Ten seconds into this game, and Bruce and I thought that the Oilers were going to be in trouble. Tom Gilbert tried to step up into a three-on-two and whiffed something terrible, turning the rush into a three-on-one. The Hawks were flying early and the Oilers looked like the OIlers until Taylor Hall broke into the zone and fired a wrister at Marty Turco. Turco acted like the puck was a big scary monster with fangs, almost ducked out of the way of the puck, and the Oilers had some life. Jonathan Toews got one back on the power play because Nikolai Khabibulin didn't feel the need to close his five hole, but after that, it was a matter of Turco implosion. Turco didn't make it into the second period because Ales Hemsky, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner all torched him for goals in the first, though to be fair, he had no chance on the Eberle goal.
"This is not a night for devotees of goaltending, I’ll tell you what." That was Ben in the Game Thread comments and he was spot on. If Chicago has any kind of goaltending in the first period, the game is a completely different one.
The new first line of Magnus Paajarvi - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky is a sight to behold on the move, but when they need to hold the puck in the offensive zone or get on the cycle, they break down. They also had trouble winning the puck in their own zone until Ales Hemsky took it into this own hands in the third period. The reunited second line of Taylor Hall - Shawn Horcoff - Jordan Eberle looked quite good, but any line anchored by points machine Horcoff is going to do well. The third line was also a reunification effort, re-unifying the best line the Oilers iced last season. Dustin Penner - Andrew Cogliano - Gilbert Brule held their heads above water in this one, and for Cogliano and Brule, treading water is a revelation. Even the fourth line got in on this one as Ryan Jones scored and his line wasn't on for a goal against!
The defense? Well, let's just savor this win, eh? Highlights, stats and the good, the bad, and the ugly after the jump.
A commenter recently chastised bloggers for always claiming they are right, but never bringing up the times they're wrong (nevermind that MSM types lean on one correct prognostication for years), so I showed him a list of the things I've been correct on and said I'd missed on Denis Grebeshkov getting a qualifying offer. Well, here's another miss. In our Top 25 Under 25, I ranked Jordan Eberle the lowest of the authors here...BY FAR (that's for Ben), and I was way off. In that article, I wrote:
Eberle isn't more than an average skater, he does have an above-average shot, he's not a faceoff guy, he's not particularly physical, although he does have exceptional hockey sense, he's not an exceptional passer and he lacks NHL size. Players of Eberle's ilk often do make the NHL, and some have succeeded, however, those players that have succeeded all had some superior skill or attribute that they were able to rely on to make the next level. For Eberle, it's going to have to be the always-nebulous "hockey sense" that makes him a player in the NHL.
Even though I'm down on the overall package that Eberle delivers, I've still ranked him in the top eight. And that ranking all comes down to one thing - numbers. At every level, Jordan Eberle's numbers have been outstanding.
Not only is his hockey sense superior, but he's also an above-average skater. I don't know where the wheels came from, because he never really outskated people at the WJCs. In the NHL, he's beating people with agility and quickness, and it's impressive.
Eberle was on his game tonight for certain. His goal on the feed from point machine Shawn Horcoff was pretty, but I don't know that it was one of his three best plays in the game. He made two amazing passes in the second period that I had to rewind twice just to watch. The slow road to the NHL certainly was the right one for Eberle.
Shawn Horcoff was outstanding in all zones tonight and had two assists to boot. He was 59% in the faceoff circle, including eight wins and four losses over the last two periods and four wins and two losses against Jonathan Toews. Horcoff's game tonight reminded us of the reasons behind Eberle's apprenticeship.
Vancouver's favorite referee, Stéphane Auger, essentially scored a goal for the Oilers. When Duncan Keith tried to pass the puck up the middle, Auger, for some unknown reason, was standing in the middle of the ice. The puck caromed off of Auger to Paajarvi who flipped it to Gagner for the one-time goal. Even if Auger was afraid of taking a puck along the boards, there is no reason for him to skate that far out onto the surface. He's got to stay along the boards there and push off if he sees one coming. I suspect he'll hear from Terry Gregson about this.
The goaltending on both sides was abysmal. Turco was out of position and guessing on the Taylor Hall goal and Khabibulin got beat through the five-hole on a shot that doesn't beat ECHL goalies through the five hole. Corey Crawford came on and was beaten by a weak wrist shot by Ryan Jones through the five hole, and when I say "weak" I mean it was akin to a shot taken by a mite player. Ben pointed out the best goalie in the building was sitting on the end of the Oilers' bench in a baseball cap.
Ryan Whitney's -18 Corsi.
The Oilers' penalty kill. I know I've been harping on this recently, but nothing has changed. When the Oilers have four men on the ice, the defensemen are chasing the puck all over the place; they chase it to the half-walls, and to the points, and it's a terrible strategy that isn't going to work. Whoever implemented this should be fired immediately.
Yes, I know - pick your poison - Strudwick or Vandermeer. But tonight it was Jason Strudwick, not to be outdone by his colleague, who spent the entire second period deeper in Khabibulin's crease than Khabibulin was, and was directly responsible for Chicago's third goal because he was cluelessly standing on the puck twirling around in the crease, right up until Dowell approached. Strudwick finally lifts his foot, and the puck is quickly in the net. Strudwick spent the entire third period playing defense like he did last season, which is to say not very well at all. He gets buried in his own zone, he can't win the puck, move the puck, or pass the puck. I don't care how good Strudwick is in the locker room, it's a travesty that he's on the roster while guys like Paul Mara and Mike Mottau waited over a month to find work.