jason Strudwick
3 points: Nikolai Khabibulin, Ethan Moreau
1 point: Sam Gagner, Tom Gilbert
On Deck: the Oilers show the Blackhawks how a team holds the lead tomorrow evening at 6:30 PM Mountain Daylight Time from Chicago. Radio is 630 CHED, television is TSN.