The Edmonton Oilers lost on Long Island Tuesday night, to a better team, but the Oilers silenced a few critics with their exemplary effort on back-to-back nights, and quite frankly…deserved better. We have not been able to say that a lot, this season, and it gives us hope, going forward. 9 Things:
9. Ryan Hamilton played like he wanted to stay in the NHL. This a great example of a guy who knows how to play the game the right way. I am not at all sure that he has the talent to do so, on a regular basis, going forward, but I admire his effort…guys like this are easy to cheer for.
8. Viktor Fasth could not be blamed, in any way, for the 3 pucks that got past him on Tuesday night, & played well. Fasth has the opportunity to carry the bulk of the load for the next few weeks. His results over the rest of the season may well make or break his career.
7. Boyd Gordon is such a consistent, professional NHL performer. Fair to say that he has had fewer “bad” games than anyone in the lineup this season. His gutsy, 200’ back-check with 10 minutes left in the game was something to admire. It saved a goal, and kept it close.
6. I’ve said it before, but Anton Lander is forcing me to eat my words about him being no more than an above-average AHL-er. Assuming the Oilers acquire a 2C in the off-season, Lander is essentially battling Leon Draisaitl (signed) and Derek Roy (UFA) for the 3C next year.
5. Jordan Eberle registered an assist on yet another sick set-up, but was stymied by the iron yet again. Eberle has returned to his former self, which is a very good version of him. He is taking the bull by the horns and cranking it up a notch.
4. Nail Yakupov has a huge opportunity to step out of the shadow of Taylor Hall, these last 25 games, and prove that he is a Top-6 NHL-er. He got the principle assist on the Ryan Hamilton goal, by quite simply directing the puck at the net. This a huge part off his game that he needs to continue to execute.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t leap off my TV screen tonight, but the tale of the tape would strongly suggest otherwise: 4 shots on set, 4 hits, an assist, very effective work on the PK, and yet another heavy load on his not-as-slender-as-before shoulders…with almost 22:00 TOI. The kid is for real.
2. A non-call cost the Oilers at least a point, tonight. Rob Klinkhammer had an open net after a skilful feed from Boyd Gordon late, but former Oiler Vladimir Visnofsky hauled Klinkhammer down at the goal mouth. The puck, as it is want to do in hockey, ended up in the Oilers net less than 30 seconds later. The Hockey Gods were not kind on that one, and it decided the game.
1. The Edmonton Oilers really had no business being in this game, against a strong Eastern Conference team. But they were. I’ve been asked by many whether I believe Todd Nelson will be the head coach next season, and if so…what will it take? Well…more efforts like that. Nelson is squeezing admirable performances out of this bunch. He has to at least be in the conversation come June.
Efforts like that may cost the Edmonton Oilers a better draft pick. But really, after this many years of losing records, how many would complain?