Fifty-nine minutes, forty-three seconds of typical 2009-10 Oilers. Sixteen seconds that made that not-quite-an-hour entirely worthwhile.
I was spinning around in my chair. I was eating pizza and thinking about work. I was doing anything I could to avoid watching that watery turd of a hockey game. I was so bored I thought about watching basketball, which is pretty much the ultimate epithet I can throw at any sporting event.
The weird thing is that the Oilers weren't playing badly. Philadelphia is a good hockey team and though they didn't have their A game, Edmonton was keeping their guard up and counterpunching well. As you'd expect from a team which had played on the road the previous night, the Flyers had most of their jump in the third and on a couple absolutely shambolic Oiler penalty kills. But the Oilers kept at it. It was getting to the point when, even with the Oilers not having scored a goal, I had no idea who I was going to pick for my reverse three stars. They had all more-or-less shared the same pleasant mediocrity. It would probably have to be the big guns, Dustin Penner and Sam Gagner. Why couldn't they generate so much as a single goal in a game up for grabs?
Then they did.
I appreciate it, really (remember, I'm not on the Flaggin' for Seguin bandwagon). But way to make my job harder, assholes! Even when you win, I lose.
(I'm just trying to nitpick now.)
Let's start off with the hero of the hour, Ryan Potulny. Being the obsessive people we are, we doubtless remember Potulny's acquisition in 2008, picking him up for Danny Syvret (or "the remarkably down-on-his-luck man's Taylor Chorney"). Since then, a 24-year-old Syvret has played twenty-three NHL games, and a 25-year-old Potulny has played forty-six. A significant gap, but considering their age difference and the quality of their respective teams, not an overwhelming one.
But you just try telling an Oiler fan that we didn't get the best of that deal. In thirty-eight games this year, Potulny has scored twelve goals. That's .316 goals per game, a 25-goal season over a full eighty-two games. If Ryan Potulny kept this pace up over an eighty-two game calendar, he'd beat Shawn Horcoff's career high in goals by three and Ales Hemsky's by two. This isn't Olympic Games material, but considering Potulny makes about six bucks an hour and what we gave up to get him it's impossible not to be impressed.
And also a little sad, because there are quite a few Ryan Potulny types in the world. Guys who you can get on value contracts because their counting numbers have never matched their performance or because they just haven't got their chance yet, and we insist on playing the Jean-Francois Jacques and Ethan Moreaus of the world all the same.
For that matter, where the devil was Fernando Pisani? I mean, we know where he was (the press box), but why was he there? Not hurt, according to the Journal. Just a coach's decision. "You know, Fernando, you're a great veteran, one of the few steady guys left on the ice (and not Strudwick steady either), and it's not like we have a Chinese fire drill of a penalty killing unit that's going to come within several fractions of an inch of completely costing us this hockey game. So you can have the night off. Sit up with Bobby Nilsson - one of our only other effective forwards, by the way - and eat some of those oversized salted pretzels."
In what parallel dimension is it ever a good idea to sit Fernando Pisani and play Jean-Francois Jacques? Two possibilities present themselves. First, that Pat Quinn is thumb-suckingly paint-chip-chewingly lick-the-antifreeze-off-the-inside-of-the-bottle stupid. Second, that the Oilers know we have nothing left to play for this year but pride and have already decided to cut Pisani loose. Why play a guy who isn't going to be around anyway when you can give the spot to a kid, even one as congenitally useless as Jacques? Then they can cut one of the last likeable parts of this team and they can let the only tough-minutes winger they've got hawk car stereoes for the rest of his life.
This makes far, far too much sense.
I mean, from Steve Tambellini's perspective. If there's one thing Fernando Pisani has, it's courage, but if there's one thing Tambellini doesn't have, it's a clue on how to run a hockey team.
The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars:
18th Star: F Dustin Penner. Pulled himself from twenty up to eighteen with a dandy little second assist on the only goal. That was about his only bright moment, though. He seems to have shifted from fifth gear all the way down to second in the last few weeks, having put himself into full-blown Fall for Hall mode. Perhaps he's already ordered his Hall #4 Oilers jersey from NHL.com and wants to beat the rush. Perhaps Pat Quinn is beating him to the post-game buffet every night and it's getting him down. Or perhaps he's simply tired of playing with old men and one-armed centres and remembers the good old days when he viewed the World Championships as something other people did while he was in the playoffs.
The conditioning is still there, skeptics. But it seems that the effort isn't. I can understand why, but I hope he can understand why I'm not happy about it.
19th Star: D Denis Grebeshkov. I was very nearly tempted to slip both of Gilbreshkov in here, but they weren't bad. This wasn't a game where the nineteenth star was bad enough to be bad. Defensively, Grebeshkov did a lot of good things and had an all right game. But his offensive sense was nil.
He's struggled a bit in the attacking zone lately. Too many ill-advised shots from distance, not enough of the old LSD Blotter days when he could alternatively frustrate and inspire you in a single shift. So much of the chaos has been coached out of his game, and yet if anything he's a little bit less effective a player because of it. It's remarkable to say so, but I wish that there was some drug Grebeshkov could take that would turn him into his old self only in the attacking zone. Katz, get Rexall on that.
20th Star: D Lubomir Visnovsky. A rare poor night from Visnovsky. I feel bad putting him here; he's the Oilers' best defenseman and possibly its best player all together. Plus he got banged up by a nasty and illegal Darroll Powe crosscheck, which would make anyone's night a little worse. He did some things right, too, executing a dandy little pinch with Sam Gagner that resulted in a decent scoring chance. But on a night where the Oilers' "grip it and rip it" approach was more irritatingly self-evident than usual, Visnovsky was the poster boy. He wound up with only one shot on goal, but the rest were off of it. Too often he passed up the right play in favour of the easy one. And defensively, he wasn't his usual self.
When you're playing with Taylor Chorney, you have to be ready to carry the load. But Chorney was noticeably the better partner in that pairing today (actually, I thought Chorney was excellent in general). Another night where Taylor is playing like his usual self and things go seriously wrong with the Oilers. Tonight he was able to save Visnovsky's butt, but that's not the way it should work.