So Tom Gilbert sees an end to his iron man status on the Oilers roster, making Andrew Cogliano by far the highest consecutive games played man. Gilbert did not play against the Vancouver Canucks due to a sore back. Thankfully, the Oilers still had enough players up, especially with the potential loss of Jordan Eberle. With the final back to back game of the season happening (depending on when you read this) tomorrow or tonight in Calgary, it will be disappointing if Eberle is out of the lineup, but precautions should be taken.
Now before some start expressing their emotions and thoughts on this game, I'll be honest and say that I don't hate the Vancouver Canucks. If the Edmonton Oilers would only get to win one game this week, I want it to be a game against the Flames. Every. Single. Time. So, it is with great joy that I saw the Oilers win, but now I can't help but worry about the next match up. Oh please hockey gods! Hear my plea!
The Oilers led the Canucks in scoring through the opening minutes of play, and in fact the Canucks didn't register their first shot until 4:26. Chris VandeVelde had the best scoring chance for most of the period, ringing it off the post at the halfway marker. With seven minutes left in the period, the "Let's go Nucks" chant started, and were quickly quieted by the "Let's go Oilers." For some reason, that didn't last very long either. Alright, we know what reason, we have all been in this together and the end is soon. Jannik Hansen took the first penalty of the game for hooking and that was all the opportunity the Oilers needed. Jeff Petry found Jordan Eberle who had made an opening and had a great shot on net, but just wide. Thankfully, Ryan Jones was parked in front of the net and the puck bounced off of Jones' shin, off of Roberto Luongo and into the net short side. It was 1-0 Oilers thanks to a power play goal 3 seconds before the period expired. The Oilers also lead in shots, 8-4.
The second period started off with both teams at even strength, thanks to the power play goal by Jones. Both teams seemed to have found their pace, but it might have been a little slow for the Oilers. The Canucks had their best scoring chance when Jeff Tambellini secured his position on the side of the net and once he had the puck, jammed away at it, hoping to push it through or under Devan Dubnyk. The whistle was blown and still Tabellini pushed. This didn't sit well with the Oilers, who appeared eager to bring on some physical play. Theo Peckham had apparently tried to strike a chord, or Aaron Rome had, either way, Peckham dropped one glove and his stick but Aaron Rome wasn't interested in fighting. The taunting continued once both players returned to the respective benches.
At 8:42, in front of the Oilers' net, Ladislav Smid hit Daniel Sedin, and Alexandre Burrows took offence to the situation. Some pushing and shoving ensued, Smid took a roughing penalty, and Burrows a hi-sticking. Again, no fighting even if it looked like that is what things were leading to. The 4 on 4 play that followed was slightly quicker, and that continued once full strength play resumed. It wasn't even strength for long though, at 11:32, Burrows took a slashing penalty. Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi looked like a force to be reckoned with, both creating and taking scoring opportunities. On one such opportunity, Eberle ended up on his stomach sliding towards the net, and Jones tried to find his second on the night. Instead, Jones found himself in the middle of a pack of Canucks. No penalties were called, but it looks as though some egos might be bruised.
With less than four minutes to go in the period, Kevin Bieksa took a hi-sticking penalty, but the Canucks successfully killed the Oilers' man advantage. Burrows had the Canucks best scoring chances on the period but also served the most time in the penalty box. There was no further scoring in the second, and the Canucks lead in shots 14-6. Smid, wearing the A for this game due to Gilbert's absence. Smid himself was a possible scratch duw to a foot issue from the Saturday game. Smid has opted to wear the shot protectors on his skates and said "You have to enjoy these division battles." On why it was important to him to play this game.
The Canucks got their first power play of the night, 32 second into the final frame. Jim Vandermeer was called for hooking and Oilers fans held their breath. The Oilers successfully killed their first penalty, but soon after took a second hooking penalty in a row. With less than one minute of full strength team between calls, Ryan O`Marra made his way to the box. Luck would be on the Oilers side somehow when the Canucks leading power play scorer, Daniel Sedin was hauled off for tripping, a minute into their power play. The Oilers were unable to score on their short power play, but the Canucks weren't able to to either.
Linus Omark seemed to tempt the fates again, taking a holding penalty and giving the number one power play team in the league another opportunity. The Oilers successfully killed the penalty, their third in the period but the next calls are where things got messy. With slightly less than 7 minutes in the game, an unsuspecting Jordan Eberle was the recipient of a headshot by Raffi Torres. O'Marra immediately dropped the gloves, but was soon toppled by Torres. Torres was assessed a 5 minute elbowing major, and speculation immediately began as to whether or not Torres would receive some major punishment from the league.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, or their fans, the team seemed to have come completely unhinged with 6 minutes left in the game. Rome and Burrows each took a cross checking penalty on Eberle and Cogliano respectively. 5 on 3 hockey and for four minutes. The Oilers were able to take advantage of it for the first time all season, and it's not as if this was their first 5 on 3. Jeff Petry was again involved in a power play goal for his team, finding Linus Omark who of course was looking for his good friend and line mate Magnus Paajarvi. The best part was that Omark passed back to Paajavi, then skated across to the front of the net to screen, but not before Paajarvi released his shot on Luongo. Omark jumped over the puck, and Luongo was once again beaten short side, 2-0 Oilers. With one mad advantage, the Oilers were unable to find a third, but maintained their lead. The Oilers closed out the final period tied at 8 with the Canucks for shots on net.
Yes, the 2010-11 Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks, and not just once, but twice in less than a week. The only thing that should make this better is a victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. Beating division rivals has been an issue, for the most part, for the Oilers this season. At first I didn't think it mattered that the Oilers wouldn't get anther win on the rest of the season, but the win on Saturday has changed my thinking. Winning is a better way to end the season, and have the players come back to training camp with.
Jeff Petry played one of his best defensive games of the season, which is not a surprise against the Canucks. The Oilers also blocked a large number of shots on the night, and helped Dubnyk keep the Canucks off the board. So, it's not surprising to hear that the Oilers defensemen stood up and played their best. It was an added bonus that Petry had an assist on both goals. Dubnyk's shutout on the night was his second in the NHL and what a shutout it was. Facing 26 shots, and a number of blocked shots, Dubnyk looked solid and like a ray of sunshine in the Oilers future.
On taking both games in the home and home series, Paajarvi told Gene Principe "It's huge for us, even with out season ending in three more games." When asked what he thought about breaking the 5 on 3 power play goal drought, "I didn't know that we hadn't scored before. I heard this after the game. That was nice to get that out of the way. You have to execute when you have the shot and when you can close the game, an opportunity like that you can't miss it. Especially against a team like this. That was really huge for us." Obviously the youth is buying into the rebuild, even though they don't have another option. The rookies are finding chemistry with each other and are stepping up at critical times in the game. The Canucks had crumbled by the time that Paajarvi scored, but it might have been a different result if Paajarvi had not scored and taken the wind out of the sails for the Canucks.
Jordan Eberle jumped to his feet from the hit, and many questioned why he was not pulled off for 15 minutes after his hit to the head. Perhaps he didn't seem off, but with a player like Eberle some fans were likely concerned why he wasn't assessed off of the ice. On the hit itself, Eberle said "From what I saw, I thought he had me beat to the puck, so I thought he was just going to get it and turn up ice. At the last second, he left the puck and hit me. I'm not sure if it was elbow or shoulder blade that hit me. Obviously it's tough." On staying in the game Eberle said "I don't really feel anything, so it's obviously a positive." Whether or not he should have stayed in the game will likely be made clear when the Oilers assess him tomorrow and make a decision on whether or not he will play in Calgary.
Coach Tom Renney was proud of his whole team and said of Eberle staying in the game, "The kid's a trooper, he's an Oiler" not willing to discuss his thoughts on the hit, "I'm not going to do it in the media. We'll let the punishment fit the crime. I'm not going to go there." Smart move Renney, I'm impressed that Renney has held it together all season and not been fined yet. There have been some questionable calls, some unfortunate injuries, and an awful lot of missed calls against Omark.
"We just want them to under estimate us possibly so that we can pursue a win because we need that kind of help. That being said, we played hard from the drop of the puck." Renney said of his team's efforts on the night. If Renney is okay with other teams taking their foot off the gas when playing the Oilers, well, he must be finding a way to get that message through to his team. We as fans can still be upset over it, but it should matter more how it affects the players.
"I don't want my team to play in fear of making mistakes. That's fatal quite honestly. They have full license to go try things. There is a game plan, there is structure, there is a way that we have to play in order to have success and manage our game, no question. But at the same time, I don't think that you win by being safe late in a game like that at all. I think you just do what got you there." That should be excellent advice for a young and developing team, and we have seen that Renney stands by this when Gilbert Brule took a tripping penalty in Minnesota on March 31st. Learning from mistakes can be painful, but it's not as if the Oilers have a lot to lose at this point of the season.
This Oilers fan was shocked and glad for the win, as this is one of the last for the season and I have seen more than enough losses on the season. So, it is with great pleasure that I remind you that the Oilers are once again going for a winning streak on the season. Three more games, I won't even guess how many more wins.
For this evening, I am in complete agreement with the Sportsnet panel. Here are your three stars.
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Ryan Jones
★★ - Magnus Paajarvi
★ - Devan Dubnyk
Our very own Ryan Batty was at the game tonight and did have this to offer:
Ryan's Vancouver fan three stars:
3: Genius #3 - Well we're making the playoffs. Ryan - After dropping back to back games to an AHL team I'd certainly plan the parade route. Might even start camping out. Genius #3 - Huh?
2: Genius #2 stands up and applauds every call against the Oilers. Stands up and boos all calls against the Canucks.
1: Genius #1 - Oilers fans are just jealous of our success. Ryan - What success?Genius #1 - What did you miss the news about the Presidents Trophy?Ryan - How many has Detroit won? Or New Jersey? Or Colorado?Genius #1 - What does that matter?Ryan - Just proves nobody cares. Genius #1 - Well we won it and that's all that matters.