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Recap: Oilers 4 - Capitals 1

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Oilers beat the champs

NHL: Washington Capitals at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the game, we got some disturbing news that Jesse Puljujarvi was going to be a healthy scratch. I made this a comment in the thread, but I am going to double it as my recap intro. Before that, go to play with some WOWY’s. There is an argument to be made that Puljujarvi is a better winger for Connor McDavid than Leon Draisaitl ever was. I’m not sure if it’s a good one, but the claim can at least be made. Add in the powerplay factors, and at the very least, the gap between perception and reality shrinks significantly. Those 77 points than got Leon his 8.5M contract are more of a representation of opportunity than any leading indicator of production. Then we get this.

I understand that it sounds like I’m being ridiculous over a one game healthy scratch, but it’s so much more than that. Jesse being scratched or busting isn’t the problem in itself, it’s what it represents.

Unlike a job, a relationship, a TV show, or a business, fandom isn’t something you really choose. It just happens. At that point whatever direction a team goes becomes a bit of a representation of yourself, and you don’t actually have any control over it. It’s what you choose to support (even if that choice was more the product of circumstance than a conscious decision), and it weighs heavily on how you behave. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Leaf’s Nation acting as though they’re superior fans to others based on their team winning some games.

Jesse getting scratched for doing exactly what’s expected of him is no different than the ‘two types of fans’. The treatment he’s getting is about the equivalent of what we’ve had for a very long time. He comes into the season while Todd’s talking about looking in the mirror, new assistants, Draisaitl at center, and feeling true optimism. The result is the same, kicked to the side, blamed for others’ failures, and knowing that the situation isn’t going to end the way he wanted.

Is that different than being promised a proper rebuild after an accidental last place finish in 2010? We kept believing, year after year, that being better was on the horizon. Another 1st overall, another, another, still no good. Then we get the player of the generation, we got one glimpse at the other side, and we’re right back here.

We are all Jesse Puljujarvi. The handling of the entire situation is starting to become as personal as relocation threats, and extortion for arena funding. I was fine with the arena funding but I expected a good team.

Jesse is owed the opportunity the same way we’re owed a team that doesn’t suck. After a while, we start feeling stupid for cheering for this team. It’s hard to take it as anything other than a personal insult.

I know it’s tempting to tell everyone to calm down about a young player being healthy scratched, but it’s about so much more than that. This is just symbolic to the garbage we’ve been exposed to for so long.

Anyway, onto the game.

1st Period:

Draisaitl and his line get caught in their own end for their entire shift. They struggle to get any puck support and TJ Oshie hits beats Talbot, but hits the post.

Four minutes into the period, Connor McDavid gets his first opportunity of the game. He blocks a point shot, and comes in alone on a breakaway. He didn’t score, but the scene of McDavid coming down the ice at full speed has everyone — including this announcers — anticipating a goal. It’s one of the most exciting moments in hockey, and thankfully, we experience it multiple times every game. The ultimate wow factor.

Nearing the 15 minute mark of the period, Tobias Rieder is tripped up and the Oilers get to go to the powerplay.

The first unit did a whole lot of nothing, but near the end of the powerplay, with the second unit on the ice, Evan Bouchard scores his first NHL goal.

Exciting moment watching a piece of our future make it count.

That was about the end of anything exciting happening in the first. A whole lot of back and forth with no real scoring chances, and the Oilers are taking the lead into the dressing room.

2nd Period:

This period would prove to be plenty more aesthetically pleasing than the first, it took just two minutes for our first chance when Drake Caggiula comes in with Milan Lucic two-on-one. Braden Holtby however, is up for the challenge and makes the save.

Jakub Vrana comes in hot a few minutes later and hits iron. Cam Talbot is really liking his posts so far tonight.

Half way through the frame, Milan Lucic drives Brooks Orpik into the boards and the Washington Capitals get their first powerplay opportunity.

Despite having Ovechkin, Oshie, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, and Carlson lining up in the circle and making me believe this game will be tied shortly, the goal actually comes in favor of the Oilers. John Carlson falls for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins calling for the puck and the rest is a thing of beauty. Just look at it!

Great goal, and a two goal lead. These are things we don’t get very often.

Within two minutes though, the lead gets cut in half. Andre Burakovski takes the feed out in front from behind the net and beats Cam Talbot. Damn.

In the final quarter of the period, the Oilers 4th line does a great job keeping the puck in the Capitals’ end. So great, in fact, that the Capitals end up clearing the puck out of play and end up short-handed.

Unfortunately, the powerplay isn’t good, and Evan Bouchard does his best Carlson impression by turning the puck over to Kuznetsov who goes in for a really good chance. Yamamoto hooks him all the way, doesn’t get called for it and Talbot turns the attempt aside. We got lucky not getting a shorty against.

3rd Period:

Good start to the period with Ryan Strome trying to get the puck to Lucic with a wide open net but just can’t connect.

Four minutes in, the Capitals get called for a face off violation. These penalties are so rare that it’s nothing short of incredible that we’ve had them called in our favor two games in a row.

On the powerplay, McDavid gets a breakaway (as I’m starting to think is the design of our ridiculous powerplay), but Holtby makes another incredible save on him.

Just under half way through the period, red-hot Alex Chaisson scores on a fantastic wrist shot.

3-1 Oilers.

The Oilers had another powerplay opportunity, but didn’t score. The Capitals pull their goalie with over two minutes left, and after Talbot stands on his head for a while, Connor McDavid seals it with an empty netter. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gets the assist.

Oilers win 4-1.

Notes:

  • Cam Talbot was fantastic, this is what we need to beat the really good teams.
  • Secondary scoring was great. I don’t think Chaisson scoring three times in two games is going to last, but I sure appreciate it when it counts.
  • Leon Draisaitl was again terrible. He’s not skating, his passing is weak, still not putting in an effort defensively and has just 11 shots on the year. If this team wanted to bench someone to hold someone accountable, this is the guy. I don’t know if he’s injured, or just being lazy, but it’s been this way since the preseason. He can be so much better than this, but thus far, just isn’t. Typically you shouldn’t use +/- for much because it’s a stupid stat, but his -6 on the year is a far better representation of his play than the fact that he’s a point-per-game player right now. It’s disgraceful.
  • No, I’m not going to drop this Puljujarvi thing, even with a win. Any time you’ve been passed over for a promotion, every time you’ve seen someone making more than you not giving a full effort, this is what’s happening. And it’s not like this is a free-market situation where he can just pack up and go somewhere else like we all can when it happens. There’s even talk about sending him down to the AHL where he’ll make less than one us makes.
  • I am a huge Yamamoto fan, and I liked his assist on the Bouchard goal. But really, what has he done to “Earn it” over Puljujarvi? I don’t think it’s much of anything, personally. People may point to his hooking of Kuznetsov preventing a shorty tonight, but when Puljujarvi hooked someone a few games ago, the media guys called it a lazy play. The only difference is that a ref called one, and not the other. Wanna see the perception?
  • Anyway, we’re 4-3-1 after a tough schedule. I’m happy with the results, and the game tonight. I just hate that it’s going to validate that ridiculous scratch.