I had a really strong feeling we'd win tonight for some reason. I make it a practice of trying not to say anything when this happens. Tonight we were not particularly great early and got seriously down. But as I've already said a time or two this year it's becoming quite clear that the one thing this team will not do is quit. There is no lag when the other team scores as has been the practice for several years now.
One thing you should have known heading into this game is that Ales Hemsky was both due, and owns Columbus in a big way. That recipe alone could have led to victory tonight. Some elite Columbus plays early (We got beat by excellent passing and shooting more than anything else) made the hill a little steeper than it should have been.
Then this freight train in an Oilers #27 jersey showed up...#2 and I figured it out though...Dustin Penner just arrived this season. The REAL Dustin Penner, now with a stat line of 7-7-14, was kidnapped by one Brad Isbister, who ate a bunch of cheeseburgers and stole his identity, contract money, and first line LW spot. Isbister couldn't hack it and Penner finally made his way back to life and the Oilers this season.
As for the guy wearing the Isbister jersey elsewhere, I have no idea who the heck that is.
To get those kinds of individual efforts on a team that was utterly suffering from the flu was truly stupendous. They not only survived this game but came back from a defecit and won it. Just incredible. We're watching a team with several emergent talents at the moment which is something that happens for every successful team during a successful season. I'm just mentioning it as a good sign at this point.
I'm really not sure if I can adequately add to any of the descriptors that have already been used by others with regards to his game this evening. That was something truly exceptional we all were able to witness. I'd heard it said that was the best game an Oilers forward has played in a long time. The only comparable I can think of was Hemsky against Columbus but I might be missing something. Either way, the fact that we're even having the conversation means it was special. Dustin Penner truly looked like a freight train every time he rolled down the left wing tonight. He barreled through anything in his way, with his head up, the puck on his stick and at the ready, daring anyone to challenge him. No one did all night. I'm not sure anyone could have if they tried. It was more than the goals and the assists, which were bloody excellent. It was throwing people around, jumping into a fray Gagner was in and daring the two Columbus players to try something. He was everywhere, including on the PK. The guy is just a big crazy hockey playing machine right now. His first goal came at the right time and was a simple positioning play which is great on its own. The way he used his large frame and positioning to set up for the second goal, then took Hemsky's pass and fired it laser-quick and laser-accurate for a goal when we needed it so badly was a thing of beauty. His assist were excellent too. I great fake-and-pass to Gagner, an excellent pass to Visnovsky, and a good rush and shoot for a rebound to Visnovsky as well. Scary thing is that he could have had more. He got robbed on a couple great chances and took a ton of shots. I don't think there's anything much more to say besides that it was an utter pleasure to watch.
Lost in the madness and awe over Penner was a truly elite performance from Ales Hemsky. I loved the pass he made on Penner's second goal; he put it through an area where 3 Columbus players could have gotten it, right to Penner's waiting stick. His goal was mainly the result of good positioning and awareness but it takes a steady hand and a level head to finish that play. He made an excellent play in close to his feet to set up Penner's initial goal as well. He was the all-world guy we know he can be tonight. Obviously you're not going to get 5 points every night, but it's amazing when you get other guys finishing the chances you are creating. I noticed one time where moved too slowly into the offensive zone. Early on he wasn't getting past the right side d-man; so they through in some plays down the left wing and crushed Columbus all night long. Suddenly, he went from having 1 puck carrier on his line (himself) to 3 puck carriers. This allows him to be at his most dangerous and he truly made it happen out there tonight.
Sam got the point party started early on with a good move into the slot and his trademark leg-drag shot to the back of the net. He really seems to shoot the puck better from this position. It is truly amazing to me that he won his first 7 draws of the evening; that's something to behold. He was a great support for the Hemsky-Penner show, and moved the puck at the same level they did all evening. Though he and Hemsky have never shown much chemistry together, the fact is that both Gagner and Hemsky work well with Penner and this seemed to allow them to play together. When one member of the line had the puck, instead of being able to key on one side of the ice as with the Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky line, this line punished you if you cheated to any side because you'd leave a legitimate scoring threat open. The fact that all three men can pass the puck excellently really helps out there. The challenge for Sam will be to keep his level of play high; I don't think the other two will have any trouble.
I didn't even realize how big of a game Lubomir had until I thought about it. He scored an excellent goal to take the lead for us (with that unique slapper only he can do). Penner's second goal rush was started when Visnovsky broke up a Columbus rush in the Edmonton zone. He was on the ice at the end of the game and made the flip play to Nilsson so that he could bat that puck down the ice into the empty net. My favorite play of the night though was his pass to set up the Hemsky goal. That play was downright filthy. With all the boneheads, who seemed to be out in greater quantity tonight, yelling for him to shoot, he rightly and calmly found an open Hemsky who made no mistake. Lubomir was just plain on fire tonight. To any truly insane people out there who believe that we should trade this guy, watch this game. He did several things almost entirely unique to him in this league, and the combination of he and Hemsky on the ice is probably the most potent one we've got.
I have to say that if I were to hand out a fourth star tonight it would have gone to Ladislav Smid. Many have commented on how this guy is blossoming fast and furious before our eyes. After tonight he is second in the entire league in +/- ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. The guy took on Rick Nash a number of times tonight and plain shut him down. He tried to fight that little chicken Dorsett when he started to cause trouble. The guy is just an incredible, reliable, tough defenceman and is stepping up when we need it big-time. What a player.
He was beaten by some truly excellent offensive efforts on the part of Columbus, but once again locked the barn and calmed his team down, then provided stellar netminding down the stretch to preserve the win. There's been no question so far that a puck will either have to be almost unstoppable or go in on a goofy play to get by this guy this season. He's solid as a rock. On any night when we get a half decent defensive effort, we have an advantage because of this guy. I read a reference to a Fuhr-type goaltender. Maybe, and I look forward to finding out.
One thing that really impressed me about these guys is how quickly they cleared their own zone. They were always moving forward, making passes and catching up to loose pucks. I hold out a lot of hope for them. I suspect Comrie was really very ill as he kept getting the puck in his wheelhouse in the offensive slot and was not able to get away those elusive shots he's so good at. Horcoff wasn't anything special most all of the night but I think he played okay. There was only so much he could really do. O'Sullivan continues to shine end-to-end and with a lot of reliability. At the end of the game Moreau took a spot on this line...I really didn't like that. I know what Quinn's doing, but the opposition immediately focuses their attention to his side of the ice and takes advantage of his degraded skating abilities and sudden lack of hitting (though he was slightly better at that tonight.
Didn't play much obviously. MacIntyre looks like he's improved his skating some and got around pretty well. He even covered up on defence 2 or 3 times and was indeed effective.
Robert certainly made the effort out there tonight. He was okay with the puck but what impressed most was his intention to be physical and make his presence known in some way. He had a couple corner hits and an excellent open-ice job. Wonderful. Jacques was a little quieter but we didn't need anything too exceptional from him tonight. Cogliano's struggles with the puck continue but I hold out hope that he'll be able to get his game on track and start scoring some. He had an empty net and just flat missed on a rush that would have really helped us out.
Easily the worst game I've seen this duo play. Both were really really shaky. I don't know what was wrong with Tom but it wouldn't surprise me if he was running a pretty good fever in that game. I recall a shift where he didn't seem to know to play the puck and also another one where he skated in the wrong direction several times. It was a little scary. Thankfully we got through. Grebeshkov wasn't as bad, but not sure why he was so out of it.
Taylor played okay, though not so many of his little excellent pieces of work shone through tonight. Strudwick was terrible aside from being slightly physical with guys after the whistle. The way he got burned by Chimera without even looking like he had any clue where to be was just sad. He got caught standing still several times. When you're a bad skater it's even more important to keep your feet moving than with great skaters. He seems to have forgotten that part.
What a great win. Just wow. I loved that.
We could have had 6 or 7 stars of the game tonight as we got some truly amazing individual performances that make watching truly a treat. If you know a fan who didn't get to see this one, find a copy of it somewhere and watch. from the second half of the second period on, it sure doesn't get much better.
Verdict on the first line? Yeah, keep that thing. It looked okay.