And now for something completely different...
I imagine if this team were being described on Top Gear, it'd be one of those extremely finicky italian cars they love so much. It doesn't run reliably, or often, but when it gets going, man it is something.
Tonight wasn't a classic dominating performance from start to finish and it didn't showcase one man taking aim at the record books, but it did show what happens when a team figures out a goalie and stops choking the life out of their hockey sticks.
The line combos didn't hurt either.
Colorado sure is an odd team to why. I can see how they'd play very well but also imagine that if their goaltending ever tanks even a little they are completely screwed. Then again it is probably weird to shut down their young players the way we did tonight. I was surprised to see that MacKinnon is kind of chippy. He had a couple different moments in addition to the run at Hemsky that left me annoyed. Wonder if he'll answer for that before the end of the year.
The Avalanche did the Oilers plenty of favors tonight by parading themselves to the penalty box. It actually could have been worse for them believe it or not. There were some bad calls and non-calls in this game.
Credit to Eakins on the new line combinations and the fact that he stuck with them. I'll get into more detail on the players later of course, but generally these combos gave them 3 very solid lines that were reliable enough to play pretty much anywhere tonight.
The Oilers team D was hard to put a finger on tonight. I'm not sure I can really remember one exceptional effort, and there were certainly some negatives, but they combined with Dubnyk to do enough to keep the team in the game which I suppose is all they really needed to do.
The Oilers goals:
First - Dubnyk makes two strong saves and Larsen clears the puck. It happens to bounce to what you could call a soft spot and a streaking Taylor Hall sees a chance and grabs it. He makes no mistake. Great way to start things off at both ends.
Second - Hall again. They'd had him set up on the wrong point for whatever reason but finally got him into shooting position and he left fly with a nasty one-timer. When you catch one of those it is going in. The fans had of course been whining for a shot. Thankfully the Schultzes and Eberles of the world don't listen to them. Big scoring on the 5-on-3 generated by a horrible Colorado penalty for playing the puck with a broken stick. Stupid, stupid mistake.
Third - Almost immediately after the Hall goal Hemsky makes it 3-0. This was an absolutely beautiful powerplay rush goal. Smyth was in position at the opposition blue, took a perfect pass on a great read from Arcobello and found his old friend Hemsky in the same spot he knows he'll always be in full flight. Hemsky does what he does from there, backhand around the goalie. Money. Absolute money.
Fourth - Had to wait a while for this one and you honestly weren't sure it was going to come after Colorado got back in the game. The most consistent Oilers forward this year took off on a two-on-one with Hopkins. He sold pass but everyone in the crowd knew Perron would shoot. He made no mistake low on the far side. Even if Varlamov had robbed him, Hopkins was right there to bang in any rebound. Perfectly executed.
Fifth - Strong board work leads to Hemsky spotting Arcobello in a nice spot out front, the puck goes to the net and Arcobello corrals it and makes no mistake. Really nice hard work goal from a group that had a very strong night.
Sixth - We're in garbage time now but the foot's still on the accelerator. Colorado had pulled their goalie and replaced him by this point. Smyth gets the puck in the offensive zone - it looks like he's trying to go to Perron but the Colorado D go to sleep and Eberle just walks through. Perfect pass to him and he roofs it. Another beauty.
Seventh - On the last goal Eberle had Perron for a drop pass if he really wanted. On this one, Gagner had Hall to pass to for a hat trick. You've got to think that Varlamov and the Avs D sees nothing but that pass. Sam reminds us he can shoot and goes top corner with authority as soon as Varlamov drops.
Eighth - Hall wanted this one pretty bad. He'd been stalking it for a few shifts now. Hopkins plays a puck off Hall's stick toward the net. The tip generates a rebound. Luke Gazdic had set up shop in front of the Colorado net and keeps the dman from getting to Hall. He cleans up. Hat trick. Not enough time left to score ten, but we won't complain.
- I'm not going to blame Yakupov on that first Colorado goal like many will. He made a good play to try to get the puck to Hall in the slot that was thwarted, then skated all the way back to his own goalie backchecking, only to have the puck tipped in off his skate. That's a crummy reward for probably trying too hard if anything. He was also on for the second Colorado goal, way out of position because no one was yelling at him that they'd changed a forward for a Dman. Then Dubnyk can't hold on to a puck he stopped with his glove. Why can't this man catch a puck? It's been a problem since his first training camp and it has never been fixed. Yuck. Some of the play between those too goals was indeed pretty bad. He ran around a bunch and basically got lost on the ice. He had a rough first half. He turned it around enough to at least keep playing and did have a really strong physical shift in the third. I liked that Eakins stuck with him through a rough spot. It would have been easy to sit him down and that didn't happen. He'll be better for it. Gagner was on the better side of okay but still not really going strong. He just doesn't control the puck well with that goofy mask obscuring his downward vision. I'm not sure why he hasn't tried something different. Very glad to see him get a goal. Hall was pulling away from defenders again tonight. He was a little iffy away from the puck, but as soon as it was on his stick he was going strong. Took some excellent shots, went to the tough areas and came away with 3. Hopefully this gets him started again. We sure do need him to play well and there's still time before the Olympics if he wants to make a late run.
- I've been asking for this combo and they didn't disappoint me one bit. They were not dominant, largely due to the fact that Hopkins didn't seem to be able to make things work with the puck for whatever reason, but they were strong. Eberle and Perron play the game quite well as a combo and as soon as Hopkins figures out where he needs to be in order to support that, this crew will roll teams over. You have to be on guard at all times because this line has three shooters and three strong passers rolled into only three people. As soon as they are in your end, you'd better get the puck back. Perron played the snarly game we are all growing to expect and love. That 4-2 goal was absolutely huge.
- These guys accomplished a ton in fairly limited icetime, especially Hemsky and Arcobello. I've already described their best play as a unit, which was the third goal. Arcobello was also a decoy on that play. He had a great night. He hit people, prevented the Avs from scoring on their five-on-three in the third by making a huge save with his stick, and scored a key putaway goal in the third. Absolutely excellent game from him. Hemsky was strong in all three zones and was rewarded with a beauty goal that only he seems to score and a very smart assist. I'm still trying to understand the penalty he got. I didn't see anything but the radio guys seemed to think it was a clear call? If it was, it just annoys me further because you really need to be able to defend yourself along the boards without getting penalized. If the NHL really wants to prevent injuries, this topic needs to be discussed. Smyth simply played the best game he's played since he came back. He was strong all night, didn't take the lazy penalties he's been prone to lately, made some excellent passes and went to all the right places. Suddenly everyone is playing well with Hemsky - Smyth especially. Who knew?
- Not a lot to say here. Gazdic did his job in a solid fight win over Bordeleau and also helped Hall get his hat trick which is about as much as you can ask from the guy. Well done. Lander I didn't see a lot of, but LMHF#2 and many others thought he played a pretty strong game. Jones was bad again...giving the puck away or not getting to it on his wing all night.
- Really enjoyed watching his NHL debut. He had one shaky shift in the second period where he looked unsure of himself. Other than that he was excellent. Nearly perfect decision making with the puck. Solid passes to open teammates. Really good work in the corners which is something the Oilers are missing right now. He even jumped to the front of the net and down low in the circle for scoring chances. Great job. It would be an absolute travesty if he was demoted next game rather than Potter...but the Oilers will probably do that anyway.
- He did some decent work in front of the net and managed to draw two call from getting sticked in the face, but didn't accomplish much else. STUPID delay of game penalty that could have really hurt. He had nothing but time.
- Much as I don't really like this pairing, there seemed to be a level of comfort that helped in the defensive zone. Each knew where the other would be so even when there were screw ups (like Nick randomly falling to the ice in the second to create an odd man rush) things didn't go too badly. Justin was pretty shaky with the puck in the first. He looked to have Jeff Petry-itis at a couple of points, but settled in well the rest of the way.
- Got absolutely schooled by Duchene tonight, both on a specific play involving a spin-a-rama and generally. Yuck. Wasn't good. Why is Andrew Ference of all people playing the puck instead of the body? Kept things calm enough for the win, but there were some ugly moments.
- Amazingly good night a primarily offensive defenseman considering he didn't get any shots on net. Made some nice passes and was good enough in the D zone to help out. Certainly seems to have the golden touch in limited action thus far this year.
- The saves he made in the first period kept the team in the game and were huge for both the squad and #40 himself. I don't think he makes some of those saves in the second and third if another gets by in the first. Certainly a rebound game and I was impressed but we'll see if it really means anything on Saturday night against Calgary. Dubnyk has a history of shying away from the important moments in his time as an Oiler and this is one of them. You need to beat that Flames team on HNIC in their second game in two nights. You must. He needs to remain focused and if anything improve upon tonight. Someone get this guy a glove that doesn't bounce the puck back out already...
Enjoy it tonight everyone. We hope it never ends.