Tonight the Oilers play the game that so many of their fans have been waiting for, a Hockey Night in Canada game against their biggest rivals The Calgary Flames. For a great many years the Oilers have shown up to these games the clear under-dog, and the results have been predictably bad. This year things are different. While the Oilers are young and capable of putting up a Lemon once in a while, they are also supremely talented and capable of burying puck in the net on any opportunity.
The Godless Flames are still looking for their first Win of the season and they’re playing at Home right now. Today they will be answering uncomfortable questions from the local AND national media about the state of their team and their plans going forward. Their best players are old enough to be registered as Historic Landmarks and their young players are either not producing or nowhere to be found. The fact is the Flames just arent good enough now and the future isnt particularly bright either.
Some may recall Jay Feaster’s response to a fan’s
clearly reasonable obviously misguided question about a tear it down rebuild like the Oilers have done:
“I’m sorry — Edmonton finished where last year, caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year? I’m tired of this question, I’ll tell you very honestly. I’m getting a little sour. How many teams . . . every year, for the last 10 years, five years, eight years, have finished in the bottom five, bottom seven, bottom 10? They’ve had a pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and they still wander in the desert. And they’re no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago.
“You know what? I look forward to the Battle of Alberta for the next X number of years. If the idea is, ‘Burn it to the ground,’ then Ken can find another manager to do it.”
Hey, to Feaster’s credit he was right about one thing. The year he said that the Flames did finish ahead of the Oilers by a fair margin. Sadly though, like handing out NMCs to every single player, Feaster showed a complete lack of foresight. That quote ought to be held over Feaster’s head EVERY time the young Oilers come to play in the Saddledome. How Feaster figured the Oilers would stay below the Flames for a long time after successfully acquiring 1st overall pick after 1st overall pick is beyond me, but I’m happy he said it.
This year Jarome Iginla turned 35 and Backstop Kiprusoff turned 36. Neither player is as effective as they once were, at least early in this shortened season. Kipper has let in 5 and 4 goals against in his last two games and Iginla has a couple of assists but simply hasnt shown the ability to take over a game the way he used to in his prime. All eyes this year are looking to see what the Flames and Iginla choose to do at the trade deadline. Will Iginla continue the hopeless task of trying to win a Cup in Cowtown or will he help both his cause and the Flames by agreeing to a trade for some much needed prospects? A move like that would contradict everything that Feaster said in the quote above but everybody and their dog knows its the right move. How many more BOAs will feature Iginla in Red?
Dont worry though, Flames fans, Feaster drafted the best player in the 2012 draft class.
Tonight the Oilers are coming in after an emotional game against the Kings. The officiating was absurd but the Oilers overcame that won it in OT. Of the 6 scoring points awarded in that game to Oilers players not a single recipient was over the age of 25. The time has come where the youth of this team is driving the bus. The Oilers will live and die with their young guns as they occupy 5 of 6 of the top forward spots.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Stay Out Of The Box
Not all of Edmonton’s penalties against the Kings were
real the kind they should worry about taking again, but the fact is they have had penalty trouble in the first 3 games. The Penalty kill was very effective in 2 of those games but it kills the flow of the games having to put out your PK over and over again. The Oilers have to be smarter out there if they want to take advantage of their high powered specialty teams. Even a strong PK will get burned if they have to be out there 6+ times a night.
2) Impose your Will
The Oilers arent an overly physical team. There are no bruising forwards that play in the top 3 lines but there are plenty of players who arent afraid to go to the tough areas, and there certainly isnt a lack of talent. If the majority of Oilers are not going to impose their will with a crushing check then they have to do it with the tools they have available. The Oilers need to take the puck to the hard areas and they need to do it at full speed. The Oilers have incredibly talented skaters on the top 2 lines and almost every player in those roles can handle the puck while at top speed.
3) Experience and Exuberance
Every game it seems as if the youngest Oilers find a little more ice time in key moments and a little more confidence to play the game that got them to the NHL. Yakupov looked deadly against the Kings and if not for the lightning fast glove of Quick he might have had a couple goals in that game. His passion for the game is contagious and his one-timer is the likes the people of Calgary havent seen since Al MacInnis was playing for them. I anticipate the people of Calgary are going to leave the Saddledome tonight with enough nightmare fuel to keep them dreading the Oilers for the next decade. Schultz is also playing an absolute ton for an NHL rookie defenseman and his offensive instincts are recognizable to even the most novice observer. His skating and ability with the puck have me thinking of Niedermeyer as a comparable.
Puck drops at 8:00 PM on CBC. Game On!