The Edmonton Oilers have already shown through three regular season games that they are a faster club than last season. That should make things a lot more difficult on Minnesota’s resident enforcer, Derek Boogaard.
Last season, Boogaard punished the Oilers physically and knocked Ales Hemsky
, Ladislav Smid
and Marty Reasoner out of action for extended periods of time in three separate incidents.
Boogaard also helped buoy Minnesota’s offence as the Oilers would often take penalties against the 6’7” 258 pound monster. After Reasoner was levelled back on March 1, Raffi Torres, Steve Staios and Zack Stortini all jumped in to try and exact revenge on Boogaard. Instead, Minnesota received a five-on-three power play on which they scored, giving them a 2-0 lead in an eventual 5-0 win.
This season, Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish feels the Oilers have what it takes to make him a non-factor.
“He’s been an effective player for them. There are obviously strengths and weaknesses in his game like everybody else. There are obviously weaknesses but we haven’t been able to do that,” remarked MacTavish.
“You just play a physical game and a skill game. You’ve got to make plays at the end of the day, make him go end-to-end and you can negate the effectiveness of a player like that,” he continued.
The addition of J-F Jacques to the lineup tonight should help with the physical element but he likely won't be called upon to drop the gloves with Boogaard.
“He hasn’t fought. You really don’t want to play to his strengths which is his ability to fight. You want to limit his physical contribution by having some awareness and moving the puck before he gets there.”
With the likes of Cogliano, Gagner and Nilsson adding speed to the lineup – not only in skating ability but also with moving the puck – the Oilers are in good shape for tonight’s match-up.
“If we can negate his effectiveness with some good offence and make him a liability instead of an asset we’re not going to have to deal with these questions anymore,” MacTavish chuckled.
Boogaard has been much less effective against other teams – Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire would even make him a healthy scratch because he has been a liability at times.
“Any time another team’s coach gives you that much credit, it does feel good but then you get other coaches who complain, yell and scream and in a way that feels good too,” said Boogaard, who went on to talk about the new 2007-08 edition of the Oilers. “Any organization has their own way of looking at things and how they want to fill their team. That’s the way they want to do it.”
Another reason Boogaard will be less effective is in the way he can hit – players are no longer allowed to take head shots. MacTavish talked about Boogaard’s hit on Hemsky and how it was the centrepiece for the NHL’s rule change.
“It’s a suspendable hit now in today’s criteria,” MacTavish noted.
Hemsky himself was not at all concerned about the presence of the 6’7” winger.
“Nothing too big, he hit me there’s nothing I can do about it,” Hemsky said. “I don’t think I can fight with him”
All Hemsky and the Oilers can do is play their fast tempo style of game that they’ve brought to this season and hope the rest takes care of itself.
“I don’t think about it. It’s a different year now; I just want to play my game. Hopefully I can score some goals – get him back. It’s hockey, stuff like that will happen.”