Given the buzz surrounding Ryan Nugent-Hopkins since his hat trick Saturday night versus the Canucks in front of a national TV audience, I half expected my Ryan Smyth bobblehead to have a head shot of the Oilers newest rookie sensation to be taped to it. To say that Edmonton is in the grips of Nuge-mania would probably undersell where the City is at right now. But, in the middle of a rebuild there isn't much to be excited about besides the future, and Nugent-Hopkins figures to be a big part of that future.
On this night though Nugent-Hopkins wouldn't score a single goal. No, instead all he would do is make a tremendous cross ice pass to Taylor Hall allowing him to tie the game on the way to a third period Oilers come from behind win. On this night it was a different Ryan who brought the crowd to it's feet, on this night it was Ryan Smyth who was both honoured with a bobblehead giveaway and scored the game winning goal. See rookie that's how it's done.
In the first period the Oilers and Predators traded chances and power play opportunities but neither could find their way past the other teams netminder and onto the scoreboard. In the first the Oilers held the advantage in both shots and chances but it's hard to say that they really took control. The team played well enough compared to the Preds but there wasn't any impression of control at any point, they just seemed a little better.
The second period was more of the same except for a puck that found it's way past Nikolai Khabibulin early in the frame. Having seen the play both live and on the replay I still do not know how this Sergei Kostitsyn shot find it's way to the back of the net. It's a shot Khabibulin, or any goalie battling for his job, needs to stop. Without a doubt Khabibulin has been solid this season allowing just a single goal in each of his two starts but that still leaves him on the outside looking in at the starting job for now; if Devan Dubnyk falters tomorrow things could change in a hurry.
Fast forward to the third period and the Oilers finally cashed in on their shot and chance advantage. Hall scored first on the power play off a cross crease feed from Nugent-Hopkins. I've said it before, and I will say it agains and again, I want Nugent-Hopkins returned to Red Deer this season. Any points he scores won't change my opinion but they also make it impossible for the Oilers for to do what I want them to. If there was any chance coming out of training camp that Nugent-Hopkins wasn't staying past game nine it's long gone now.
Minutes after Hall tied the game, Smyth gave the home team the lead when he tucked home a gimme off a pass from Shawn Horcoff. Think 2003 and you've probably seen that goal before. Then yet another Ryan, in this case Mr. Jones, would score the games final goal, an empty netter in the final minute assisted by Smyth an Horcoff. It might not have been the best game Oiler fans have ever seen but it was a win, and in Edmonton we don't ever turn away a win.
News and Notes:
- Horcoff's line: 21:32 minutes of ice time, 3 assists, +1, 50% on faceoffs, 11-2 scoring chances, a Corsi of +10. That's not a good night, that's a great night. Nugent-Hopkins may be getting the headline but Horcoff has been the Oilers best forward this season.
- Horcoff and Eric Belanger continue to shoulder the defensive load for the Oielrs, taking 26 of the 36 faceoffs of the non offensive zone faceoffs tonight. It's not an easy, or glamorous role, but the simple fact that Tom Renney is at least trying to match lines gives me a warm felling inside.
- TheTom Gilbert/Ladislav Smid paring was fantastic on this night. They didn't give up much of anything and were great on the offensive side of the equation. I'm sorry, I know this will just encourage Derek.
- Ben Eager played 3:04 tonight. With the limited time Darcy Hordichuk saw in the first three game I just can't iunderstand why these players are on this team. If this pattern holds I'll have to think that Renney and Steve Tambellini are on different pages about these types of players, for now though it's just odd.
- Fun Ryan facts. Ryans have scored nine of 23 points recorded by the Oilers this season. Ryans have scored seven of eight goals. And Ryans have registered a point on every goal.