Thursday, November 5, 2009

GameNight: Who The Hell Are We?

Opening Salvo: We were 0-1. And then a 7-0 run. And then 2-6-1. That's what in statistics we call a(n extremely) mean reversion. In other words – you are what your record says you are and we're a 9-6-1 team.

So what kind of a team are we, exactly? I think it's evolving. We hit the ice - skating hard – in great shape and with an offensive force in Gaborik. Then teams began to catch on and catch up to us. And now we're struggling to adjust to their adjustments.

And I think there's some internal struggles. It seems to be a sink-or-swim system we're playing. Higgins was clearly sinking – but finally got a goal. Our Captain seems to be sinking as well. For Wade Redden – maybe “stinking” is the better term.

I don't agree with Nugman's analysis from a few days back. Considering the salary cap hole we were in, getting Gaborik was completely worth the risk. He's playing in 88% of our games – and I prefer 88% of Gaborik to 100% of Gomez or almost anyone else.

And for some reason I don't understand – the Rangers play much better with BOTH Gaborik and Brashear in the lineup. That is – I understand half of it but not the other half.

And by the way - I like Prospal getting the Alternate Captain. But I do think there's a growing rift between some of he new guys and some of the older guys.

Okay – on with the Preview:

Who The Hell Are We Playing? The Edmonton Oilers were once the best team in hockey, led by some guys named Messier and Gretzky, and generally managed by a not-yet-senile Glen “Slats” Sather. Those days are long gone.

Today the Oilers (and I'm sorry, but that name is better suited for a Greenwich Village bar than a hockey team) are in 10th place in the west at 7-7-1.

Primary Skaters: The Oilers are led by the 9 Goals, 10 Assists and +9 ice time of left winger Dustin Penner. Ales Hemsky on the right wing has 4 goals and 11 assists. Defenseman Ladislav Smid is +7 with 4 assists.

In Net: Their main backstop is the hard to pronounce Nik Khabibulin (try saying it 3 times fast). He has a 3.12 GAA and a .907 save percentage. Unlike the Rangers, the Oiler backup goalie is pretty good. Jeff Deslauriers (also not easy to say) has a 1.51 GAA and a .957 save percentage.
Scoring & Defense: The Oilers can score. They average 3 goals a game. The Rangers who have had a little trouble lighting the lamp this week are still at 3.19 goals a game overall. But the Oliers don't play defense all that well, letting up 3.07 goals a game to our 2.69.

Special Effects: On the PowerPlay the Oilers are in the middle, 14th best overall with a 21.1 success rate. But the Rangers have tumbled to 11th best with a 22.2 success rate.
On the PK we're 4th best in the league at 86.7%. The Oilers are 11th best at 81.5%

Scheduling Conflicts: Edmonton is coming off losses to Boston Saturday and the horrendous Islanders Monday. We beat Boston Sunday and lost to Vancouver Tuesday. So for the first time in a while the Rangers will be the more tired team.

Probable Lines: There's always movement here. Dane Byers won't - he was suspended and fined for starting the cool fight on Tuesday.

Line 1: Word on the street is that Dubinsky will rejoin the Gaborik-Prospal line.

Line 2: Higgins, who finally scored on Tuesday (while everyone else didn't) will skate with promoted rookie Anisimov (I call him Anis) and “Cannon” Kotalik (nice to see some other blogs picking up this nickname – I hope it sticks).

Line 3: This means that The Captain and Callahan have been demoted together to line three, probably joined by the sore-footed Lisin.

Line 4: And this means Sean Avery – who was poke checked ON THE BENCH on Tuesday has tumbled all the way to the 4th line with some combo of Voros, Brashear and Boyle.

On Defense: The usual combo of promising rookies and overpaid vets.

In Goal: Hank sat out practice Wednesday with a thigh issue. Maybe Tortorella will remember he has another Goalie on the roster and will start Stevie V. I still remember Chad Johnson (not Ocho Cinco – a goalie) from pre-season – and would love to see him some time.

Dave Puck Predicts: I still have no idea who the hell we are as a team. And I've got no sense about this game. Nothing. Just not feeling it. But I'll go with a 4-3 shoot out win.

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