Edmonton Oilers Take Punch, K.O. Sharks 4-3


This was an entirely different Edmonton Oilers team tonight, which defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in Overtime. We saw a club exhibit qualities which fans in Edmonton may well have assumed their team had forgotten all about. And all of them added up to a thrilling victory in the end, for the good guys, and a step closer to…dare we speak of it…a playoff spot. Cue the hushed tones.

9 Things:

9. Anton Lander has generally been a shadow of the player we saw in the back half of last year. But he is still a capable NHL player, and can do the little things that can help a team win. That suicide shot block in the 3rd Period was a perfect example. He was also 10-1 in the face-off circle. Winners do things like that.

8. Wednesday night’s 4-3 win was the first time the Edmonton Oilers have won five games in a row at home since February of 2008. That is 7 long years, folks. I’m not sure we should plan the parade route just yet. But we are getting glimpses of a very different team, and it’s fun to watch.

7. There WERE mistakes tonight. In fact, Edmonton Oilers mistakes led directly to all 3 San Jose goals. But what I liked was that all 3 men guilty of those sins also contributed vital moments on the positive side of the ledger. Mistakes happen. It is how you react to and deal with them that matters.

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6. Darnell Nurse was a marvelous defenceman tonight. He fought one hard battle after another in his own end against a very good, heavy crew of San Jose forwards, and more than held his own. There was a lot of heavy lifting, and he did it well, finishing tops of the team with 6 hits. The fact that he was rewarded with an assist on the winner was fitting.

5. Edmonton Oilers. Grit. Yes, I just used those two words in the same sentence. It looked as if the Oilers actually played this game a little angry, tonight. When Mike Brown drilled Brandon Davidson, Luke Gazdic jumped on Brown. Then, when Brent Burns took a whack at Anders Nilsson, Davidson tackled Burns. That’s the “Circle of Life”, on a hockey team. One sticks up for the other. The Oilers also led the hits parade 15-7 after one period, 35-15 after O/T.

4. The puck. I don’t know if you caught it, but after the winning goal, Teddy Purcell dug it out of the Sharks net, did a nifty lateral to Taylor Hall, who then placed it in the palm of his coach, the former bench boss of the team they had just defeated. If you don’t think that act has an impact on this young club, then you haven’t spent enough time in a dressing room. These players clearly respect the man who is coaching them. That was apparent tonight.

3. Leon Draisaitl. Quick, lets have a do-over. 2014 NHL Draft. Leon Draisaitl? Sam Reinhart? Yeah, based on what I am seeing this year, the Buffalo Sabres may eventually be worry that they did not take the big German 2nd over-all. Draisaitl does so many things well. His skating has been a revelation this year, those now-explosive first steps led to that winning goal. He looks like a veteran in the face-off dot. His defensive positioning continues to show well. And we always knew he was a sublime passer. What a player. What. A. Player.

2. Jordan Eberle. This was the Jordan Eberle that Edmonton Oilers fans know and love. #14 was at the top of his game tonight, making sharp plays in tight areas, and skating as good as he has all year. He was rewarded with the primary assist on the Iiro Pakarinen goal (and did the lion’s share of the work on it), and scored a goal-scorer’s goal on a gritty set-up by Jujhar Khaira. Eberle was the best player on the ice tonight. And the only reason he wasn’t the 1st of my 9 Things on this night was the performance of his good buddy Taylor Hall

1. Taylor Hall. If you still think that Taylor Hall is a problem on this team, and should be traded, kindly close this page now, and don’t bother visiting it again. He demonstrated yet again tonight that he is one of the select few players in the NHL who can heave an entire team onto his 24-year-old shoulders. After Brett Burns drilled him into the boards, Hall came back and (without taking a penalty) slammed Burns into the boards. The “old” Taylor Hall may have lipped off the referee and given the Sharks a man advantage. Then, his pure speed and bully-like push to the net resulted in the overtime winner. He demonstrated, tonight, that he is the leader of this team. Oh yeah, and one of the elite players in the NHL.

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Playoff Talk? In December?

Look, I had my 4-year old kid at Rexall place the night the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ever since then, he and I have stuck with this franchise, through some of the lowest moments you can possibly imagine (or maybe you can!).

And while the win tonight did not win a series, a division, a championship…it did a lot to restore our belief in this bunch. And I’m guessing that if you are a long-suffering Oilers fan also, then you probably feel much the same way.

Friday should be fun, for obvious reasons. See you at the rink.