The Edmonton Oilers found a new top line under Ralph Krueger and as such found new life. Taylor Hall - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky were perfect together. Horcoff did the hard work, Hall and Hemsky did the flying trapeze while killing those tough minutes and, to be honest, it looked like a line that could do it against the toughs on the road too. The Jordan Eberle - Sam Gagner line was just there to clean up the mess and kick the second-toughs in the pants. It looked like a winning strategy. Then Tom Renney showed up again.
Not only did Ryan Nugent-Hopkins show up on the toughs line (he's been protected all year), Horcoff was dropped down to the third line and Dave Tippett was free to romp on the Oilers.
Sure, Hopkins scored a goal. Sure, Hemsky and Hall were working like The Wonder Twins, Form of Scoring Chances!, but Hopkins was a step behind the entire night. Not only that, Dave Tippett decided to match Martin Hanzal's line to Sam Gagner's line, the matchup he wanted. Never in the history of conflict have so many people asked for the Swiss and not meant a well-calibrated timepiece. Coach Krueger, save them.
In actuality, Hopkins wasn't bad (though Hemsky and Hall were marvelous so they could have masked Darcy Hordichuk's shortcomings) but he wasn't on point like Shawn Horcoff was against Philadelphia. Like he did against Philadelphia, Darcy Hordichuk was game for a fight against the other team's hired knuckles, and as is the custom of a terrible goon, Hordichuk was beaten soundly by the Coyotes' Paul Bissonnette.
- Tom Gilbert played his best game since coming back from injury. He left early in the game, but returned, presumably from an equipment problem. If Gilbert is back in from, the Oilers have three top four defensemen. Finally.
- Ryan Whitney was a pylon on a number of occasions tonight, especially on Ray Whitney's goal. Unless science can restore ankle flexibility, the Oilers can't count on Whitney to be anything other than a 3rd pairing defenseman for the rest of his deal.
- Hall and Hemsky have had an uncanny ability to find and read each other over the last two games. They're to the point that they can carry any center on the team against toughs. They just need a couple of rover-type defenseman laying back to cover the rush coming the other way.
- Even in the face of all of this forward talent, it's Jeff Petry who is the smoothest, silkiest skater on the team. He's like Tom Gilbert, except Petry can boogey.
- Send Darcy Hordichuk down, bring Omark up and add a winger in place of Petrell and the Oilers have a dandy fourth line.