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Edmonton - San Jose Post-Game: How Do I Do Another Forty of These?

For some reason, people think that my nigh-suicidal post-game threads are funny. I can only assume that people have terrible taste but hey, I try to oblige. I try to combine witticisms with cogent analysis and seal my burgeoning reputation as "the guy who writes post-games and isn't Bruce." Hey, people dig it. Who am I to argue?

But here's my problem. The Oilers just laid another duck. They weren't spectacularly terrible - well, most of them weren't. They just stank and they went into the barn of a far better team and they got dominated pretty much like you'd expect. Ladislav Smid and Steve Staios saw time on the power play, Ryan Stone and Steve Staios saw time on the penalty kill, Jean-Francois Jacques, Zack Stortini, Ethan Moreau, and Steve Staios played together at even strength. If you Springfield fans think the Falcons are bad, feel comfort in that they could probably take the Oilers to seven games in a playoff series.

By midway through the second period, I had kinda stopped watching, instead getting embroiled in my nth run at Dragon Age: Origins. I've played the game many times on my PC but this was the first time I'd taken a run at it on my XBox, and it was the same game except for the very, very, almost imperceptibly slight differences that made me feel like I was relearning a set of dance steps.

In short, it was considerably less predictable than this latest Oilers loss, which was mired in all the mediocrity and lack of spirit we have come to expect from these part-time warriors and full-time failures. What is there to say any longer? What more blood can I wring from this stone? How long can I continue paragraph after paragraph of aimless bitching before you catch on and say "hey, wasn't there a hockey game or something?"

I suppose I should start by giving Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson their due. They're the only two guys who put in a reliable sixty minute effort, which is a bad sign from the start since they're Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson. Two guys with the pride to prove themselves and the sense to know that they must. So many Oilers put one foot in front of the other, take their shifts, give up a scoring chance, then tell Scott Oake that they really have to play the full sixty minutes and maybe the power play could be better.

But Gagner and Nilsson combined for the sort of goal that good teams score. Gagner to Nilsson, coming into the zone, the enigmatic Swede cutting through the middle, whipping the puck on goal as the little hobbit pays the price and gets in front to screen Evgeni Nabokov. The puck bounces around, Gagner takes some swipes at it, it goes it. Maybe Gagner touched it and scored the goal, maybe he didn't and it's Nilsson's trophy. Either way, it was a goal that combined skill and effort in a way that we seldom see from this team. It brought a tear to a wisened eye, and what a pity the team could not follow up on it. Even apart from the goal the two were buzzing even if Nilsson is adopting an increasingly fatalistic view of the offensive zone: he knows that his teammates are unable or unwilling to provide NHL-level support so he'll try to do it himself, shaking and juking and eventually giving the puck away. The try is there, and it's hard to fault the decision-making when he's probably right.

That was the irritating thing about the peewee puck hog. Sometimes he really is the best guy on the ice and that really is your best chance of getting a goal. Damn him.

I should also throw some love to Denis Grebeshkov, who looked resignedly grim, like a soldier going over the top. He didn't have the motor running full speed but he put in a professional effort and made some nice defensive stops. With Lubomir Visnovsky out (P.S.: HOLY SHIT WHAT'S WRONG WITH LUBO???), we need Grebeshkov and Tom Gilbert to come up big and Grebeshkov came up medium, which is all we could have hoped for.

Was Sheldon Souray even playing, or did some lucky fan get the chance to wear Chris Pronger's #44 for a night? Congratulations to that person, whoever it was, although I can assume from his play that he was an unusually tall but thin diabetic with some rare bone disease that prevents any sort of physical contact. Get back to the intensive care unit at the Royal Alex quick, kid; this game will bury you alive if you let it.

Remember when Ryan Stone and Gilbert Brule looked like the next great Oiler forwards (or, at least, NHL-calibre players)? What the hell happened to those guys? At least if Brule keeps this up Derek doesn't need to worry about his contract extension.

And what happened to Jean-Francois Jacques? Oh, that's right, he always stank in every conceivable way and should be banned from all hockey rinks in Canada as a precaution to protect our youth from becoming like him. I used to understand the theoretical appeal of Jean-Francois Jacques as a hockey player but even that is fading, replaced with a scarlet mist that clouds my vision as I look upon that elephant in hockey pants going for yet another ineffective, turnover-producing shift. I would rather see Ethan Moreau and Toby Petersen as the point men on the Oilers power play than watch Jean-Francois Jacques climb over the boards even one more time. He is the rare combination of being a historically bad offensive player and an utter liability defensively. He is the perfect storm. He is the boulder that his linemates must roll up the hill, except tonight his linemates were Brule and One-Arm Shawn Horcoff so the boulder sat at the bottom for an hour as if Sisyphus had decided not to bother and go drink eight grand worth of tequila instead.

I haven't even gotten to the worst part yet, either.

Oilers Fan Fuct: Bobby Nilsson led Oiler forwards in time on ice with 18:28, fourth on the team overall behind Staios, Gilbert, and the diabetic kid in #44. He was also the Oilers' only plus player. Bobby Nilsson. How screwed are we?

The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars:

18th Star: D Steve Staios. (insert sound of disgusted commentator making fart noises into his hands)

19th Star: D That Kid Playing for Souray Who Should Probably Check His Blood Sugar Before Getting Into an NHL Game Next Time. But we've covered the defense in depth, haven't we? You know who the twentieth star is. I certainly know who the twentieth star is. I knew who the twentieth star was starting forty-three seconds into the second period, which may be a record. "No way," I said to myself. "Ain't no Oiler going to beat this. Not even Bryan Pitton could be this bad. This is awful. This is truly awful. Years from now I will bounce my grandchildren on my knee and tell them how awful this was.

20th Star: G Jeff Deslauriers. Never in my life did I think I'd miss Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin. This is what you have lowered me to, Jeff. Crawling in the mud like an animal, begging for goaltending that is merely mediocre. Your first two goals against were nasty, awful five-hole stuff, barely screened, the sort of thing an NHL goaltender should have ten times out of ten. And then the third? Beginning of the period, Dany Heatley coming around behind the goal, except he doesn't have to do anything else because you never say "gee, maybe I should worry about this all-world sniper hauling ass behind me like a Mack truck" and you push your skate over towards the post leisurely, gently, as though you haven't a care in the world, and all of a sudden Dany Heatley has scored a fucking wraparound goal on you and I missed the fourth goal against because I'd already torn my eyeballs out with a rusty nail.

That's pretty much what being the twentieth star is all about.

Season-to-Date Standings:

26 points: Jason Strudwick

20 points: Ethan Moreau

14 points: Jeff Deslauriers

11 points: Mike Comrie, Nikolai Khabibulin, Steve Staios

9 points: Sam Gagner, Tom Gilbert

8 points: Denis Grebeshkov, Sheldon Souray, Patrick O'Sullivan

7 points: Jean-Francois Jacques

4 points: Ales Hemsky, Theo Peckham

3 points: Shawn Horcoff, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ryan Stone

2 points: Andrew Cogliano

1 point: Ryan Potulny