3) Darnell Nurse and Connor Brown finally show something
If you’re looking for players who’ve disappointed most for the Oilers this season, Darnell Nurse and Connor Brown would be right up there. Harsh or not it’s the reality, albeit maybe for slightly different reasons.
In the case of Nurse, he was the talented defenceman the Oilers felt compelled to draft seventh overall in 2013. He got to a point where the team were confident enough to sign him to a eight-year, $74 million deal which was all guaranteed.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, this didn’t guarantee success on the ice, with Nurse looking decidedly average so far this season. In fairness to him you can levy this charge against most of the team, but few have the level of expectation placed on his shoulders.
However, fans finally got to see just what the 28-year-old can do on Sunday night. He had arguably his best game of the season to date, which included season highs of three assists and a +3 plus/minus rating.
With the Oilers winning five of their past eight games, Nurse was asked what he liked about the defensive play in those five victories. Speaking to the media, he said:
"“It comes down to everything in those games, whether it’s forwards tracking back, the (blue line) having good gaps in the neutral zone, (Skinner) making some huge saves for us in big moments. And the confidence of the D-zone to know when to close plays and when not (to). So it’s been a combination of all those aspects of our game that have to continue.”"
As for Brown, the disappointment had come from recording no points in his first 13 games, despite being brought in as the Oilers’ main offseason forward signing. There was concern he just wasn’t going to be the same player as he was prior to the anterior cruciate ligament injury which limited him to only four games last season.
Fortunately for everyone concerned the points drought ended on Sunday night, as the former Leaf set up Kane perfectly and notched his first assist of the season. The relief was evident on his face as the team celebrated, but now it’s a case of seeing if he can start producing more as the season progresses.
Quote of the day
Knoblauch continuing to discuss Hyman’s fine scoring form this season. In the understatement to end all understatements, he said:
"“It doesn’t hurt playing with Draisaitl and McDavid.”"
With the win, the Oilers improved to 7-12-1 and climbed to within six points of a playoff spot following Sunday’s slate of NHL action. Next up they face a massive test on Tuesday night, as they host the reigning Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights.