How Can Ugly be Beautiful, or Are the Oilers Learning Something New?: an article by the Prof

I really didn’t think that the Oilers could pull out a 5-3 victory, especially when down three goals with two minutes left in the second period. But, they did it; and it was ugly!

Let’s review the goals.

Goal One: At 19:49 of the Second Period, Gilbert Brule gets number 8 from Dustin Penner. Penner is behind the net, digs it free to somewhere towards the front of the net and there is Brule to smack it two times and eventually somehow slide it in. If I saw the goal right, even Penner’s pass bounced off a St Louis stick. Ugly!

Goal Two: At 8:31 of the Third Period, Gilbert Brule gets number 9 from Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner. Penner is on the sideboard, slides it to Gagner, who hits Brule coming toward the net. It was a goal that the Oilers actually looked as if they knew what they were doing – still, all in the close quarters of a 20-foot space on the ice. Not beautiful or highlight reel, by any means; just really hard work – what I would call white collar ugly and blue collar gorgeous. Only sort of Ugly!

Goal Three: At 11:19 of the Third Period. Sam Gagner gets number 7 from Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule (here are these names again). Penner fights and fights behind the net and, like the first goal, doesn’t even look at the net. Somehow he gets it out there and, for some reason, Gagner is NOT hanging back but moving toward the net and (did he mean to do this or did it just hit his stick) it slides in. Really UGLY!

Goal Four: At 13:52 of the Third Period, the Oilers score my favorite goal of the night. Shawn Horcoff gets number 7 from Robert Nilsson and Lubomir Visnovsky. Two things make this my favorite goal – one I am a huge Nilsson fan (I think he thinks the game better than any other Oiler except perhaps Visnovsky) and second it was the little battle Horcoff won to get turned around toward the goal that was the key. Within a two-foot space, Horcoff fights to turn around with #15 of the Blues all over him, gets his stick on the ice – where Nilsson hits it and the puck goes in. Beautiful in an ugly way! It was the battle Horcoff won in that confined space that sealed the goal for the Oilers. Sure, Nilsson made a great pass – he can do that. But, again, it was the little battle won by Horcoff. Blue collar UGLY!

Goal Five: At 17:03 of the Third Period, just for good measure Dustin Penner gets his 18th unassisted. He just goes – strong and fast – up the right sideboards and towards the net. Can he lift the puck over the goalies blocker? Nope. Can he deke and slide it in the open net? Nope. What he can do is somehow charge straight at the goalie – can you imagine what Conklin was thinking? – and somehow push it literally through the goalie. Nothing pretty at all – just ugly strong! UGLY strong.

The Oilers’ Insider noted that perhaps Penner is on the radar for the Olympic team – well perhaps the bigger ice space on the Olympic sheet will be his nemesis. Perhaps not – but he led the Oilers in UGLY on Friday night. But he wasn’t alone. How many blind pushes of the puck toward the net just go free because no one is going to the net? How many battles get won and the puck slides to nowhere? How many times does Gagner go to the net, get nothing, and circle back and go to the net again? I would like to count the number of times Brule’s bus route ran to the net with empty seats.

Obviously, these UGLY things win games – winning battles in the smallest of spaces. Not giving up the puck – somehow pushing it toward where someone might be. An Oiler teammate – great. But a bounce off an opponent sometimes does the trick as well.

The Oilers didn’t win pretty because they didn’t spend much time in open ice where passes look crisp and plays seem decided. They beat the puck to death and put the Blues on their heels. Once this started to happen, the rest of the game just seemed to open up.

The next step is not waiting until Souray gets tossed from the game to make up your mind. Can you imagine if the Oilers started to do this ugly grunt work from the start of a game? I am starting to – well, almost. I am not jumping on the Oilers’ bus route just yet. I am beginning to like UGLY!

4 comments:

good read!

with Penner and the olympics. I think he has offical been invited to camp. and with the olympics being here in north america, i do believe the will be playing the games and NHL size rinks. So Penner wont have to deal with the bigger ice surface.

I know this is a long shot, but could you imagine the line of Penner, crosby, Nash? would be a very good, scary, UGLY line!

Anonymous
December 13, 2009 at 3:45 AM comment-delete

If Nilsson thinks the game better than any oiler and has skill, what is his problem?

Anonymous
December 13, 2009 at 11:56 AM comment-delete

FYI, the Vancouver games will use the NHL sized ice sheet (according to http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Olympics/2010Vancouver/2006/06/08/1620669-sun.html)

Anonymous
December 13, 2009 at 12:25 PM comment-delete

The rink size will be a benefit to a bigger Penner. That is good news for him if it's not Olympic sized skating area.

I think Nilsson thinks the game better, but hasn't found an effort level to match his hockey sense. If he does, he's dangerous and has showed it in the last five games.

December 13, 2009 at 1:27 PM comment-delete

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