Saturday, March 03, 2007

Opposite Directions

While the initial two games this season were tight, competitive affairs, the latter half of the Battle of Alberta has been anything but. As the Oilers' season have progressed through the 82 game shedule, they have regressed in just about everything else. Injuries have decimated this team throughout the season, starting with Ethan Moreau and including (but not limited to): Smyth, Stoll, Staois (ending an impressive ironman like streak), Hemsky, Tjarnqvist, Pisani etc. etc. And while injuries piled up, so did the underwhelming offensive performances of many key players.

The Oilers gave up the one continuous shining light over the past 12 seasons on deadline day as Ryan Smyth went to the New York Islanders for prospects, ensuring that the fork was officially in the Oilers' cooked season. Since that trade, the Oilers have been outscored 8-0 to one mediocre team, and another team that should have been tired, but looked anything but against this hapless Oiler squad. And while one hometown hero diverges into another path in his life, another hometown boy becomes a better and better example of everything thats wrong with the Oilers' club. Joffrey Lupul's play has morphed from interesting (1st game of season) to quizical, (what does this guy do exactly), to hopeful (he's getting better...I think...) to put his head on a steak bad (for example, Lupul makes a breakaway pass to Gaborik). Unforunately, Lowe seems unable (unlikely) or unwilling (likely) to deal with Lupul's ineptitude, so it seems we are all stuck with him for another season at least.

The Flames season though, seems to be garnering momentum over the past couple games, with a 7-4 run and gun show on HNIC last week, a convincing 5-1 victory over the Coyotes, and an impressive 2-1 comeback victory over the notoriously stingy Minnesota Wild. However, as mentioned by Duncan a while back, when the Flames are playing at home, everything seems ok, as if this team doesn't have glaring issues. But as anyone who is not living on Mars knows, the Flames have big problems.

A stellar home record, an undeniably disasterous road record.

In my opinion, the Flames don't even look that different on the road, but their mentality clearly is. Whether they're giving up late game leads (Buffalo) or simply getting blown out of the water (Detroit), this team simply TRIES to find ways to lose.

However, the Flames most recent victory over The Wild was not only a sublime defensive effort, it was also capped off in the shootout, a new feat for the season. Can this give the Flames a mental boost to get that road monkey off their backs?


But if The Flames don't trounce this inept Oilers group tonight, I think it would be a stining indictment against this team's ability to win in the playoffs. As a group Calgary has dominated Edmonton over the last two games, neither of which were close.

Will this put a bee in the Flames bonnet and inspire them to win more on the road? I'm afraid (for more reasons than you know) that I'll have to agree with Bill Watters; if youthink one road victory against the Oilers is going to turn this ship around, you're taking crazy pills. I can't think it will hurt though...

Keep an eye on:
Marc-Antoine Pouliot - has shown some playmaking ability and looks like a half decent shot.
Ales Hemsky - usually in some way responsible for 90% of all Oiler's chances
Raffi Torres - Has been very feisty of late, by which I mean he seems to get in a lot of fights.

Dion Phaneuf - has been a thorn in Edmonton's side all season series long
Jarome Iginla - loves to light up the Oilers
Miikka Kipprusoff - has had some of his best games all year against the Oilers

for more takes check out:

Steal Thunder

Walking Invisible


Andy Grabia


The Oilers are pulling out all the stops, as Mark Messier suited up for the morning skate!


hockeygirl said...

So will tonight heal and break your heart at the same time?

duncan said...

f The Flames don't trounce this inept Oilers group tonight, I think it would be a stining indictment against this team's ability to win in the playoffs

I don't know if a trouncing is necessary — the remaining Oilers must have some pride somewhere — but the Flames definitely need nothing less than a win to avoid that indictment you talk about.

Kyle said...

HG: Thankfully, my heart is already broken, and it can't be rebroken! Therefore, it can only get better from here!

Duncan: The flames don't need a trouncing in score, but we can and should control this game from start to finish.

hockeygirl said...

I have tried to come up with a scenario that would help heal and break at the same time but I can't since you love them both (which is STILL weird) and no matter what happens you will experience both pain and pleasure. Hopefully, burning hot flaming pleasure being fed by oil. *ahem* ANYways...

Katie O'D said...

I missed most of the game, but apparently Pouliot did play really well. Young guys like him are the only thing to look forward to now. If we suck this year, then maybe we'll at least be good later!

Kyle said...

Katie, you heard right, Pouliot played an excellent game (except for maybe letting his man loose for the winning goal). He won physical battles, got pucks at the net, created several scoring chances and was instrumental in the Oilers' two goals.

Hemsky got hurt, so we might be seeing Shremp or Nillson earlier than expected.

Black Dog said...

Didn't see much but I did see the second goal. Beauty play by Pouliot and what a shot by Pisani.

Kyle said...

Didn't see much but I did see the second goal. Beauty play by Pouliot and what a shot by Pisani.

Lupul even got in on that one (although he beat Zyuzin/Susan, so it's not saying much).