Alright all together, deep breath in, hold it, and release. Just nine games left folks, nine games and then we get to start whining about how long the Oilers off season is and debating ad nauseum which player the Oilers should draft with their second lottery pick in a row.
It's funny how quickly the season comes to a close and how fast time seems to go, or maybe I'm just getting older because I never thought I would say that. This was the final meeting of the Nashville Predators and the Edmonton Oilers for the 2010-11 season, the second season of rock bottom for the proud Oilers franchise. This was also yet another season of incredibly bad luck in terms of injury. Every shift the Oilers take I find myself not necessarily anticipating goals, but holding my breath with every hit hoping that it will not be season ending first. The mid twenties temperature must have buoyed the team's spirits, but it ever increase the puck bounces as well! In some ways it added to the excitement or challenge of the game.
The Nashville Predators are currently on the list of playoff teams. Given how close the teams are, anything can happen before the playoffs begin, but these two points likely helped the Predators along nicely at the same time hurting the Flames. You win some, you lose some it seems.
The Preds took an early lead as the Oilers were just a little slow getting back to their zone. Jim Vandermeer even tripped himself up on Jordan Eberle's stick and thus when flat down on the ice was just a little too slow to make it back in front of the net. David Legwand and Joel Ward had the assists in a perfect tic-tac-toe play with Martin Erat finally burying the puck, 1-0 Preds. Kurtis Foster took a tripping penalty and the Predators took full advantage of their power play. Again, the Oilers' defence looked just a half a step too late, Peckham struggled to cover two men at the same time and Patric Hornqvist with a wrister netted a power play goal 2-0 Preds. When Eberle was hit a fast moving puck and left the bench Oilers fans have to be used to this by now you figured, but were likely still startled. It was a huge relief when Eberle returned. The Oilers finished the first period trailing 2-0 in goals, and 5-15 in shots.
The Oilers held out a little longer in the second period before allowing a goal. Chris VandeVelde was tied up by Hornqvist and even dropped his gloves anticipating a fight. Instead, David Legwand made it a 3-0 hockey game. The next penalty called was another tripping penalty, Sergei Kostitsyn of the Predators gave the Oilers the man advantage. It was Jordan Eberle who was able to reap the rewards of the situation on a pass from Andrew Cogliano. 3-1 Predators. Cody Franson took an interference penalty on Alexandre Giroux but the Oilers were not able to capitalise a second time in a row. Neither team allowed many shots in the second period, the Oilers actually lead 7-5 but each team was rewarded with a goal.
Theo Peckham is a gritty, ambitious and hard working defenceman. A good male friend of mine lovingly refers to him as Wreckham and I'm sure would love nothing more than to spend an afternoon just staring lovingly into his eyes. I kid, I kid! Peckham may have gotten a little too ambitious behind the Oilers' net trying to dig out the puck from between Jerrod Smithson's feet as Peckham was called for tripping. The Predators have not had the most successful power play as of late. Of course they are not Edmonton Oilers bad, but they have been struggling, and continued to struggle through this opportunity. The Oilers successfully killed the Peckham penalty and continued to look for another goal. Ryan O`Marra took the next Oilers' penalty, this one for hooking. The Oilers' successfully killed off this penalty as well, much to the disappointment of the Predators' fans in Nashville many apparently with those awful annoying TooToo whistles. Mike Fisher took a tripping penalty, but the Oilers just couldn't find their finish. The scoring ended at 3-1.
There was however a scary moment in the dying minutes of the game, Kurtis Foster had his head snap as he hit the boards and was slow to get up. Foster was helped off the ice and is likely to be kept out with concussion like symptoms. These, after all, are the Edmonton Oilers.
So there we have it folks, one step closer to the end of the regular season and that time where you cheer whole heartedly for your number two team, or against your most hated team. For some they don't have a number two team and don't watch the playoffs, while others just watch for the sake of watching. No matter what camp you fall in, hopefully you are that much closer to making your peace with the situation.
Linus Omark, what else is there to say about this guy? How many times can I say that he continues to impress me with the way he uses his size? His grit, his tenacity, his endurance his passion for the game, all very impressive qualities that will surely pay off sooner rather than later. As noted when Sportsnet gave him a star tonight, Omark had 18:30 of ice time. Oilers' fans would like to see this start paying off with more goals, but who on this Oilers team is scoring lots of goals? It's hard to get down on Omark for not scoring when so many are suffering from lack of goals.
Teemu Hartikainen continued to impress with his physical play and ability to control the puck as well. Coach Tom Renney has a lot of faith in this young call-up and also recognizes what the rest of us do as well, Hartikainen also had over 18 minutes of ice time. If the injuries continue, or if players are held back from returning to the ice, you know that Hartikainen is likely to stay.
Jeff Petry looks to have regained his confidence from his recent assignment with the Oklahoma City Barons and should pencil himself in for a season with the Edmonton Oilers next year. True, defencemen take time to develop, but with the return of Ryan Whitney as well as the other injured Oilers, things should be looking up for some of the young Oilers. Petry took down Tootoo in the final period. It may not have been a crushing blow, but it was impressive enough.
Andrew Cogliano charged the net and made chances with his 20 minutes of ice time. Earning only one point for the assist on Eberle's power play goal must have been disappointing for Cogliano, but again I'm sure the entire team walked away thinking that they deserved better.
VandeVelde is looking as though he wants to be in the big leagues too. He has some size to him and just lacks the experience and maybe a little foot speed still. There is a chance that both can be worked on. The return of Taylor Chorney, VandeVelde's college teammate should only help with the development of both players. Just look at what having a friend around has done for Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark. Although you hope it won't encourage certain members to splinter off into subsets, you hope that they will be happy both on and off the ice, enough so to win games!
A quick injury update from Gene Principe says "Tom Renney said after game Jordan Eberle went to have his ankle-foot looked at after blocking shot and no update on Foster who was woozy"
With nine games remaining it will be a small miracle if the Oilers win even just one game before the end of the season. I swear to you I am a huge Oilers' supporter and would love to see a few more wins, especially when they will hurt the Calgary Flames, but I try to be a realist at times too. Next up the St. Louis Blues, goilers!
Overall, the Oilers had a horrible night in terms of faceoffs once again, but Hartikainen had the best percentage with 2 of 3 faceoffs won. That's another plus for the young Finn.
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Linus Omark
★★ - Andrew Cogliano
★ - Jordan Eberle
Honourable mention to Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham