Well I know that we're all supposed to be pulling for losses and losing streaks so we can nab that all-important Bingo ball, but tonight the Oilers went and won again and that's four in a row now so when will these guys buy in to the game plan? Granted they haven't been beating up the class of the league but there's this old axiom that you can only beat the team you're playing, and to do that four times in a row on any road trip is cause for hope. Oilers were hanging on in the third tonight but had just enough in the tank and between the pipes to get the job done. 3-2 again, this time in regulation, over Tampa.
The "fourth" line of Zack Stortini centring Robert Nilsson and Ryan Stone has been together for four games now and Oilers have won all of them. The trio is +5/-0 in that time, with Nilsson also chipping in a couple of powerplay points while Stone and Stortini have looked after the physical side of the game including three fights tonight. Nilsson looks far more effective playing with grunts than smurfs so I hope Coach Quinn doesn't promote him too quickly. It's working, leave it alone.
The man of the hour tonight was one Zack Stortini, who made a gigantic impact on this game in just 6:22 ice time. "Zorg" hit for the Gordie Howe Hat Trick Plus with an assist, a goal, and two** fights against Zenon Konopka. The goal was the game winner, set up on an effective doubleteam forecheck, a nifty kick pass by Stone, and Stortini taking it to the net, walking in front of the goal line and finding the far corner beyond Mike Smith to put the Oil in front to stay, 3-2.
(**The second fight was pretty lame.)
Stone is the closest thing the Oilers have had to Glencross since Glencross, and the presence of an effective LW on the fourth line has made all the difference. He played another solid game tonight in just 6:07 ice time, and while the goals can't continue at this rate the hitting and the good positioning and the effective puck movement appear to be ingrained. He also proved pretty handy with the dukes when he took on Tampa hooligan Steve Downie and got the better of him, especially in the scrap's late stages after Downie attempted to slewfoot Stone.
The other good news is that after his disaster in Vancouver Jeff Deslauriers has bounced back with four solid efforts in a row, holding opponents to 2 or fewer each time. Tonight was a big step forward in my view, as he looked more composed and commanding than I've seen previously, tracking the puck well and handling it almost competently (which is a Huge improvement). He backed that up with 15 saves in the third including a huge stop on Downie in the final minute to hold that 3-2 lead to the end.
On the other side of the puck Marty St. Louis is just a wonderful hockey player who is a joy to watch.
Selected stats after the jump:
EV Corsi by line (listed in order of EV TOI)
Horcoff -8, Jacques -9, O'Sullivan -12
Penner +1, Brule -1, Gagner -2
Cogliano +2, Potulny +2, Moreau -2
Nilsson +4, Stone +3, Stortini +2
Visnovsky -9, Smid -11
Souray +3, Gilbert +3
Staios -2, Strudwick -4
That first unit drew the lion's share of the assignment against Lecavalier (+12) and St.Louis (+15), which explains their results to a significant degree.
Penner 5/10 = 50%
Potulny 5/11 = 45%
Gagner 5/12 = 42%
O'Sullivan 2/5 = 40%
Horcoff 4/15 = 27%
Stortini 0/6 = 0%
Cogliano 0/1 = 0%
Team 21/60 = 35% = Brutal
Jacques 5 hits
Staios 4 blocks
Stortini 1-1-2, +2, 12 PiM, 3 hits
Gilbert 1-0-1, +2, 4 shots, 1 hit
Deslauriers 32/34, .941, W
* * *
Lecavalier 22:51, 0-1-1, +2, 4 shots, 2 hits, 20/29 = 69%
St. Louis 23:22, 1-1-2m +2, 7 shots, 2 hits
* * *
Next up: @ St. Louis, Friday, 18:00 MST