I swear, the Edmonton Oilers are almost as sick of this season as I am.
A few minutes at the beginning of the game aside, I was unable to watch this particular breed of one-legged dog. Unbelievably, a Western Conference match between the 11th-place Blues and 15th-place Oilers didn't draw a lot of attention from the sort of people who stream games online so I may watch them. So I turned on 630 CHED while leaving a Brazilian soccer game open with the sound off, and I'd be lying if I said the soccer game wasn't drawing my attention.
Hell, I think the soccer game drew the Oilers' attention too. Patrick O'Sullivan got us off to a flyer with what I'm told was a tremendous breakaway goal, snaring a Barret Jackman pass and turning Chris Mason inside-out. Actually, O'Sullivan was pretty good in general, mustering six shots in eighteen and a half minutes. The rest of the team apparently thought it was an off day. To be fair to them, that Brazilian soccer game really was excellent.
My boy Marc Pouliot got himself onto the scoresheet too, dropping them with Carlo Colaiacovo in perhaps the all-time battle for the Oft-Injured Championship of the World. Improbably, both escaped with shoulders located and discs non-herniated. Pouliot generally tosses them about once a year: last year it was a dud against John-Michael Liles and hockeyfights.com tells me that he fought somebody named Petr Kalus in the American League in 2007-08, which is interesting because I think he missed six games with a peter callous that season.
Also, Devan Dubnyk was terrific.
That's it. Those are your bright spots. No, those are your interesting spots. What a dud.
Let's get back on Devan Dubnyk for a second, because he's providing us with more hope than I would have thought likely this time last year. Heading into tonight Dubnyk was up to an .880 save percentage. Of course that's still pretty terrible. But twenty-nine saves on thirty-one shots, and .900 is starting to look a lot closer. I might have to start calling .900 the "Deslauriers Line": it's as good a limit as any to seperate the awful goaltenders and the merely mediocre ones, and Dubnyk is rallying hard towards mediocre.
Maybe more than mediocre? Dubnyk's only 23, which is still pretty young for a goaltender. Of the goaltenders to come out of the 2004 draft - the first three rounds produced Al Montoya, Dubnyk, Marek Schwarz, Cory Schneider, David Shantz, Justin Peters, Jeff Glass, Justin Pogge, Dan LaCosta, and Thomas Greiss - Dubnyk is probably the best so far. Seriously! Of course none of those guys are exactly challenging for the Vezina, but a few of them are certainly still considered prospects. Again, in goalie years, 23 isn't old. We're not looking at Dominik Hasek, but neither are we looking at Joaquin Gage. Dubnyk might wind up a legitimate NHL goaltender after all.
(Pathetic, isn't it, what we cling to these days to give us hope?)
From the opposite end of affairs, from hope dispelled, we have Robert Nilsson. Is there some sort of fundamental law that says that he and O'Sullivan can't have a good game at the same time? When Patty O'Lantern stepped up Nilsson stepped back, in classic Mini-Magic fashion making himself disappear after a few weeks of tremendous excitement and promise. Even when he fails, Robert Nilsson usually tries, but that raises the question of why he fails so often. I'm not picking the Reverse Three Stars tonight because I didn't actually see the game, but if I were Nilsson would not come out strong.
Neither would Taylor Chorney, actually. He hasn't got a nickname yet, but if I were forced to come up with one it would be the sound of my slamming my hand in a desk drawer again and again for an hour.
The Oilers are one point away from mathematically clinching thirtieth place in the National Hockey League for the first time in the history of any Alberta NHL team. Of course, even with that miserable failure we may still fall short of the premier prize if the Toronto Maple Leafs, and from them the Boston Bruins, or one of a few other teams win the draft lottery. Wouldn't that be the kicker? If we're robbed of whichever of Hall or Seguin you prefer by the capricious nature of the ping-pong balls? Can't you imagine us picking second and somehow taking Cam Fowler or some other waste of oxygen?
How can you doubt it will end that way?