In spite of the horrendous scoreline, the Edmonton Oilers didn't play that badly against the New York Islanders. Only poor special teams performance and weak goaltending from Devan Dubnyk turned what would have been a close game into a near-blowout loss. Yes, the Oilers were the worse team... but it was closer than the score made it look.
How pathetic is that?
Trying to look on the bright side of a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders? Have I died and gone to hell? The Oilers allowed an attack headlined by P.A. Parenteau to hurl the puck around their zone almost at will, and I'm supposed to put my thumbs up because Taylor Hall hit the post seventy-three times and look at how much Ben Eager was running their show? This is bullshit. The Oilers got convincingly outplayed on Long Island, where the arena is more dangerous than the hockey team, and proved once and for all that Edmonton is the Most Rebuilding-est Team in Hockey, the true City of Chumpions.
The New York Islanders are certainly in the running for most hapless NHL organization of the twenty-first century. Even their pre-game ceremonies where they honour third-rate defensemen with less than 600 career NHL games for about 900 minutes reek of the minor-league. But today, they can hold their heads up high and look forward to, once again, not being the worst team in the National Hockey League.
How did the Islanders beat us? Was it the dazzling skill of John Tavares, the more experienced of the three first-overall picks we were told somehow made this game worth watching? Was it the superior goaltending of Evgeny Nabokov, a veteran Russian goaltender who hasn't won a Stanley Cup but is somehow also not terrible?
Is this how far we've fallen? Coming off a game where one of our goons became an idol for getting beat up and helping his team lose, another one of our goons tried to get his name in the papers for cement-headedness and cost us a hockey game even more directly. Conn Smythe once said "if you can't beat them in the alley, you can't beat them on the ice." It's like the Oilers only heard the first half of that sentence.
Listen, I love a good fight. I even think that a fight can help a team, although not so much when Darcy Hordichuk gets his face broken twice in one game against the Minnesota Wild. However, I'm pretty sure one of the conditions of a fight is that the other guy fight back; not like, say, grabbing Matt Martin by the lapels and shaking him until you give up a powerplay goal.
Man, that Matt Martin. Sure, he's 6'3" and likes to drop the gloves, but he's also scored eight goals and 23 points in his first one-and-a-half NHL seasons while playing fourth-line minutes. You'd never call him a great hockey player but he is, definitely, a hockey player. Martin is 22 years old; he's obviously going to learn the game and, heck, he did a pretty good job making Dubnyk look like a dope tonight.
The reason I know Martin is going to work out is because he didn't rise to Eager's bait after Eager got into his face. Martin had hit Ladislav Smid perfectly cleanly and not actually that hard: Smid looked a bit vulnerable and I thought Martin sort of held up to avoid decapitating our Czech sniper. Eager didn't give a shit; he charged into the non-plussed Martin, dropped the gloves, shook him around, and looked shocked, shocked I say when he was given two minutes for being a moron.
Then Eager took two more minors! It's like, having taken one stupid penalty, he decided he'd take so many we'd forget which was which and start babbling incoherently about his truculence rather than pointing out he did so much to help this team with his grit and his sandpaper. When he got his ten minute misconduct it was like a mercy killing. Thanks, stripes, for taking this piece of crap off our hands.
Devan Dubnyk stank, of course, and though he had a good third period it was too little, too late. This was a big reason the Oilers lost; when your goaltender lets in unscreened wristers from the hashmarks Nikolai Khabibulin-style you have a problem. Hating on Khabibulin is practically my profession, so when I use the term "Khabibulin-style", it is with all the venom and hatred I can muster. Dubnyk hit the Oilers on the back of the knee with a tire iron and stomped on their neck with his skates, then made some saves in the third. Fuck you, Dubnyk. Fuck you and your utterly un-timely bout of decency. Get back to making some saves so we can keep our drunk Russian on the bench where he belongs.
So yes, Taylor Hall hit every post, and Ales Hemsky looked good again in spite of his long hair and coming off the ice first at practice and not being a leader, and Ryan Smyth at least looked like he was thinking about getting revenge on the Islanders fans booing a man who gave his heart, soul, and face for them for a few excellent weeks. But the Oilers once again betrayed their good players with their crappy team.
Welcome to 2012. Normal service will continue.
The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars:
18th Star: F Eric Belanger. Boy, it sure is great that the Oilers have a reliable two-way veteran for the third line. Look at Eric go! Scrumming for the puck along the boards long after the puck is gone, holding his stick like a plank as Sam Gagner serves up perfect passes, dumping the puck into the corner for no obvious reason, as if dumping the puck into the corner is all he knows how to do so he's bloody well going to do it.
Belanger's problem is that he plays like a dump-and-chase piece of defensively-oriented third-line meat when he's on a team that desperately needs goals and features a player with magnificent creative influence. Gagner is being wasted on this team; he may be the most disappointing story in a disappointing season, as young Sam is making a long-awaited leap into his prime with an awful team that's giving him awful linemates and awful minutes. Belanger is a fire hydrant and Gagner isn't quite Wayne Gretzky.
19th Star: G Devan Dubnyk. That third period redeemed him. Plus, let's face it, he was at least playing hockey instead of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.
Trust me, I know how bad Dubnyk was this afternoon. I know. The fact that he's only nineteenth star despite letting in shots from the press box should say something.
20th Star: F Ben Eager. Skate skate skate skate hey you PUNCH PUNCH PUNCH PUNCH ahhhh, back in my small glass womb. Do not worry, penalty-box-mother. Soon I will return.