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Edmonton - Toronto Post-Game: Number Thirty With a Bullet

Remember back in the pre-lockout years, when we were all obsessed with "increasing scoring"? Waaah, there weren't enough goals in every game. We need to widen the nets and shrink the goalies and make every obstruction offense penalized with instant death. And then scoring will go up and poverty will vanish from the earth and the hockey gods will descend from Valhalla and frolic with the mortals in gay abandon as ten-goal games sprout from the ground like so many dandelions in your mother's prized flower garden?

Well, the Oilers and the Maple Leafs combined for ten goals and seventy-six shots. Yet the game was dreadful, and the only peep I heard from the hockey gods was a series of strangled sobs at hearing their name befouled with such rubbish.

All the boxes in "do you have a crappy team" were ticked off. A goalie change? Check. Dion Phaneuf cheapshot? Check. A goalie trying to get into a fight with a skater because he's just so damned frustrated? Check. Colton Orr was involved in the game? Check. Got shredded by something called a "Tyler Bozak"? Oh, double check. Puck slipping off the stick on a breakaway? A three-on-zero rush culminating in futility? You better believe those were checks. Heck, we even invented the category of "taking a too-many-men penalty shorthanded in your own zone". You could play that game to your atom team as an example of what not to do.

What else can we gripe about? Let me see. A combined save percentage of .871 is a good place to start - I said in both the Oilers and Leafs game-day threads that for the first time all season the Oilers may have had the advantage in goal, and while Jeff Deslauriers was of course awful Jonas Gustavsson was little better. There were a total of five powerplay goals, which makes sense since a total of twenty-three penalties were called by officials determined to keep the game from getting interesting or at all appealing. Deslauriers wants a piece of Frankenstein's monster? Better get in there, stripes! Any trace of truculence was snuffed out by exuberant officials determined to keep the game from being worth watching. It was awesome! Go Bettman's NHL!

I mean, even the Leafs fans must have been bored by that dog, right?

The Oilers have a seven point advantage in the Fall for Hall, so much to my relief and that of a dwindling number of loyalists, we can probably start trying to win again. You see, I bitch about the Oilers, but regardless of the draft pick I want them to win their games. I bitch about them dressing Ethan Moreau instead of Fernando Pisani and tilting the field against us from the start, or the fact that Taylor Chorney has continued NHL employment when I'm certain that Igor Ulanov is available and more than willing to step in, as is his wont. I'm not entirely sure why Chris Minard is even still alive, never mind playing on a line with Sam Gagner. It would be like Blair Macdonald playing with Wayne Gretzky, except of course Gagner isn't quite as good as Gretzky yet and Minard is so much worse than Blair Macdonald I've sent Bruce out to measure the gap with one of his telescopes.

I know the Springfield Falcons are awful, but seriously, why would we call up Chris Minard and not, say, Ryan O'Marra, or Vyacheslav Trukhno, or somebody with at least one chance in a thousand of being a decent NHL player someday?

There is a certain logic to this, though. Because how healthy can it be to be a young player playing with these Edmonton Oilers right now? If you're Theo Peckham and you're tussling with Colton Orr and trying to break in, that's all well and good. But if you're Theo Peckham and in addition to trying to break in you're killing 5-on-3s and taking on Eastern Conference superstars like Nikolai Kulemin in single combat? Peckham enjoyed a short night because of two ten-minute misconducts in the third period, but Taylor Chorney played 17:59 and finished with a probable career high of "even". That can't be an easy environment to grow up in.

Devan Dubnyk played twenty minutes and faced nineteen shots. He stopped eighteen of them. He looked terrific. Even the stickhandling looked good. But he was abandoned in his own zone for seemingly epochs at a time. He still has zero NHL wins, and he never had the most remote chance of picking up win number one in Toronto. We would have seen Ethan Moreau go twenty minutes without taking a dopey penalty before we saw Devan Dubnyk win that game.

(Side note: I know Devan Dubnyk's save percentage is, like, seven. But how is he not playing more right now? Deslauriers is looking more and more like passable backup material. Fine. Fantastic. But let's see what we've got with Dubnyk. What, are we going to miss the playoffs?)

So, hey, the Oilers got humiliated by the second-last team in the NHL, and a team that's probably the worst in the NHL thanks to the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference. It would be like the Oilers being beat by the Springfield Falcons, which feels like a possibility one of these days.

Sending Jordan Eberle to the Falcons instead of exposing him to the Dion Phaneufs and Matt Cookes as he plays with Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson might be one of the only decisions Steve Tambellini will get right.

The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars:

18th Star: F Zack Stortini. He's back! Back on the reverse three stars! Did he take penalties? You bet! Did he play poorly? Hells yes he did! He was a young Ethan Moreau - not in the sense of how young Ethan Moreau actually played (he was pretty good), but in the sense that if you took 2010 Ethan Moreau and imagined what he would have been like in his mid-twenties, you'd wind up with Zack Stortini tonight.

Two penalty minutes, -2, 6:40 of ice time. A pretty grisly game from Stortini. There was absolutely nothing about him. He was even outdone by a rookie when it came to sticking up for his teammates. We'd have been better off playing Moir or Virtue in his spot.

19th Star: G Jeff Deslauriers. His game was very typical Jeff Deslauriers. A couple fantastic saves, not to mention five goals in forty minutes. He's reaching the point where he defies description, like the Mona Lisa's smile in reverser. I think more and more that I could live with him as a Jussi Markkanen or a Bob Essensa: a guy who should never have been a starting goalie, was for a forgettable and regrettable period, but was still a perfectly serviceable and even admirable backup.

20th Star: D Theo Peckham. When your goaltender allows five goals in forty minutes to the 29th-placed team in the National Hockey League and you dislodged him from the twentieth star, that's send-your-stick-to-the-Hockey-Hall-of-Fame stuff right there. Peckham got about eleven minutes of ice time because of his aforementioned penalties. In that eleven-odd minutes, he was -1 and never looked for a millisecond like he could play NHL defense, including getting thrashed by John Mitchell of all people for a scoring chance in the first period.

I hear your screams of derision. Peckham stood up for his teammates all night. When Jeff Deslauriers went off at Dion Phaneuf, it was Theo Peckham who stepped in as the stripes pulled Deslauriers back like the sissies they were. He tussled with Colton Orr and never took no for an answer. He was, as Brian Burke might say, truculent. But he wasn't a very good hockey player.

Peckham was a good teammate, except for the part where the team was worse with him in the lineup.