Oilers-Islanders meetings are rare enough that they always get me looking back through a 25-year lens to ... well, you know when. (Granted, simply getting out of bed seems cause enough to get me looking back.) But in this case, it's not so much nostalgia as it is marvel: Since their historic orange-and-blue peaks, the NHL's last dynasty* and the NHL's last dynasty interruptus have, uh, not been good.
* "dynasty" as it was defined when I was a tyke, not as it's now known in some circles for Red Wings and Patriot Sox and anything that's really good off and on so-can't-we-change-the-terms-please-huh-huh-huh? Sorry: 19 playoff series wins in a row is different. It just is. Four Cups in five I can work with. But this '90s-'00s Wings stuff? It's great, but different.
Questionable management, shaky ownership, poor drafting (or poor development -- or both!), currency issues, honesty issues, and mini-peaks that -- outside of the 1993 Penguins Dynasty Prevention Mission and the 2006 For the Love of Southern Hockey finals -- top out at blips of excitement from a bubble playoff seed. That's been the norm for these two franchises since they wrapped up the legendary work that makes people say, "A pity if they moved, being historic Cup winners and all."
So: When does the penance for all that '80s excess end? Sadly, not tonight. Sooner than Reagan's debt, one hopes.
Update: A little scouting report from Derek at Copper & Blue after the jump, which tells you how the Oilers are hurting, 2008-09 Islanders-style:
The Oilers roll onto the Island a still-beaten up team. The flu continues to ravage the locker room and concussions still have Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios on the shelf. The Oilers have already lost 66 man games to injury and are second in the league in the newly patented CHIP.
Because of injuries, the team is skating with their 7th, 8th and 9th defensemen in the lineup and they are finding it extremely difficult to come up with an NHL-worthy top nine. Nikolai Khabibulin has been up and down, standing on his head one game, and letting in soft goal after soft goal the next. Dustin Penner has started hot and has been able to drag Ales Hemsky up the scoresheet with him, but consistency has been a problem for the rest of the lineup. Shawn Horcoff is playing the role of the team's #1, #2 and #3 center and needs some support up the middle.
Things to watch if you root for the Islanders: If the club can't hem the Oilers in while Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney or Jason Strudwick are on the ice, there are problems. The three of them have spent more time in their own zone than Nikolai Khabibulin and their Corsi values show it.
* * *
Back to bass-ackwards glances for a moment: Beyond the '80s Cup key party these two logos held, something else ties these franchises in rather entertaining ways. Tonight, there's the old goalie vs. the goalie who will soon be old:
|2009 - Dwayne Roloson||7||406||3||1||20||2.96||221||201||.910||0|
|2009 - Nikolai Khabibulin||12||730||6||5||38||3.12||402||364||.905||0|
Then, there's the exchange of underachievers and maddening potentials that tie the two clubs in one way or another:
|2009 - Robert Nilsson||9||1||2||3||-7||0||1||0||2:38||12:59||11||9.1|
|2009 - Mike Comrie||10||3||3||6||0||8||1||0||1:33||13:53||16||18.8|
|2009 - Jeff Tambellini||8||6||1||7||3||2||3||0||1:20||11:53
|2009 - Rob Schremp||6||0||1||1||-3||4||0||0||2:08||12:56
Finally, there's the one who got away:
|2009 - Ryan O'Marra||Not exactly applicable|
Sorry, this is who I meant:
|2009 - Denis Grebeshkov||14||3||5||8||-5||12||1||0||23:21||2:58||19||15.8|
More to the Point: Tonight
Roloson is in to try to do to his old mates what Martin Biron did to his. Crazier things have happened: If Buffalo was fighting some bugs, the Oilers are ... hmmm, one has nothing to do with the other, actually. But the Oilers have been flu-and-bug bitten too. If Comrie is healthy enough to go, we can still hold reasonable hope for Floating Comrie rather than Driven Comrie. If we're lucky, he'll try the toe drag on Andy Sutton. Sounds like Lubomir Visnovsky is still out, so yay for us.
If the Islanders -- who appear to be taking their vitamin C and shady Asian herbal supplements thus far this flu season -- simply play as they're capable, a win should be within reach. They let the Sabres get the jump on them, but Biron saved the day until they could wound, then crush the Sabres' illness-depleted souls. A similar formula would be in order tonight, except without the whole part about playing possum in the 1st period.
Predictions: Comrie dekes to the corner, totally faking out the security guard.
Let's go Is-land-ers. Make. It. Four!