Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Due for an Oil change

And with that post title, I have officially exhausted my supply of Oilers-specific puns.

Having said that, though, change they must. The big question mark was always between the pipes, but you absolutely cannot fault Jussi Markkanen for the Oilers being in a 3-1 hole. Not only has Markkanen given his team a chance to win each game he’s played, but he’s fun to watch, too. Not in an acrobatic-Martin-Brodeur-how-the-hell-did-that-not-go-in kind of way, but in a let’s-put-a-contest-winner-in-nets-for-the-Cup-final-and-see-what-happens kind of way. It’s like watching a tightrope act with looser clothing.

But anything seems possible when it comes to playoff goalies this year. Who would have predicted that Manny Fernandez’s backup would have what it takes to get to the finals? With Cam Ward, sure, he’s talented, but he’s a newcomer, still potentially a Gigueresque flash in the pan. There always seems to be a hot young phenom come playoff time. But Roloson? If you told me a month ago that an arena full of Canadians would be chanting his name nightly, I’d have called you a filthy liar, and that probably would have been the end of our friendship. So thanks for not telling me that a month ago.

But back to the oil change. The Oilers have two problems, which is really one problem. Yes, their power play is sucking wind, but it’s for the same reason they’re not scoring at even strength. They are just not shooting the puck enough. Carolina throws everything they can think of at the net...one-timers, bad angle shots, anything. Because you never know what might go in. And with Carolina’s defense blocking more shots than Harry Whittington, a kooky deflection past Ward is always a possibility. But all night last night, and on the PP especially, Edmonton kept to the perimeter...passing, passing, passing, passing. Combine that with Carolina’s fortress-like penalty kill, and they never had a prayer.

And speaking of that, Carolina’s PK is so good it just makes me angry. It is almost too aggressive to be believed. You get the puck for less than a second before one of their penalty killers is right in your face. They force quick (read: bad) passes and break down any set plays before they have a chance to breathe. When Carolina kills penalties, it looks they’re at even strength. And when they went down to 5-on-3, it still looked like a really solid 5-on-4. I don’t get it. Hence my anger. I fear what I do not understand.

Other notes on last night’s game:

1) Rod Brind’Amour is entirely too ugly to be on primetime television. Or late night television. Or out in public. I would have found a photo to back up that contention but while I was looking through them, my computer committed suicide.

2) The new “Sounds of the Game” feature is utterly pathetic. You know they’re cutting out all the good stuff. If I wanted to hear Mark Recchi grunting and breathing heavily, I’d listen to him bending over to lace up his skates.

3) Peter Laviolette is whiny. Honestly, Peter. Please. Shut up. Just for a sec, okay?

Prediction: For the first time in his career, the ugliest man in pro hockey will hoist the Cup in Raleigh tomorrow night.

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