Live Game Blog: 39 in 50

As I sit down to watch a game originally played on December 30, 1981, I see a young Pat Quinn: he has brown hair and is standing behind a gang of cooperalls and orange.  But no fear, the dread Stan Weir is here: this is actually the first time I have ever seen him play.  I was about 135 days old, and I have no memories, or any stories about what I was doing that night.  My Dad doesn't remember, he was in front of the television.  It must of been weird for him, since he grew up in Montreal and was a Habs fan.  But by the time I could remember (and I had, at the time, all 5 of the little cup banners- the felt ones we had growing up), my Dad was a true Oilers support before his beloved Habs.  I am sure performances by Gretzky on games like this one helped make this psuedo-religious conversion more palatable.

1st Period.

Why is Lowe wearing a helmet?  What is going on? I have no memories of Lowe without a helmet, and I have never heard of this before.  This is going to be a long afternoon.

Ist Gretzky Goal = Contemporary.  It look like one of these set play plays, that are a regular occurrence these days by the home team, where the defenseman shoots the puck of the boards behind the goalie, and there is a winger standing on the other side of the net waiting for a one timer.  But I think in this case that Coffey just missed the net and Gretz anticipated where the puck was going to be.  After all three angles, Gretzky starts moving at the same time Coffey shots, I can barely believe it.

2nd Gretzky Goal = the Shot?.  99's assist total, always confuses me into thinking that the Great One might not have been the best goal scorer.  But every couple old game I watch, I am snapped back into reality.  This time it was the goal of the rush, from Dave Lumley.  Perfect corner on Pete Peeter's glove side. Seriously I can't decide which is more stupid: a) why did the Oiler's ever ask this poor pylon between the pipes a job? or b) why is the Great One playing with both Lusley and Semenko?  Why?

As I starred at beauty on the screen, I was becoming confused more and more: I recognized the voice of the colour man, but I didn't?  I thought I was going crazy.  It wasn't till the 3nd goal by the Oilers, Coffey's shot, that I had an idea.  It maybe Don Cherry; it was the repetitive comments, on Coach's Cornor, about screening the goaltender and keeping the defenseman's stick out way of the point shot.  It all came running back to me, it is the Mafia style Don of Canadian Hockey media calling the game.

2nd Period.

Kinda disappointed that there hasn't been a fight yet . . . I think Don is too.  Not much going on but a couple of hilarious comments by the colour commentator: he 'thinks Fuhr should be rookie of the year' and that he and Brett Callighen are sharing hair growing formula.

Stan "the Pride of Ponoka" Weir, wins a faceoff, then there is a complete collapse on his wings (Kurri and Callighen) and the defensive pairing that leads to the Flyers scoring.

3rd Gretzky Goal = Hat Trick.  Ten seconds after the defensive melt down that leads to the Flyer goal, Gretz single handedly restores the two goal lead.  It is another break away, and is finished with another slapshot (that is two "power" goals by Gretz, according to the colour commentator . . . seriously if only Gene Principe was this funny).  Peete Peters blows.

Now, this is a line I can get behind: Matti Hagman, the Moose, and Glen Anderson.  Lots of banging, and north and south skating in the neutral zone.  But damn them they give up another Flyers goal.  A couple shifts later, they are doing a good job of running the cycle behind the right of Peters, and Hagman with Anderson get the puck out to Messier stream rolling by himself in the front of the net.    Nice goal, not a garbage goal: good tough play and nice finish. My favorite goal so far this game.

3rd Period.

Well Ron Flockhart of the Flyers sure is an impressive hockey player in this game.  His stats for theis season are impressive as well (1981-82, he had 33-39-72 in 72 games).  I think we killed off an entire power play with his relentless forechecking. His game is a nice surprise for a young'n like me, never heard of the guy but an fun player to watch.

Then Fuhr puts on a display.  I think he has 5 of those half splits pad saves that where his trademark, in two shifts.  The Oilers are really on there heels, and it is all Fuhr in the first half of the 3rd period.

Gretzky's 4th goal = The Marvelous.  As Andre Breton once said "Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful."  If this does not sum up Gretzky's fourth goal I don't know what would.  He  picks up a pass tha Coffey carelessly threw to the off wing, and skated towards the Flyer's zone.  Just over the blue line the Great One seems to glided into slow motion.  He steps around the defenseman, and waits till Peters start going down to fire the shot over his glove hand, again.  Two absolutely beautiful slap shots in the top right corner of the net, and two stunning goals by Gretz.  This is the most beautiful goal of the game.

Gretz is not done yet.  From a neutral zone face off, he orchestrates a set play by shooting the puck to Anderson, on the far wing, from the face off.  Then goes in dominates the cycle and rings one off the goal post.  The whistle goes and Don cherry reminds that there is 11:02 left in the game.  He predicts the 99 will play 8 of the remain 11 minutes in the game.  By my count Gretzky played 14 shifts in the final eleven minute, with only 5 shifts going without him.

Goalies?  Peete Peters makes a fabulous save on a deke by Gretsky:  easily his best save of the game.  Then Fuhr falls apart.  He had been the Oilers best play for most of the third and then he lets in two weak goal and the Flyers are back into the hockey game.

OTC  pulls out a illegal stick penalty out of his bag of tricks.  Kurri is sent to the sin bin for have a boomerang for a blade as Mr. Cherry said (this is in his complete anti-European player period, not as it is now when the Nordic countries get a pass and most of the anger is focused on the Russians).  Damn you Quinn and your intelligence.

Seriously Lowe is an excellent defender, even at this young age. For those that don't know, I grew up playing defense and Lowe was the player I attempted to model my play against.  Those big blocked shots and tough play in the corner:  if only we had a real top 3 defensive defenseman on this incarnation of the Oilers.  Lowe and Fogolin have played all but the last 20 seconds starting from the 4 minute mark of the 3rd period.

Gretzky's 5th goal = History. I have seen these last twenty seconds of this game most likely a thousand times.  This might just be the Great One's most famous goal, everyone can imagine the pass from Anderson up the boards, to Gretz, then his half step around the Flyers' dman and the empty net goal. It is truly historic.

Happy New Years everyone.

Goodbye Lubo, Farewell Stevie, Hello Ryan and the Rebuild?

Goodbye Lubo. You will be seriously missed. The best player the Oilers had all year, the best natural skater since Paul Coffey has been traded for former 1st Round pick Ryan Whitney, formerly of both Anaheim and Pittsburgh. Lubo was the most talented player on the Oilers for the past two years and made everyone around him better. He was an incredible skater with a wicked point shot, and really helped to develop the skills of the (departed) Dennis Grebeshkov and Ladi Smid. The Pens drafted Whitney 5th overall about a decade back and he has been an inconsistent player ever since. His best year was 06-07 for the Pens when he scored 14 goals and had 59 points, following it up with a 12 goal, 40 point season in 07/08. However Whitney has had a total of 8 goals in the past two seasons. Whitney was a member of the US Olympic team and played decent in Vancouver. A good comparison for him is current Oiler Tom Gilbert in terms of both size and skill-set. He is not as strong a skater but certainly has an equally good shot if not better. At 27 years old and locked in until 2013, Whitney could work out to be a solid long-term pick up. Effectively Whitney replaces Grebs as a top four guy, but not Lubo as a top 2. This could change though, based on draft pedigree and sheer potential.

In other news, Steve Staios has been shipped to Calgary for Aaron Johnson and a 3rd. Johnson is a UFA at the end of the year and a 3rd is a 3rd. This is a good move for the future, clearing out a bunch of cap space to prepare for the rebuild. What is bizarre is how a warrior who has bled copper and blue for nine years is going to be able to even pull on that horrible, vile, disgusting flaming C and be able to look at himself n the mirror. I for one would rather walk away. I also see that Sutter is officially in cap hell. Johnson makes less than 600K and is a UFA this year, while Staios makes a lot more and is locked in for one more year. I will really miss Staios, a real blood and guts kind of guy who in his prime was a player who represented the spirit of those hard working teams from the Lowtide/early MacT era. He was a fearless, selfless warrior and always played the game with passion and heart. Goodbye Stevie, and Good luck!
The trades do many things for the Oilers, clearly in full on rebuild mode now. These moves, coupled with the loss of the Acid Eater open up a lot of cap space to sign the newest batch of kids, re-sign Gagner and maybe the inevitable whale hunt of the summer. I don't know how I feel about these moves aside from what they do for the cap. These players were very good in their prime and will be missed dearly by the fans of this downtrodden team, but they were (unfortunately) unnecessary for the future.

To Lubo and Stevie; best of luck to you in your futures. May you both find success with your new teams. The fans thank you for your efforts, especially over these past few very dark years. You will be missed.

To Ryan Whitney; welcome to the fun, and good luck.

Go Oilers,
SWS