Sometimes, it's hard to come up with words. Which stinks when your job is to come up with some funny ones and put them down on a website.
Not only did the Oilers ruin my evening, they ruined our post-game thread.
What am I supposed to do? Sit here seriously, nod my head, stick a pipe in my mouth, and observe that "yes, those Oilers really are dreadful, aren't they?" Provide a nice, cogent, statistically-grounded analysis to prove that when you lose 7-3 to the Vancouver Canucks, it means that you played a pretty awful hockey game? Even the reverse three stars will be devoid of their usual joy. The second half of the article may just be the sound of my sobbing.
It was the sort of night where Ryan O'Marra, Colin McDonald, and Devan Dubnyk all appeared, and they were bright spots. It was the sort of game where Lubomir Visnovsky looked like a rookie playing with a seasoned all-star in Ladislav Smid. Meanwhile, Steve Staios played probably the worst game I've ever seen from him, Patrick O'Sullivan was just awful, Jean-Francois Jacques was a genuine atrocity, and Jeff Deslauriers crapped all over my thesis that he plays worse the more confidence we have in him by stinking up the joint when I had no faith at all.
Watching that game was like watching Scott Oake interview Dustin Penner for two hours, except that Penner was smiling through clenched teeth and taking it while Oake blathered on about how his dead grandfather gave him his size and how he should write a diet book or go to a psychiatrist. It was exactly like that. Except worse. I don't know how the Oilers pulled it off, but I was staring at the television with a thousand-yard stare and murmuring "boy, I sure can't wait for After Hours."
Okay. Deep breath, Lord Bob. There are worse things in life than the Oilers being comprehensively dismantled by the loathsome Dys when you live in Victoria, British Columbia surrounded by Canucks fans who'll be rubbing it in my face like I were a dog who messed the carpet.
None are coming to mind, but I'm sure there must be something.
There were the aforementioned rookies, I suppose. The mere idea of playing them was pretty revolting. Dubnyk shows promise, for a 23-year-old career minor leaguer and former first-round pick whose development could be best described as "tardy", but I don't think anybody was hoping that he'd get into the game tonight. And he allowed three goals on twenty-four shots, which was appropriately crummy. But there was something there. He was in position and for a big man that glove looked like lightning, coming up with a couple Grant Fuhr-style saves once the game had already been lost.
Ryan O'Marra could have been worse. The Patron Saint of Just Really Awful Hockey Players tried to put his nickname to bed by looking pretty okay. "Tolerable" is certainly an upgrade on what I was expecting from O'Marra in the NHL. He is clearly short on polish or refinement or being good at hockey, but he had all sorts of try and chugged up and down the ice to try and make things happpen. And he didn't get run over doing it. I have a certain amount of respect for that.
And Colin McDonald! Holy hell, you big palooka! That was a sublime bit of touch from our latest nobody, snapping the puck from near the faceoff circle and slithering it past Roberto Luongo's glove. A little more of that and I might just be able to put up with you.
Considering how much the Springfield Falcons stink, their players aren't bad.
The forwards in general were mostly okay. Jean-Francois Jacques and Patrick O'Sullivan stood out as stinkers, with Ethan Moreau combining a decent game with two debilitatingly awful penalties. Other than that, though, there was a lot of try and a fair amount of skill. Gilbert Brule, Sam Gagner, and Dustin Penner are nobody's idea of an ideal first line, but they can play a little. Zack Stortini, the third member of the Falcon Line, had a nice night and drew what ought to have been a penalty shot when Ryan Johnson hauled him down from behind in the first period. Shawn Horcoff was invisible, but the good sort of invisible.
It was the defensemen who let us down. Ladislav Smid was all right and Sheldon Souray was actually pretty good, playing after the Oilers went down 4-0 like he was taking it personally and would drag the team back into the game himself if he had to. Other than that, it was a series of agonized, tortured junk plays by lousy hockey players slapping feebly at the puck and achieving next to nothing from it, the pained children with broken fingernails trying not to let their puck hit their sticks too hard.
Full credit to the Canucks. The better team won. But is it cool if I bury my head in my hands and sob for a little bit?
The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars (Now With a Twenty-First Star!):
19th Star: F Jean-Francois Jacques. I thought Jacques was brutal last night against the Kings as well. He had energy, but that was all. His old nickname was "Crazy Train", but the difference is that the Crazy Train was going off the rails while sticking to the rails is all Jacques is capable of. He'll roar down the ice and leap into a guy on the boards and not actually hit him all that hard but the glass will shake and while he's recovering the other team will go back and score, assuming he doesn't take two minutes for being an idiot.
Well, tonight, it was much the same, except worse. Chug chug chug goes the Crazy Train, and he'll try to line up his body check, and while he's still at the hashmarks you'll close your eyes and say "oh, hell, here he goes", and the player gets out of the way so easily it's like he was offended by the incursion, and whump Jacques hits the board and while he's dicking around behind the net the Canucks are actually playing hockey and scoring goals. It's infuriating. It's useless. What's there to see in this kid? It's getting to the point where I'll welcome Ryan O'Marra if it means no more Jean-Francois Jacques.
20th Star: G Jeff Deslauriers. He wears the first goal like a hat. He was not only not square to Christian Ehrhoff, he was circle to Christian Ehrhoff. He was triangle. I don't know what shape it was but I know which it wasn't. It was a horrendous, brutal, whip-a-whiskey-bottle-at-the-screen goal. The sounds of my swearing echoed through my building like the thunder of the gods. The only person in the world more disspirited than I was would have been Jeff Deslauriers himself.
By the time Daniel Sedin tucked home the fourth Canucks goal, Deslauriers was shambling about the crease like the sole survivor in a zombie movie. He allowed four goals on eleven shots, but on the other hand he played eight and a half minutes and faced eleven shots. What the hell kind of shit is that? His goaltending was legitimately horrendous and there was not a single nice save in the seven that he made, while a decent goaltender would have kicked out at least two more. But after the game, Deslauriers stood in front of the media and took the blame. It was big of him, but his defenders should have been bigger.
21st Star: D Steve Staios. Speaking of which. Is there more we could say about Staios than we said in the game thread? Perhaps this. Did he make a single good play? Even one? Was there one piece of clever stickwork, one moment where he rode the puck carrier into the corner and denied a scoring chance? Did he ever settle the puck on his stick or make a heads-up pass to start a break? Did he do a single one of the little things that allegedly seperates an NHL player from us mere mortals?
I submit he did not. Steve Staios looked like one of us would look if we strapped on skates and played 18:08. Staios actually played more than Lubomir Visnovsky last night, and as bad as Visnovsky was, that... that's not the way it should be.
21 points: Jason Strudwick
19 points: Ethan Moreau
11 points: Mike Comrie, Nikolai Khabibulin
8 points: Denis Grebeshkov, Steve Staios
7 points: Jean-Francois Jacques
5 points: Patrick O'Sullivan
4 points: Jeff Deslauriers, Ales Hemsky, Theo Peckhamp>
3 points: Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ryan Stone
1 point: Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, Ryan Potulny