There's a strange sort of lethargy that can come with a game like this. I live on the left coast and don't get Sportsnet West, so I was listening to this dog on 630 CHED with Bob Stauffer and whoever the other guy is. Say what you want about Bob Stauffer, and most of it was complimentary, but he never had Rod Phillips's ability to make a limp Patrick O'Sullivan wrister from the blue line sound like a Herculean scoring opportunity. A 0-0 draw with Minnesota, in Rod's hands, sounds like game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. Indeed, I almost regret not having listened to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals on CHED.
So the Oilers went down 3-0. "Yaaaaawn," I said (I didn't actually yawn; this fact is important). "Well, that four-game streak against crappy teams from the Sun Belt and Detroit, somehow, was nice. But we're back into traditional Oilers mode." It was good times! Jeff Deslauriers was whacking pucks into his own net, Gilbert Brule was doing things, Sam Gagner was back into the drop passes to nobody, Jason Strudwick being in the lineup (there's really nothing more to say about it; Strudwick's mere presence is an ill omen, like opening the back seat of your car and finding a carefully slaughtered goat)
And it was in that same slumbering spirit that I heard Gilbert Brule score (okay, I made a mocking comment at Derek in the game day thread, but that was about it). And Brule scored another one and I yawned and the Oilers tied it and the Oilers started winning and they got insurance and eventually I was sitting in my office chair looking forward with my mouth agape. Wait a minute: did we really win that game? I quickly went back to TSN to make sure I wasn't just on an extended acid trip like Denis Grebeshkov in double overtime. No, it was 5-3 Oilers. "Huh," I said. "How about that?"
Still not sure what to make of that.
Allegedly, the Oilers are one point back of a playoff spot. Well, the Oilers aren't going to make the playoffs, we all know that. We're catching them at their highest ebb. A couple more wins and we'll go from that awkward spot between hope and confidence, where you're beginning to wonder if you can actually make it and terrified that you can't.
For now, though, forget it. Let's celebrate.
Gilbert Brule! Gilbert Brule! Two goals, an assist! I know that some people (well, Derek, and probably Bruce, and maybe Scott, and Jonathan, and...) will say that he essentially attached a toe line to the utterly dominant Dustin Penner and rode behind like a gigantic sled dog, but screw that. Ask Patrick O'Sullivan how easy banking those gift-wrapped chances can be. A very nice snipe for the second goal, a bit of grit and stick-to-it-ness for his first. Two perfectly good goals. Did he struggle in the first forty minutes? Of course, but he made amends.
Dustin Penner I don't need to describe any further. Does anybody here know a hockey reporter from Edmonton in the 1980s? How did Jim Matheson spend a decade saying "yeah, Gretzky was great tonight" every single game? This is the problem with blogging. I have nobody to tell me these things.
Sam Gagner was a participant. I actually thought (remember, radio) that he was the worst part of the first line: too many crappy passes, not enough to make up for it. He's not a Reverse Three Star, but he could be.
On the other hand, we have a guy who was victimized by another person's stupid decisions: Sheldon Souray. Tossed from the game. Was this Bull Durham? Did Sheldon call him a cocksucker? Did he say the words "sloppy seconds"? Did Souray say something about Ty Conklin's wife, leading to a brawl on the ice and a fight in the penalty box that Stauffer somehow neglected to mention in his play-by-play? An ejection for dissent is, bluntly, the act of a man who's insecure. Give him an unsportsmanlike penalty, sure. Don't toss him for a first penalized offense.
I'm certainly not back on the bandwagon. I wouldn't even say I was really excited. Happy, sure, in a short-term "woo! I heard something pretty awesome!" sense. But I know that the Oilers play again on Tuesday against Ryan Smyth and the Los Angeles Kopitars and I know that they will not win. All our decent players except Penner are hurt, our best defenseman will apparently be suspended if he swears in public, and we never had that many decent players to begin with. If a team makes the playoffs with a pu-pu platter like this, it'll be the first.
But I spent most of my university years enjoying short-term pleasure without heed for the consequences, and I see no need to give that up now.
The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars:
18th Star: F Ethan Moreau, who was being chased for this "honour" by about a dozen other guys. Ethan! Ol' buddy! You made some nice plays, particularly in the third period where most of the Oilers were making some pretty good play. What distinguished you was not the depths of your misery but the height of your success, because that height was not too high. Your teammates were, for the most part, elevating their game, and you... kinda got better. Made a nice play in your own zone to spring Andrew Cogliano on a nice chance. Didn't take any crappy penalties while still getting your nose dirty.
Your first forty minutes were bad. Your last twenty weren't, really, but most of the rest were better than you. Actually, a forward did have a worse third period than either of your first two, but more on him later. After all, you were only eighteenth star.
19th Star: F Patrick O'Sullivan. Oh, Patrick. Patrick Patrick Patrick. You make me a sad human being, buddy. You're nicknamed after a Kim Mitchell song, and usually that'll make me like you. You're a sniper and you aren't afraid of anything and you have really weird, cool facial hair, but really, you're killing me. Every time you do pretty much anything I shout "WORTH EVERY PENNY!" just to stick it to Bruce. But whenever you screw up Bruce can remain silent to stick it to me, and he hasn't had to say a lot lately.
Lot of giveaways. Lot of easily-handled muffin shots. Not one moment of brightness, not one instant on the radio that made me say "LANTERNS!" in that exultant tone, even if it was ringing one off the post or making a nice defensive play or getting in the face of somebody who was bigger than him. He stunk. There was an awful lot of separation between him and Moreau. He was a brutal player and, that's right, he's not twentieth star.
20th Star: G Jeff Deslauriers. Allowed three goals, could easily have allowed more. Punched one into his own net. Didn't emerge with much credit on the other two. Was saved more by a bucketful of crappy shots and an improbable collapse by St. Louis's transition game. So, when's our starter going to be back? Not for a while? And he's Nikolai Khabibulin back anyway? Dammit.
26 points: Jason Strudwick
20 points: Ethan Moreau
11 points: Mike Comrie, Nikolai Khabibulin
9 points: Jeff Deslauriers, Steve Staios
8 points: Denis Grebeshkov, Patrick O'Sullivan
7 points: Jean-Francois Jacques
6 points: Sam Gagner
4 points: Ales Hemsky, Theo Peckham
3 points: Shawn Horcoff, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ryan Stone
1 point: Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, Ryan Potulny