The Edmonton Oilers made their hometown fans eat their boos at the end of the second period against the wily New Jersey Devils Monday night. After some minor adjustments, Coach Dallas Eakins asked his team to keep believing in the system and not to give up. After a determined, but unremarkable first 40 minutes the fans were on edge, fearing a third ugly loss in a row, losing hope as the team trailed 3-0.
Tonight, however, the Number One center was back in Oilers silks, and i’ll be darned if the kid didn’t have an incredible game. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got the Oilers on the board, and was the best player on the ice all night, leading the team with 1:48 short of a half hour of ice time. He was a defensive dynamo and was making space all night. He galvanized the team and seemingly all at once, the lines began to score.
Team Captain Andrew Ference struck next, scoring less than four minutes later off passes from Justin Schultz and Jordon Eberle, who both were tenacious tonight, with the young defenseman logging over 26 minutes in the effort. A little more than two and a half minutes later, the rather impressive Mark Arcobello won another face off (where he was 80% on the dot), dishing it to David Perron.The gem from the Paajarvi trade showed why he is a threat, and has strength that belies his size, finding a gap between Martin Brodeur and open twine.
Less than two minutes later, Ales Hemsky found Taylor Hall wide open to take the lead, electrifying the crowd in the sullen Rexall Place. (The Adele song that played in the dark before the game didn’t exactly get the barn warmed up either.) The team held on through overtime, and made it to the shootout. There, Jordan Eberle and David Perron made nearly identical top shelf goals both with precise dekes and slick hands on display.
What can we, the fans, take away from this game? The Oilers need to start better. They don’t seem to come out guns blazing and it can allow teams to build early leads, as seen tonight. We can also see that Nail Yakupov is being wasted on the third line, playing just over sixteen minutes on the night with inferior linemates. I am not fond of how he has been deployed by the Oilers and hope to see better usage of his explosiveness over the coming games.
The biggest statistical take away from the game was the Oilers with 63% in wins off the dot. Two players, Arcobello and Boyd Gordon, who nailed 18 of 26, were excellent and both scored helpers on 2 of tonight’s goals. This allowed the Oilers to escalate the puck possession and control the tempo as the game wore on. Gordon, who was thought to have a limited ceiling offensively, has so far put on a face-off clinic, while scoring at a point per game pace. Only Ales Hemsky is better with 4 points in three contests.
The Edmonton Oilers are not off the hook. They need to bring it every period of every game like they did tonight in the final frame. Should they compete hard for a full 60 minutes, the offense will come. Best of all, though, is the black cloud of failure is gone for now. The team posted a character win, and came from behind in dramatic fashion. Ultimately, lots to cheer about here–let’s see if they make Montreal Hab-nots this Thursday.
Keep reading Oil on Whyte for injury news and updates on line-ups leading up to game day.