Saturday, November 11, 2006

Alls Well in Alberta

As Sportsnet said before the game, Columbus is exactly what the Oilers needed. Hemsky came out of his aimless stupor long enough to score one early in the 2nd, while Lupul finally made an offensive winner a few minutes later. I thought the Oilers basically dominated the game start to finish, even though Leclaire's lackluster goaltending perhaps inflated the difference between the two teams.

I'm wondering if someone can tell me specifically why Tjarnqvist has been benched the last couple games. How does one go from top ice time eater to benched in the span of about a week? Now I haven't been a huge endorser of Tjarnqvist, but I really think the Oilers missed him, especially in Detroit. He tends to make good first passes, and the rest of the Oilers' offensive system flows from that initial pass.

Andy Grabia at BOA was complaining/questioning MacT's insistence on playing Winchester and Petersen on the PP against Detroit late in the game, rather than some of the other higher profile under-producers on the team. Quite frankly I am behind MacT 100% on this issue, for several reasons.

#1 - The number 1 PP unit was simply not getting it done in any way shape or form. Its not like they didn't get a chance- they did on multiple occasions that night. But the PP was terrible, and save Ryan Smyth, none of them looked good or were playing particularly well.

#2- Winchester (and his linemates) was responsible for the Oilers' best scoring chances of the evening. Not just on one shift, but on several. He was one of the few people out there making things happen. Petersen has also looked good. While he his touch around the net has been sub par, he plays his position well and got scoring chances. I don't think its crazy to give the ice time to the hottest hands.

#3 - MacT has always been a firm believer of rewarding players that play well with ice time. But if you only use that tactic as a punishment, it eventually loses its motivational power. There's obviously intrinsic motivation for Winchester to play well all the time, but what would it say about his coach if he plays better than anyone else on the team but there's no reaction by MacTavish? MacT has proven over and over and over again - he does not play favorites.

Anyway, the Columbus win tonight was nice, but the Oilers need to beat a somewhat respectable team. Obviously their recent record does not bode well, but Oil Country patrons need to remember that one of their recent loses was a Magoo-Screw and the other was in a shootout where Sykora hit the post. The Detroit game was pretty distressing, but the guys played the night before and LOOKED very tired. Even finely tuned athletes can get rundown. That wasn’t the only issue, but it was still a big one.

Onto Flamesville - I'm not going to start partying yet, but I almost have this feeling inside like the Dallas game was some sort of turning point. I think a key step to this turnaround was the separation of Regehr and Phanuef. I think oftentimes putting two dominant defenceman together is counterintuitive. Think about it, most of the time Dion is used to doing the job of about 1.5 defencemen. This affects his positioning, pinch-pullback thought process, physical commitment decisions, etc. Regehr has the same issue, generally, high end defenceman partially carry their partners. Now put the two together and they're both overlapping each other's jobs. Its clear Regehr and Phanuef never really gelled at all, and its nice to know now that one of them will be on the ice almost all the time.

Not only have the Flames won the last two games, they did it against good teams, playing solid defensively. I would think these two wins have made a significant difference in the mood of the locker room, and perhaps this will help the Flames get their swagger back.

Can someone explain to me what happened to Amonte over the last 4 days? Did someone put steroids in his soup or something?

No comments: