So, I was right this week, the Edmonton Oilers are going streaking. Winning their third in a row this week against the Atlanta Thrashers. The Oilers had won their first two games of the season, then had a 4 game winning streak in November/December, that was a very long time ago.
This game didn't sound very exciting. Another Saturday afternoon game, the second one in a row. The Thrashers have just made trades, will their team gel? The Oilers have not been playing well this season, let alone at home. They had turned things around as of late, but would it be enough to continue what they had started? It turns out that it would be. With the Oilers winning this game, 5-3 things will get increasingly interesting moving towards the trade deadline.
The first period started out on the right foot, Shawn Horcoff won the opening faceoff. The speed of the game was quick, Hemsky was showing off his spectacular stick handling skills and the Oilers looked like they didn't mind the early start one little bit. The Oilers had the first power play of the night, thanks to Blake Wheeler and a hooking call. It didn't look like the 30th place power play at times. They even got a shot on net during their 2 minute man advantage.
The first shot the Thrashers had, resulted in the first goal of the game. Devan Dubnyk wasn't able to anticipate the direction the puck would take, seemingly thought it would deflect off of some of the traffic between the shooter, Dustin Byfuglien and the net. The puck wasn't deflected though, and Dubnyk should have stopped that first goal, but it was 1-0 Thrashers through nearly 5 minutes.
Taylor Hall had a terrific shot on a speedy play through the offensive zone. Hall was unable to score, but did draw a penalty, Zack Bogosian for hooking. Still unable to score, the Oilers did get another single shot. Despite the 2 power plays, the Oilers seemed to have let their intesity drop by this point. They were too easily stripped of the puck, so it was with great pleasure to see the Ryan Jones line out. Jones and Jean-Francois Jacques each threw a hit that seemed to wake the team up again.
The second period started out with another Thrasher goal. Byfuglien and Ladd were positioned right in front of the net. Blake Wheeler released a rocket from the point which Byfuglien nearly had, but Ladd beat him to the puck to deflect it past Dubnyk. With the Oilers week of streaking look like it was coming to an end, coach Tom Renney called a time out to settle down his team.
The Oilers received their third power play of the game when Byfuglien was called for delay of game. Is there anything that guy can't do? The Oilers' continued to suffer poor power play results, unable to even get a shot on net for this one.
Liam Reddox was the recipient of a horrible blind side hit by Marc Stewart. As an Oilers fan I will say that it was a horrible, hit. As a hockey fan I will admit that Reddox touched the puck, so it was just an aggressive play. Jacques stood up for his team-mate and had had his second NHL fight of the year. Jacques has one fight in the AHL this year as well, so technically this was his third fight of the season.
Dustin Penner took the Oilers next penalty for tripping, which the Oilers were able to successfully kill off. It looked as thought the Oilers were to go on the penalty kill immediately after when Ladislav Smid was called for delay of game when he shot the puck up in the defensive zone. The puck hit the glass before it bounced out, and should not have been called a delay of game. The officials had a huddle and decided that since there was not a consensus that the puck had gone directly out of play, that there was no reason to call Smid for a penalty. Smid was sent free.
Linus Omark and his good friend Magnificent Magnus Paajarvi were the next make a game change. Another perfect pass from Omark (can the guy not make a good pass to Paajarvi?) to Paajarvi who released a quick snap shot that just beat Chris Mason 5 hole and put the Oilers on the board, cutting the Thrashers lead by half.
The goal seemed to wake the team up again, and the Oilers found their feet once again. Sam Gagner trying to keep the speed of the game up tipped the puck over the glass and out of play, taking the Oilers next penalty. Thankfully, the thrashers had not been having much luck on the power play either, the Oilers were able kill the penalty in time to take another. Theo Peckham was called for interference with 9 seconds left in the period.
So the Oilers started the third period down a man, but were able to draw a hooking penalty on Tobias Enstrom. With 4 on 4 hockey, Chris Thorburn was called for tripping giving the Oilers a 4 on 3 power play. Who would think the OIlers wouldn't be able to score on any 5 on 3 power, but Taylor Hall could jam the puck through Chris Mason for a power play goal, putting the Oilers back in the game 3-2 Thrashers. It's hard to say whether that was Hall's goal or Mason's failings, but I'll take it. Taylor Hall did it again less than forty seconds later, the second time was also with an assist from Ales Hemsky and the Oilers were back in the game with a 3 all tie and Hall with not one but two power play goals and in a row no less.
Hall was of course hungry for his third goal of the game, but that didn't stop some other Oilers from trying to get the go ahead goal. In fact in the following minutes Horcoff got his shot of the game. Theo Peckham continued to play his physical game, getting tangled with Nik Antropov. Antropov hit Peckham in the face with a high stick, drawing blood. So, the Oilers had a 4 minute power play. You knew that Hall would get a chance on the first power play, but was not able to score on his first attempts. He did score the second time he was out on the ice during the power play. Still on the first Antropov penatly, Hall put it through Mason, by jamming away at the puck. His first career hat-trick. A natural hat trick. All power play goals. When was the last time that the Oilers scored three power play goals? Of course my first reaction is to say never.
Here is a look at Hall's hat-trick
Ales Hemsky scored on his first shot of the game, an open net shot when the Thrashers made a push to tie the game up, unsuccessfully of course.
So, the Oilers have now won 3 in a row. The Oilers have won 10 games at home now. Playoffs are out of the question still, but this is exciting last place hockey. Of course now that I am on the road to see the next two games, i don't exactly know what to expect from this team.
Taylor Hall scoring a natural hat-trick was by far the biggest highlight of the game. Simply incredible that someone is able to score a natural hat-trick. If one of those goals was on the power play, that would be amazing. Three power play goals and a natural hat-trick, the odds of that have to be similar to my chances of winning the 50-50 draws at any game I go to, or the lotto-max draw even though I always submit my money to my work hockey pool. This is Taylor Hall's first season in the NHL. Hall was also very successful at drawing penalties over the course of the game. This team is not built for wins just yet, but this is what gives us HOPE for the future and makes it easier to cheer for the copper and blue.
Ales Hemsky had only a single shot on net the entire game. That is not what we need to see from him, but can you really complain when he had 2 assists on the Hall goals and the open net goal at the end of the game?
Tom Gilbert had 2 assists and 2 shots on the game, that was a big showing from him. Overall, he had a good game today.
Theo Peckham had an other physical game, and once again didn't seem to stop talking when out on the ice. Peckham will stand up for his team mates in any way he needs to. As Peckham continues to develop he will be a good fit in the NHL, and on this team. The Oilers will need size, grit and passion. Peckham should add all of these.
Overall, the Oilers went 55% for faceoffs. Excellent. The two players that brought the percentages down this time were Andrew Cogliano, 39% 7-18 and Dustin Penner, 33% 1-3.
Dustin Penner didn't have his best game. Penner was benched for stretches along with Omark. When Renney shortened his bench wasn't immediately apparent over the first viewing of the game. There is little doubt that we will hear more about the play of these two players over the coming days.
This is a great way for the Oilers to end a stretch of home games. Oilers fans are OK with losses for the most part is my understanding, but wins are essential too. This is a win that makes things better for a little while. Wins like this are what makes the Saddledome ushers go on about how much they are not looking forward to the Oilers coming dynasty. Yes, dynasty. I was able to over hear a couple of conversations with Saddledome ushers at the Barons Heat game on Friday and they said that they are anticipating the Oilers being an unstoppable force, the next dynasty. Rejoice Oilers fans, there is a light, even if it is dim out there.
The three stars for the game, well pretty much everyone should get a star for the third time in a row, but you need to be able to select out a few stars of the game right? So, I present the following:
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Taylor Hall
★★ - Taylor Hall
★ - Taylor Hall
Honourable mention of course goes to Ales Hemsky for 2 assists and one goal, and Magnus Paajarvi, the other Oilers goal scorer.