Sometimes, this job does itself. This is one of those times, as the story angle is perfectly obvious. Goaltending. On one hand, Roberto Luongo, the official Best Goaltender in the World, playing in front of an infuriatingly friendly Rexall Place crowd that made me want to move back to Edmonton just to strangle all the so-and-sos "Louuuuuu!"ing it up and cheering for Vancouver goals. On the other hand, Jeff Deslauriers as the surprise starter after the hot Devan Dubnyk was forced into quarantine with an infectious intestinal condition. What could be less pleasant than "infectious intestinal condition"? Even Marc Pouliot thinks that's rough.
As a result, the Oilers were forced to call every goaltender in Alberta who owned pads and had nothing better to do on a Tuesday night. Enter Nathan Deobald, or as I called him "the Voting Machine", best known for... nothing. Nothing whatsoever. Arguably less famous than I am. Third string goaltender with the University of Calgary. Former player at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. A senior in the Faculty of Social Sciences/Fine Arts, and "hopes to attend med school or achieve a master’s in psychology" which seems like a better idea than a hockey career. He has been a starter for precisely one season in his post-bantam hockey career, playing forty-two games with a .905 save percentage for Kindersley in the mediocre-at-best Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He seems like a good kid but the only way he should have been at Rexall Place would be if he bought a ticket.
Seriously, if Bruce hadn't been at that poetry thing, he could have been Edmonton's backup goaltender! He could hardly have been less qualified than Deobald and he's a proper astronomer instead of this namsy-pamby "social sciences/fine arts" stuff! Imagine if Deobald has gotten into a game!
Actually, we don't need to imagine it, because Roberto Luongo was nice enough to give us a pretty good preview. He allowed three goals and all three were noxious, and it would have been four if Gilbert Brule had turned an ill-advised poke-check into the goal it ought to have been. Meanwhile, Deslauriers put on his Dominik Hasek hat again and slammed the door, allowing two unstoppable shots and making some four- and five-alarm saves, particularly in the second and third saves. First star and well-deserved.
Goaltending. That was your hockey game.
It hardly seems worthwhile to talk about the rest of the game, but let's try. The Oilers were mostly terrible, of course. Andrew Cogliano scored a goal he didn't deserve but Luongo also made one of his few terrific saves off of a perfectly-taken Cogliano chance, so his puck luck came out even in my book. Robert Nilsson was his usual Mini-Magic self, flying up and down the ice, took his goal well, and generally looked lively. The Over the Hill Line of Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, and Ethan Moreau were less reprehensible than usual. Zack Stortini didn't fight Rick Rypien, which I appreciate since he would have gained nothing from it. Tom Gilbert was, in general, moderately effective.
Every other skater? I'm taking you off my Christmas list and putting you on that other one I keep.
What the hell was that? Mason Raymond had six shots, Kyle Wellwood deked us into next week, we were outshot 33-22 and I'm certain the scoring chance numbers were a lot more lopsided than that... well, we looked like a thirtieth-place team playing in what was allegedly our home rink but where all the ritzy business types who sit in the lower bowl just to be seen had sold their tickets to jeering fair-weather Canucks fans who moved to Edmonton because it was the only place they could get a job and walk around in brand new Luongo or Sedin jerseys pretending they gave a crap when Vancouver was losing... er, not that I'm bitter.
Jeff Deslauriers shut them up, though. I'm not going to say he shut them up once and for all, for that would be tempting the hockey gods in the worst way. But I wrote a post defending Jeff Deslauriers, and then he came out and looked excellent. This has never happened before. Usually, the more we hate him, the better Deslauriers plays, and the more we come around on his excellence the more likely he will defecate in our bed and then move the blanket over it as if he thinks we won't notice. Perhaps the hockey gods weren't reading the Copper & Blue as attentively as they ought, perhaps they have taken pity on us, or perhaps Jeff Deslauriers is putting such worldly concerns behind him and concentrating on contorting his body into a 6'4" torus to kick out the chances his poor positioning made possible.
This is all nitpicking at a glorious evening, however. We beat the Canucks in regulation, and hopefully all those Vancouver fans were sobbing bitter tears into the gaudy upholstery of their Priuses idling in the middle of the Northlands parking lot. That's all that matters. Right?
The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars:
18th Star: F Sam Gagner, who I should probably cut some slack since he was apparently on a secret mission from Canadian intelligence that required him to sneak into Rexall Place, play a game, and get out while completely invisible. The operation was successful, but it also made it harder for the Oilers to win the hockey game as Gagner drifted in and out of the shadows like some ethereal hockey consciousness, occasionally emerging onto the scene of us humans to dick around with the puck aimlessly, turn it over, and then vanish in a puff of smoke as though he had never been.
And the only times he did get involved in the play, John Garrett thought he was Mike Comrie. Which isn't Gagner's fault but, really, it doesn't help.
19th Star: F Mike Comrie. I think the reason John Garrett got him confused with Sam Gagner is that Sam was at least occasionally visible but Garrett knew from the roster sheet that Comrie must have been playing somewhere. I imagine the Sportsnet guys calling down to the Oilers dressing room asking if Comrie hadn't been on the ice because he was hurt, and a puzzled Pat Quinn telling them that Comrie had been taking a regular shift, and the Sportsnet researcher being all apologetic because he thought the Oilers had just been shorthanded all those times.
20th Star: D Dean Arsene. I've said, from time to time, that Dean Arsene may be bad but he has to be better than what we've got out there. I may have been wrong. Good god, was Arsene terrible. Jason Strudwick played twenty minutes and I was happy about every one of them because that meant Dean Arsene wasn't on the ice. When you stand out as being awful on this blue line, that's really saying something. When you're playing with Taylor Chorney and he's the steady one, that's really saying something. Dean Arsene, in general, was really saying something, and that something was "please send me to the minors".
Let's not forget that Dean Arsene turns thirty in July. When Theo Peckham stinks, we can say "it's okay, he's young and brings a lot to the table physically, he'll learn." When Dean Arsene stinks, we can say "well, he's not very fast and not very big and has played 267 career games with the Hershey Bears, so it's safe to say that he's probably just lousy." Not the sort of player you want around in a Relentless Rebuild. What the hell have Alex Plante or Johan Motin got to do that's so much better?