Riddle me this, Batman: how is it that a team which looked useless on a generational scale against the lowly Anaheim Ducks can turn around, not two days later, and fairly convincingly beat the crap out of a Los Angeles Kings side which actually knows what a hockey puck looks like?
When the Edmonton Oilers beat Los Angeles in overtime, it wasn't some fluky "Devan Dubnyk makes 117 saves and Colten Teubert banks the winning goal off seven different skates". The Oilers, their performance enhanced by the Hall - Gagner - Hemsky line, walked through a Los Angeles team saved from a debacle only by the heroics of Jonathan Quick. They outshot Los Angeles 33-21 and were unlucky to go to overtime at all! It was not what I'd call a normal night at the office.
Did Ales Hemsky decide to start caring? Did Shawn Horcoff decide to start leading? Did Devan Dubnyk decide to start goaltending? What the hell happened? Did somebody die, motivating the team to win one for the whoever it was? Was this one not just for two points, but for pride? Was Tom Renney replaced with a grizzled old-timer coach who knew just how to bring the intangibles out of the Oilers? Was there a training montage?
Don't blame me for resorting to bad movie cliches. Josh Green scoring his first NHL goal in five years is a cliche. Beating the big, bad Hollywood bullies who, in their crass ignorance, were so rude to the noble Ryan Smyth is a cliche. The underdogs winning at home in front of a passionate crowd... okay, in front of a breathing crowd; that's a cliche. I'm just going with the material the game gave me.
Right now, I'm the annoying guy who goes to a magic show and loudly tells his fellow patrons how he thinks the trick worked. Except I can't explain that magic. The Kings clearly came out more lack-lustre than usual, probably lulled by delicious pancakes, and the Oilers leaped upon them and... well, didn't so much "tear them to pieces" as "paw at them a little roughly" but still, two points closer to the playoff berth that is still mathematically possible!
Derek Zona, with his book learnins and his Excel spreadsheets and his dark paganistic number gods, tells us that the line of Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner, and Ales Hemsky had an excellent night, and while I normally mock his brand of witchcraft every chance I get those three obviously steered the bus for Edmonton tonight. Gagner continued to prove the skull-burstingly obvious, in that if you put him with good hockey players he makes magnificent hockey plays, while Hemsky did he usual thing except for the part where he took a slap shot on the power play, and Hall Kingston-Cannonballed the fray that resulted from that slap shot into the winning goal.
I'll also toss nods to Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid, who look like Paul Coffey and Steve Smith in comparison to the rest of those palookas but who also had two excellent games (Smid was NHL.com's first star, which isn't something you see every day for a defensive defenseman in a 2-1 overtime win; that really says something. He had so much jump he should receive permanent immunity from ill-conceived trade calls on Overtime Open Line).
None of the veterans had poor games, except Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk for whom anything non-terrible would be startling. Even Andy Sutton was fine, as the cinder-block-legged Kings couldn't threaten Sutton's sinking-oil-tanker speed. The brats, Hall aside, were less good: Magnus Paajarvi flew over the ice, had the puck on a string, and never even threatened the possibility that he might consider seriously challenging Quick. Ryan O'Marra (does he still count as a kid?) was Ryan O'Marra. Anton Lander played 16:22 and yes, he had a giveaway which led to Edmonton's only goal against, but other than that it was one of his better games.
The traditional Reverse Three Stars segment proved so difficult that I stared at my screen motionless, like a stoned Steve Tambellini. There weren't any passengers. The fourth line was awful and used at the wrong times (editor's note: insert Derek's 7,422-word rant on Tom Renney's bench techniques here, if it's possible to edit out all the profanity). However, it was also the fourth line and putting them on the Reverse Three because Renney doesn't know how to match them. Dubnyk was pretty good, the AHLers were pretty good, and picking on Oilers for being bad after a game like that feels like completely missing the point.
I don't want to sugarcoat things. The Kings were playing their second game in two nights, after all, and they made it really easy for us. But you can only beat the team that's in front of you. The Oilers have seen a lot of teams playing crappy, crappy hockey over the past six one-year rebuilds: this is just one of the few times Edmonton was the less crappy team.
But do you know what they call the least crappy team in the NHL? Stanley Cup champion.
That's right, I went there based on a 2-1 home overtime win over Los Angeles. Bam.