Edmonton Oilers Nilsson Dims Dallas 2-1


Rarely will there be a more automatic choice for 1st Star in an Edmonton Oilers game than this evening. Anders Nilsson stood even taller than his 6’5 frame, in a 2-1 overtime win over the best team in the league. And Bam…suddenly the Oilers are 2-for-2 on this home stand.

9 Things:

9. Have a seat, Mark Fayne.

8. Jujhar Khaira was dependable and effective, in ways which you might expect him to be tonight, especially after being elevated to the 1st Line over the final 40 minutes of the game. His presence, alongside Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall, makes that unit a heavier one to play against.

7. That is as good as I have seen Andrej Sekera all year. Todd McLellan must have felt the same, as he rewarded the veteran rearguard with the most TOI on the club tonight, at 23:44. He battled hard along the boards, his above-average speed was vital against the hi-flying Stars, and he had several effective offensive sorties as well. Good value for the contract, on this night at least.

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6. The Edmonton Oilers played up to (well, at least closer to) the level of their opposition tonight. I had a few people take me to task for saying that about the Toronto and Carolina games, but I stand by those statements. It means that a team can elevate it’s pay and compete with best, like it did tonight, or it was take their foot off of prey that they should be able to finish off, in order to survive, like they did versus the Leafs and ‘Canes.

5. The Edmonton Oilers penalty kill was resilient, and had to be, as the club handed Dallas 4 power plays. They boxed the Stars out well, sealed off enough lanes to keep the trajectory of the puck at a manageable speed in the O-zone, and when all of that was not enough, Anders Nilsson ultimately became their best penalty killer. I will say, though…that interference call on Darnell Nurse was pure garbage. Last I checked, this was a contact league, right?

4. Taylor Hall. Points 1, 2, 3 and 4 could have been summed up as “The Edmonton Oilers best players were better than the Dallas Stars best players tonight. And as I have said countless times in this space…at the NHL level, when that happens, you win 9 out of 10 times. All of us who have followed and covered the Oilers for a long time should appreciate these nights, when Taylor beats Tyler, and we get evidence that drafting #4 was a very good decision indeed.

3. Leon Draisaitl. There were 2 ways to watch and assess the game of Leon Draisaitl tonight. One was the way he used his strength to his advantage, first on that circus-like one-handed pass to Taylor Hall, and then again in O/T when he absolutely made the play that set up the winner (with a generous assist from Jamie Benn, who was the 2nd best NHL Left Winger tonight). Second, keep in mind that he accomplished all this by primarily playing against the best line in the NHL. Oh yeah, that and he’s 20! This kid is the real deal.

2. Jordan Eberle. In terms of shot metrics and possession, that was one of the better games of the years for #14. He had 3 glorious chances earlier in the game, but the weight of this slump was obviously heavy on his shoulders. But in overtime, instinct took over, and that pass from Draisaitl was off Eberle’s stick faster than it arrived. Don’t look now, but Jordan Eberle has scored the Game Winning Goal in back-to-back games, now. Trade rumors, take that.

1. Anders Nilsson. Wow. The last time the Edmonton Oilers had a run of goaltending this consistent was when Duane Roloson tended the twine for this franchise. That is too long ago. Nilsson made 42 saves tonight, and by my count, 18-20 of them were high quality scoring chances. His Win-Loss record rises to .500, and his Save % past .920, which starts to inch him toward the Top 20 goalies in the league. Well deserved 1st Star selection (hell, you could have given him #2 as well), how do you not start him against Buffalo (see Point #6) Sunday?

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Don’t look now, but the Edmonton Oilers are suddenly just 5 points out of a playoff spot in the NHL’s Pacific Division, and there are 4 teams that they could conceivably catch.

They cannot take the Buffalo Sabres lightly. Those 2 points need to be theirs, if the setence above is to have any real significance.