COLUMBUS,OH - OCTOBER 28: Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers skates up ice during the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 28 2010 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
If the Edmonton Oilers are only going to actually play for twenty minutes each game, I sure wish they let me know up front so I can watch only those twenty minutes, rather then spend forty minutes grumbling at the television, cussing under my breath at a team that doesn't care. For the second straight game, the Oilers played like an AHL team for two periods, then decided to play the game like they were an NHL team in the third period. They spotted the Blue Jackets a lead, though only one goal this time, unlike the four in Calgary, by playing as lethargically as possible. They were dominated in the first period, outshot 18-8, but they were held in it by the middle guy in the three-headed monster.
The Oilers slowly came to life in the second period, but there were far too many mental gaffes from far too many veterans. Jim Vandermeer's silly trip of Jared Boll was saved by Boll's dive, Ryan Whitney's awful meandering skate around his own end seemed to never end, and Andrew Cogliano's terrible effort in front of the net on the Jackets' second goal was a joke. The Jackets only had three even strength scoring chances in the second frame and Cogliano was the culprit for two of them. Ladislav Smid played one of the worst periods of his season in this frame. In fact, he was so bad he was being saved by Jason Strudwick.
Then in the third, just like in Calgary, things started to click. The forecheck was effective, the defensemen were moving the puck, not punting it and there was some sustained zone time. Though it was essentially the same team inertia as it was the Calgary game, I'm going to guess the media creates a narrative around the alterations to the lines Tom Renney made to start the third period. For the first time this season, Tom Renney broke up his lines mid-game, and in doing so made a major change to the lineup. Taylor Hall was moved to the Sam Gagner line and Dustin Penner moved to the Andrew Cogliano line. Last year's only successful line of Penner - Cogliano - Gilbert Brule was reuinted. If the Oilers are going to play like this all season long, they may only crack the win column against Colorado and no one else.
It was a milestone game for Taylor Hall, he tallied the first goal and first multi-point game of his career. Magnus Paajarvi and Taylor Hall scored their first career goals from a combined distance of four feet. Hall's goal vindicates everyone that chose hockey cliche #121, "He just has to get a dirty goal first and the rest will come."
After the jump, the good, the bad and the ugly.
He was the best Oiler defender tonight and this was the best game of Theo Peckham's career, and that's not damning with faint praise. Except on the penalty kill (and until further notice, all terrible defensive play on the penalty kill must be ascribed to the coaches) he was actually in position, physical and wasn't running around trying to hit people for the sake of hitting them. He did get toasted on a breakaway late, but that was his only mistake. He's been terrible positionally for most of the season and he's taken some bad penalties, but if the Oilers can get 90% of what they got out of Peckham tonight in every game, they may have themselves a real player. His open ice hits, which aren't really checks, are fun to watch.
Devan Dubnyk looked like the kid from the last ten games of the 2009-2010 season. He was in outstanding position for the entire night, which is something the Oilers haven't had since...Tommy Salo? Dubnyk battled with his puck control and rebound control early on, but it may have just been sample size as the Oilers didn't feel like playing defense through two. He was facing a barrage of shots, so he was bound to lose control of a few. He still kept turning away puck after puck and in the third period crescendo, he single-handedly killed a power play and stopped two breakaways. The Oilers haven't had goaltending like that since Dwayne Roloson robbed the Sharks and Ducks. If he's going to be in position on a regular basis, Oiler fans are going to have to re-learn this whole goaltending thing.
Chris Clark toying with Taylor Hall on a third period faceoff was good fun. Clark kept sliding his stick blade into Hall's skates, and Hall kept chirping about it. Hall turned and gave Clark's stick a whack after the third time and the refs held up the play. Of course the veteran went right back to it as soon as the ref's head was turned. After the faceoff, Hall was completely distracted, skated over to Clark and shoved him. Clark had to be laughing. Welcome to the NHL, kid.
Andrew Cogliano spent two periods trying really hard, I guess. It baffles my mind that a player with the speed of Hermes on meth is always out of position, no matter the zone. His lack of coverage on the second Columbus goal was embarrassing and after four years, signals that he's just not cut out to be a center in this game. Scott has regularly lauded his efforts this season, something I disagree with, and he has been better than Brule, but watching Cogliano is getting painful. Here's hoping that the S.S. Penner revitalizes Cogliano's game.
Jake "Voracek hates shooting" said Scott in the game thread, and I can't disagree. Voracek spends so much time on the ice deferring to Rick Nash that he may as well just put on a jacket and white gloves and follow him around with tea service.
Gilbert Brule has given up twice as many scoring chances as he's generated this season. The third period line changes came after two periods of absolutely awful play from Brule and Cogliano and it looks like Renney is trying to save that pairing as much as anything. Dustin Penner had five even strength chances for and one against through two periods. With Cogliano and Brule, he was zero for, two against in the third. Tambellini needs to demote Jeff Deslauriers to Oklahoma City so Tom Renney can bench Brule and play Liam Reddox.
Whoever is responsible for the Oilers' special teams should be dismissed retroactively October 7th, 2010. The abomination of a penalty kill was saved only because of Dubnyk's amazing performance. The defensemen were in rare form tonight, chasing the puck up the walls, out the to points and to the half-boards every time they were a man down. Unless seven guys have all suddenly come down with CTFP Syndrome all at once, the horrible penalty kill is not a personnel issue, that much is clear. The positional and tactical play on the penalty kill was no different or better than it has been for the last four games, and it's time for the brains, or lack thereof, behind the defensemen on the penalty kill to go.