Going into last night all everyone could talk about was how the Oilers were showing stellar defense, that Khabibulin was back to his former self. There was even a piece a week or so back saying that the Oilers were doing so well because of their commitment to blocking shots.
Fast forward to the morning, and what do we see? Khabby having flashbacks to what it was like in the UC before the young guns came along: a 0.852 save percentage, 5 goals against, many of which came early in the frame. The Oilers blocked a grand total of 7 shots compared to 14 of the Hawks', and even though last night was the only time they've been able to score at least 3 goals (Jesus Christ Khabibulin has REALLY been keeping this team running, hasn't he?), they return to Edmonton without points to show for their effort.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks seem to be returning to form, at least offensively. Toews opened up the scoring early in the first, with Montador following it up only 36 seconds after with a forehand-backhand move that was worthy of Patrick Kane. The closest the Oilers would get would be to cut the lead in half when Ryan Smyth scored halfway through the first, but then the pizza guy called and I had to let him in and when I got back to my seat, Montador had brought the team back up by two. It wasn't much of a contest after that-- Tazer poked one in early in the second, Eberle scored one off a breakaway after his penalty expired, Keith and Horcroff traded goals and Kane graciously passed the empty netter to Carcillo. (Would have been hilarious if Carbomb had missed, but hey, that means next time Kane finds himself in a limo, or a cab, or whatever vehicle he's destined to besmirch this year, at least he knows Carbomb's got his back.)
So what does this tell us of Edmonton and the Blackhawks? (Hit the jump to read more.)
Well. Not much. This could be an outlier for the Oilers, this could be them regressing to the mean. Personally, I can't see Khabibulin sustaining his otherworldly save percentage for very long (sure, he could be the next Tim Thomas... but really, let's face it, he isn't) and unless the young guns in that team start scoring, they're only going to crash back to earth. (I was actually surprised to hear they haven't scored more than 2 goals a game more than twice so far--you would think if they had any strengths it would be in their forwards, but there you go.)
Somewhat tangentially, I like reading about how the Oilers are patterning themselves after the Blackhawks. The "blueprint", as they say, which I take to mean tanking for years in a row to grab all the first rounders they can get, and then building a team out of that and scraps of some vets. It's funny because the blueprint the Hawks followed isn't exactly that--it's the Red Wings, which is to say build a team from the back end and work from there. When I look at the Oilers I don't see the makings of Keith or Seabrook or a similar pairing on their blueline. There are going to be Tazers and Kanes, yes, and Smyth is the token grizzled vet, but to me they're going to have to remember that defense is a central to the formula, and not just an afterthought.
As for the Blackhawks, I'm not sure I'm all that ready to write off these wins as the cure for what's ailed them. It's funny--the team is winning but us Chicago fans can keep finding curmudgeony reasons to grumble and bemoan them, but that's the life of a sports fan, isn't it? The thing is, we won two games against opponents we should have beaten, and Edmonton's success had been somewhat suspect to begin with.
We can't ignore the fact that while our power play seems to have found its second gear (I don't drive, I have no idea if I'm using that phrase correctly--but honestly, our second unit's been baller lately), our first unit has been incredibly silent otherwise. John from Fifth Feather thinks it's because the second unit players have clearer ideas of what their roles would be, while the first unit, superstar-filled as it is, are all scrambling to do everything at once. Simplistic, he admits, but I can see how that might be the case.
Then there's our penalty kill. Is it just the absence of Bolland that has suddenly gotten us letting in at least one power play goal against? Not really; he was still around when we got thrashed by Vancouver. Is it Crawford somehow regressing since his stellar start? It isn't often we can say he's stolen games for us lately, has it? But more than likely it seems to be a general lackadaisical approach to defense--like I said, the Oilers had been a piss-poor team offensively, and yes we did win against them, but how were they allowed to score three goals when they've never been able to reach that number more than one other time before last night?
And finally, there's the growing list of injuries. I think everyone can generally agree by now that Bolland is not actually day-to-day, that if he'd been seen in a walking book that's probably a minimum of a week gone at least, and you certainly hope this time Q's not lying through his teeth when he says he hopes Bolland can play one of the first two games in the road trip--but yeah, he's out for a bit. Brent Seabrook took a bad fall and crashed knee-first into the boards last night as well, limping out of the game and was never heard from again. You gotta wonder, if Bolland came back to play the rest of the game after suffering an injury that sidelines him for about a week, how long does this mean we lose Seabrook for? Scary thought. This is a team that relies heavily on its defensemen, and while Seabrook hasn't been completely stellar he's still leagues better than a combination of our bottom blueliners. Let's just hope for the best, I guess.
I'm trying to figure out the parallel from the Hawks for Ryan Smyth. Is he the Rene Bourque? Or maybe Tuomo Ruutu? Relied on to be a better player than he can actually live up to. Then once the really great young players come aboard he becomes expendable.
good point about the difference in our blue lines. I was starting to mess my pants last night when we iced the puck and our 3rd or 4th line was stuck on the ice with Leddy and Fluffy - how the hell did that ever happen? Hall, Nugent and Eberle jumped over the boards like they were shot out of a cannon. I think all three of them were drooling.
I think we won a crucial face off fortunately or the score could have been 5-4 with plenty of time left.
By the way, I've read most of the Hawk sites and really haven't read much about Scott - in my minds eye, he didn't seem to play all that bad last night.