If the CBC and NHL could have a redo on the scheduling for this season, I think that they would have scheduled this game for a Tuesday and put a couple of teams that were pushing for the playoffs in this slot instead. Edmonton Oilers' fans, Colorado Avalanche fans, both are in a lot of pain right now and the funny thing about this game is that only one team could lose.
It didn't take long for the Oilers to take their first penalty on the night, Alex Plante was called for hooking a minute into the game. The first penalty might have been a questionable call, the second penalty of the night definitely not. Linus Omark took a high stick in the mouth from Ryan Wilson. Thankfully this high stick was not as gruesome as the one that Cogliano took earlier this season. Wilson was assessed the two minute minor. Andrew Cogliano won the faceoff in the offensive zone, Ryan Jones took the attention in the front of the net, Omark fed the puck to Cogliano, then off to Sam Gagner from the side of the net who sailed it past Brian Elliot to make this a 1-0 hockey game.
Phillipe Dupuis was soon after called for tripping, allowing Oilers' fans to get another look at the revamped power play. You know what, I like the looks of this power play right now, they're working well together. Even if they hadn't scored, Gagner while surrounded passed the puck in front of the net back to Jones who was open, as was the net. The Oilers with 2 power play goals were off to a great 2-0 start.
Alex Plante took his second power play of the period for cross checking this time, but Brandon Yip received a call of his own for tripping, potentially exciting 4 on 4 hockey ensued.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love our rookies? The second period started out with speed. Jordan Eberle passed the puck forward to Magnus Paajarvi, Paajarvi through his man to Shawn Horcoff in front of the net who made no mistake shooting the puck past Elliot. It was a 3-0 Oilers' hockey game.
I have absolutely no problem with Steve MacIntyre fighting. If he is on the team, he can really only fight or do his job when he is dressed. Tonight, MacIntyre did his job, taking on David Koci. This was a solid tilt, and not one that took a skilled player out of the Oilers' lineup.
The next goal was another Oilers' goal. Patient Linus Omark held the puck as Alexandre Giroux made his way to the net and took the Ryan Smyth position in front of the net. With a solid pass, Omark put the puck on Giroux's stick who only had to deflect the puck up and into the net. That goal sealed Elliott's fate, Peter Budaj left the bench in relief 4-0 Oilers.
Jim Vandermeer took a high sticking call with just over 8 minutes in the second period, giving the Avalanche their first man advantage of the night. No goal for the Avs. Not until Ryan O`Reilly kicked, shoved then pushed the puck under Devan Dubnyk's leg and put the Avs on the board, 4-1 Oilers.
Kurtis Foster took the next penalty for cross checking. The Oilers successfully killed off the portion of the penalty that remained in the second period. With one second remaining on the penalty in the final frame however, Cogliano scored a short handed goal! We should have seen that coming, the Oilers were now up 5-1.
Things got interesting when Jean-Francois Jacques was called for goaltender interference and roughing, while Adam Foote received a roughing call of his own. Giroux served the roughing minor for Jacques. All penalties were served without goals.
The dreamy call-up Alex Plante was back to the box, this time for fighting Cody McLeod. Plante did well for himself, and hopefully this is a sign that the big defenceman is ready willing and able to do what he needs to, to use his size to the best of his advantage. On the other end of the ice, Jim Vandermeer and David Koci looked as though they would be the next to fight with Steve MacIntyre right there in the mix too. Koci and MacIntyre were ejected from the game, and that was pretty much all she wrote folks.
That wasn't an Oilers' game clip, but that was Zack Stortini's fight against John Armstrong in the Edmonton Oilers vs the Calgary Flames farm teams' Saturday night battle. The Barons won the game 2-1, and Neal will give a full report soon enough, so I don't want to steal his thunder.
This was likely the best case scenario for the Oilers missing their top scorers, to play another team in a free fall. You have to feel for Avs fans, we as Oilers' fans know exactly what they are going through. It's sad to see that they were at one point not too long ago leading the NW, and now, barely above the Oilers. Misery is supposed to love company, but it just feels wrong now. Maybe just for some, but some teams have to lose in order for others to win.
I know I tend to harp on faceoff wins, but we saw evidence tonight just what a faceoff win in the offensive zone can do. Clearly this team can win games when they lose the vast majority of faceoffs. But, by continually losing faceoffs, especially in the defencive zone, the Oilers' just make things harder on themselves. This showing had the Oilers win a miraculous 53% of faceoffs, much better than Thursday night's 38% but both games were wins. With this team, expect anything.
It was announced during the game that Gilbert Brule is out with an intestinal issue. So, although I don't think it is ulcerative colitis it could be something that is in the same defective/ailment/disease family like celiac disease or I wonder if it could even be a horrible case of IBS. If it is truly an intestinal concern or issue it will be a matter of finding the right diet and maybe even medications. Sometimes it's just that learning curve to find a way to make your diet fit your lifestyle. If it is celiac disease, you have to learn quickly to read labels and trust no one when you are told that something is gluten free. Depending on how inflamed or sensitive a case, a tiny amount of wheat can set you off for a huge amount of pain. I don't think it's ulcerative colitis because Brule has not lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time. However, if he was diagnosed with this ailment before, he might be having a flare-up and just struggling to manage it. Really, it's all just speculation right now, but most everyone is staying very tight lipped concerning any details. No matter what the cause, hopefully Brule will find himself healthy soon.
Games like this make it easy to forget the pain you otherwise feel, and it's really too bad that this game was not played at Rexall place. We really need to give it up for Edmonton Oilers' season ticket holders, and all of those paying to watch the Oilers play. These two teams matchup again in exactly two weeks in Rexall Place s the Oilers will have a chance to do this once again.
There were some mistakes made by all during the game, incomplete passes, bad passes and the lone goal let in by Dubnyk, but these were all forgiveable mistakes and learning opportunities for the young Oilers, well as far as I'm concerned. The pressure is off, the Oilers have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for quite some time and players are playing for pride or experience at this point.
Giroux did the best thing he could have, scored a goal his first game with the Oilers. Giroux clearly does not want to play in the AHL going forward, he wants to be an NHLer. If the Oilers do not have the roster spot for him, this is a wonderful opportunity for Giroux to show scouts what he can do at the NHL level. Giroux needs to keep this up for as long as he is with the Oilers. He will be helping himself and helping the Oilers stay in games, likely aid in the education of the rookies and everyone stands to gain something. Except the Barons. How will this affect their playoff hopes going forward? It's hard to say.
Dubnyk had a great night in goal. He may have felt slightly less pressure going into this game, or maybe he felt more as bottom teams tend to be the most unpredictable. Either way, with Nikolai Khabibulin healthy enough to backup Dubnyk, DD had a strong showing turning away 33 of the Avs' 34 shots. Dubnyk looked athletic and alert quickly following the play and recovering from each save.
Not to celebrate Hall's injury, far from it, but it is excellent to see the other rookies stepping up to provide offence and get the Oilers on the score sheet. Hall will be sorely missed, but the show must go on. Gagner may not be a rookie at this point, but a three point night is exactly what the Oilers needed to see.
Five successful penalty kills, two power play goals and a short handed goal makes Saturday night alright for fighting. OK, that was barely cute or funny, but the two fights on the night just added to the excitement. Overall, the special teams had a great night and MacIntyre shook the dust off there was something for everyone tonight folks.
Everyone gets a star tonight, it was a 5-1 Oilers victory. If we want to get closer to awarding individual awards my assistant and I offer the following:
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Ryan Jones & Tom Gilbert & Magnus Paajarvi
★★ - Devan Dubnyk & Andrew Cogliano & Linus Omark
★ - Jordan Eberle & Sam Gagner
Honourable mention to Alex Plante