Understated but efficient, it may be easy for the rest of the league to overlook the breakout season that Cam Talbot is having, but Oilers fans know. They know how the 36-game winner has provided the consistent goaltending the team has thirsted for all these years, introducing a concept of trust and stability in net that's become altogether foreign for Edmonton.
His 33-save performance tonight and 17th career shutout led the Oilers to a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. With the victory, their third straight, the Oilers (38-24-9) move into a tie with the Anaheim Ducks for second place in the Pacific Division with 85 points, six behind the San Jose Sharks and one clear of the Calgary Flames.
Up against an "NHL roster" consisting of the likes of household names Drew Shore, Joe Labate, Joseph Cramarossa, and Michael Chaput, the Oilers sure took their time with this one, outshot 33-22 on the night and struggling out of the gate with the game up in the air until the final ten minutes. It wasn't the best effort against a very diminshed opponent, but the team will gladly accept two crucial points towards clinching that elusive playoff spot.
"The two points right now are the biggest thing," said Talbot after the game. "Every point is crucial and we did a good job of locking it in tonight."
"Talbs was great, as he is most nights," said McDavid. "Tonight he stole the show, and we needed that. We weren't really good, especially during the third period, so all credit to him."
We gotta find ways to win games like that, playing LA, playing Anaheim, and if we make the playoffs. Those are the games we have to learn how to win, so real happy we found a way."
It's these kind of low-scoring games, grinding and tight through the neutral zone, that the Oilers will have to pull off in the games ahead.
Both goaltenders were solid throughout the first half of the game and it remained scoreless until late in the second period. The lethargy was enough to induce idle fantasies of which dim sum dishes I would eat tomorrow until Connor McDavid changed that, walking in and snapping it home for an electrifying 25th goal at 16:42, claiming sole possession of the NHL scoring race above the deplorable Brad Marchand. This in itself satisfies me immensely.
The Canucks packed on the pressure in the first half of the third period, threatening to erase the Oilers' tenuous 1-0 lead. A Nikita Tryamkin shot nearly went in, hitting the post, and a mad scramble ensued in front of the net, the puck barely staying out of the Oilers net.
It was getting testy until the special teams specialist and super special human being Mark Letestu wristed it home with a one-timer on the power play late in the third at 15:22, finally giving the Oilers some breathing room with a 2-0 lead. Leon Draisaitl picked up his 39th assist and second point of the game on that goal, while Oscar Klefbom continued his terrific year with his 18th assist and 30th point of the season.
Talbot preserved the win and shutout with a number of point blank saves in the final minutes as the Oilers closed out a not very pretty but crucial victory.
The magic number for the Oilers, by the way, is now 15 points.
Tonight's Good, Bad, and Ugly features song titles from a Canadian legend and my personal role model in all aspects of life-- Celine Dion. Stay blessed.
Can’t Live Without You- Many times we've heard Cam Talbot's name referenced as "arguably the real MVP this season." I'm about ready to stop arguing and just hand the title to this man-- I cannot imagine where this team would be without him, especially without a legitimate backup. He was the difference tonight and the reason the Oilers were able to escape scalding embarrassment at the hands of an AHL roster.
Here, There and Everywhere- Though they didn’t show up on the scoresheet (save Letestu’s power play goal), the bottom two lines were the more dominant in terms of possession for the Oilers tonight. Zack Kassian had himself another dandy game, leading the team with a 55% 5v5 CF%, with the next two best CF amongst forwards coming from David Desharnais and Benoit Pouliot— the third line had a great night.
Little Bit of Love- Boy, did the Oilers hit hard tonight. They outhit the Canucks 33-14, and a few players were leading the way in this category-- Kassian was pretty much throwing his weight around all night with seven, Milan Lucic had six, Drizzy Caggiula was using all of his 5’10 with five hits, and Adam Larsson was his usual beastly self with four. Caggiula was noticeable on the ice tonight, laying a big hit on Alex Edler (a size mismatch similar to me trying to hit Drake Caggiula) and jumping in on some odd-man rushes on the penalty kill late in the third.
The Power of Love- McDavid, Draisaitl and Maroon are in a three-way tie for the team lead in goals with 24. Connor McDavid selflessly passed the puck to Leon Draisaitl in the final seconds with an empty net, and though he was tripped by Chris Tanev (who I maintain is a lost character from the Lord of the Rings) and robbed of what would have been his team-leading 25th goal, this pass speaks volumes about what kind of captain he is.
I’m Your Angel- Speaking of Leon Draisaitl, such pretty passes from the German tonight, tallying two assists and nearly a three-point night if it weren’t for Tanev’s cheap trip.
If That’s What It Takes- Losing the Corsi battle 71-46 against an injury-riddled team way out of the playoffs who have traded away key pieces at the deadline is a stat that makes my soul wither a little.
Miles to Go- If the Oilers are going to have any success in the postseason, they need to get better at faceoffs. Currently sitting last in the league at 47.2%, I rarely remember a game when the Oilers have a better night than their opponent in the circle, and tonight was no exception, winning only 40% of the draws. When that happens, 68% of your players end up having a sub-50% ZS% and way rougher night.
Game in a Haiku
Wasn’t pretty but
Cam Talbot saved the day and
my heart will go on.