My gut tells me that the Oilers are a better team than their record would indicate. I've seen terrible hockey teams, right here in Edmonton in fact. I've seen dead last hockey teams and I know what a terrible hockey team looks like, and I don't think this version of the Oilers are close to that bad even if their record - 1-6-1 going into this afternoon's game in Ottawa - tells you the exact opposite. The slow start is obviously a concern, just do the math on getting to the mid 90s and you'll see the problem, but the Oilers will get some bounces and they will win a few game they really don't deserve to win. Today was one of those games.
There are a lot of ways you can look at this game and conclude that the Oilers should have been on the losing end of a 3-1 score. They were outshot 36-21. You want Corsi events, how about 27.7% for the Oilers this afternoon. If shots aren't you're thing and you're more the "beat 'em in the alley" type that isn't the reason either since the Oilers were out hit by a 2:1 margin. They lost the face off battle by a large margin as well. There is almost nothing that you can point to that says the Oilers should have won this game and yet they did.
The single biggest reason the Oilers won the game this afternoon was goaltending, both good and bad. On the good side of the ledger is Devan Dubnyk who turned in his second very solid performance in a row stopping 35 of 36 shots and only getting beat by what wold be best described as a fluke. Hopefully his play in the last two games is enough for the panic surrounding the search for a replacement can die down. As good as Dubnyk was though, he only keeps the pucks out of the net he doesn't score goals.
At the other end of the rink the Oilers benefited from a lacklustre first period from Senators netminder, Robin Lehner. First period goals from Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put the Oilers ahead to stay, but on both I thought Lehner could have been better. Eberle got the Oilers on the board 2:15 into the first when he stepped around Jason Spezza at the Oilers blue line to create a two-on-one with Nail Yakupov. The Senators defenceman does his job but Lehner gives up a goal to the short side from in close. It was more of the same on the Oilers second goal when Lehner failed to control what was a fairly easy wrist shot from Yakupov, and the rebound went right to Nugent-Hopkins who buried it to give the Oilers a two goal lead.
The second period was a lot like the first, with the Senators dominating on the shot clock but not on the scoresheet. Late in the period the Oilers seemed to just be holding on almost as if they felt the game would be over after 40 minutes. This probably would have gotten a little more attention from the fans and announcers during the intermission if not for Taylor Hall's left knee.
Near the 11 minute mark of the period Eric Gryba hit Hall near the boards and a frustrated Hall swung his stick at Gryba after the hit getting a minor penalty for his trouble. On the replay it was clear what had upset Hall, Gryba's knee had hit his. Nothing more was thought of the hit until Hall came out of the penalty box and took a shot, putting weight on that knee for the first time. He immediately knew something was wrong and got to the bench and then went right down the tunnel to the dressing room. The Oilers announced during the intermission that he would not return.
Some will tell you that the hit is suspension worthy. I don't see it though. It looks worse in slow motion, and worse still if you freeze frame it, but the simple fact is that sometimes players get hurt playing hockey, and not every injury is worthy of a suspension. Hopefully the injury is nothing more than a sprain because anything more would be a body blow for this team.
The Senators eventually got on the board with a little more than five minutes left, when Chris Neil had the puck bounce off of him and then Dubnyk's glove before ending up in the back of the net. I was ready for a crazy finish to the game but it never really materialized and Nugent-Hopkins sealed the win with an empty net goal in the final minute. All in all it was an interesting game from the Oilers. As team I didn't they played great, but there were some performances worth noting.
- Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, besides scoring all the Oilers goals, were undeniably the team's best forwards. They came as close as any Oilers players to breaking even Corsi-wise on the evening, and on almost every shift they looked capable of adding to the Oilers lead.
- David Perron played a rather interesting game as well. He rolled over Lehner in the first period and was in the middle of a number of scrums throughout the afternoon. I haven't seen that kind of irritating prick style of play from him before. If he plays that type of game, and plays it smartly, he will be very popular with the fans very quickly.
- On the blue line Jeff Petry led the way again. He played 25:01 in total, including what seemed like most of the third period. He moves the puck calmly and effectively, takes on the opposition's very best forward, and eats up a ton of minutes. He is really fun to watch when he's on his game like he was today.