The shot counts had the Oilers in front, but the Oilers only outshot the Avalanche by one shot at even strength, even though they played from behind for two full periods. The only Oiler who was active and attacking throughout was Taylor Hall, who drew the toughs matchup of Jan Hejda and Ryan O'Byrne along with Ryan O`Reilly's line. Hall was his cannonball self, blasting into the offensive zone, launching himself after rebounds, flinging himself into tight spaces after the puck and creating something, anything, on a night when the rest of the team looked like they were skating in cement.
The Avs, on the other hand, were active in forechecking and creating turnovers, especially O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog. On a night where the Oilers supposedly iced an exciting team of young stars, except for Hall, it was the Avs' youngsters who dominated play.
Notes and Observations:
- I watched this game on PVR knowing the outcome so I was more relaxed than normal. If not, I would've been extremely frustrated with Devan Dubnyk. He wasn't as shaky as Nikolai Khabibulin, but he wasn't the old reliable, well-positioned, slow-moving, rebound-covering kid we've come to expect. Seems like the old Russian is rubbing off on him.
- Hall was amazing. He didn't get on the scoresheet, but it seemed like he was everywhere. He beat people wide on the rush like he always does but in the second period, he actually cut inside on Ryan O'Byrne and crossed him up. Hall has two moves on the rush, go like hell and beat the D wide, or go like hell and stop on a dime to feed an oncoming teammate. Adding to his repertoire is going to make him unstoppable.
- Sam Gagner's two-way game was on display last night. He wasn't nearly as dangerous as Hall or Eberle, but he covered for them throughout and looked like a veteran two-way center.
- The Hall-Gagner-Eberle line combined for 10 shots on goal, though the power play contributed to that, but they attempted 15 shots. Their shot totals continue to amaze me.
- The Ryan Whitney - Tom Gilbert pairing has two good legs between them and it's tough to watch. They're not nearly as hard on the puck or man as they've been in the past and though they can still throw a beautiful breakout pass, they're immobile. They don't look good under pressure (witness Landeskog's pick in the second period and O'Reilly's steal in the third period) and can't recover.
- Based on the prior paragraph, you may deduce that I don't understand why in the world Tom Renney has elevated that pairing to first-pairing status, because...
- Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry were excellent once again. Smid and especially Petry have grown into men over the last three weeks and look capable of taking on any comers right now. Renney can't protect Whitney and Gilbert because Cam Barker exists, but the least he could do is give them a softer assignment on the backs of Smid and Petry. Smid seems to have become more physical and Petry is making better decisions. Ride them.
- Remember how Cam Barker lost all of that weight and was in the best shape of his life just two weeks ago? If this is the best shape of his life, what does his game look like when he's out of shape??
- Finally, I'll ask again: why isn't Anton Lander a Baron?