Oilers 6 – Red Wings 2
Phew. There really is no other way to start this than by expressing the extreme relief that is felt from that win. No, the pressure isn’t lifted from what is a season in severe trouble, but considering that the Oilers were able to follow one of their lowest lows with a relatively high win, the tension has loosened a tiny bit.
Just a tiny bit.
After the dumpster fire that was last night’s effort, and the mediocre game that preceded it on Saturday, it’s needless to say that there was not a lot of optimism heading into tonight’s tilt. On the second half of a back-to-back, against a speedy Wings team that has been having recent success, the recipe looked to be calling for another evening filled with angry, jammed phone lines on the ol’ 630 Ched.
Thankfully, in what has become a rarity over the past 20 some games, the Oilers were able to respond to a drubbing with a strong, well-rounded, and ultimately impressive effort. Considering the level of play that was on display this evening, the mind has no other option but to boggle at the sheer lack of consistency on display.
How does a team play 60 minutes of emotionless, error-filled, broken hockey on a Tuesday, only to respond with an effort that could effectively beat most teams in the league? Beats the hell out of me. Maybe the squad wasn’t prepared to be any more embarrassed than they already were. Maybe Coach Todd spent a few hours utilizing a cattle prod as a new strategy for player motivation.
Or maybe, the boys went the Mike Commodore route and partied the mediocrity out of their system. Whatever it was, the result was nice to see.
To be fair, the first 20 minutes of this game did not appear to be that of a revitalization in playing ability. The Oilers were up to their usual antics to start, surrendering a power play goal a mere 7 minutes in, after taking a bone-headed too many men penalty. Not a great start.
Then, after the Oilers were able to respond with a long-shot goal by Nurse, and a Maroon marker via beautiful Draisaitl pass, they went back to habit, and gave up a late period tying goal. The first period ended 2-2, the Oilers were being outshot 11-8, and despite the game being tied, it looked as though another loss was at the doorstep.
The difference, however, came in the final 40 minutes. The Oilers, resembling their 2016/2017 version, opted to take over the game, rather than being taken over, and it paid off in a big way. What followed was 40 minutes of Oilers dominated hockey, which witnessed the club generate 4 even-strength goals from all across the lineup.
The dominance resonated to the point of the Oilers scoring an equal amount of goals (3), to Red Wings’ shots in the 2nd period. Where. Was. This. Last. Night?!?!
Enough of last night, and on to the positives of this evening.
All 4 lines were able to score goals, but in particular, the bottom 6 looked extra encouraging. Jujhar Khaira was able to score a goal to keep his strong play alive, Ryan Strome was all over the ice registering 2 assists, and Mike Cammalleri registered his first point as an Oiler on a smart veteran shot that rebounded to Mark Letestu. It was especially rewarding, considering that it was Khaira’s and Letestu’s goals that put the Oilers ahead 3-2, and then 4-2. The game was in the balance, and the bottom 6 took them ahead. Say what?
But it wasn’t just the forwards that had a positive night. The defence group, in a polar opposite showing, were engaged, in the play, and big factors in the victory. As a whole, they were able to combine for 4 points on the evening. Auvitu, who had been a questionable healthy scratch for a few games now (more on that later) was involved in good things all night long, while Darnell Nurse’s strong season continued with his second goal of the year.
Pair those items with a calm Cam Talbot who only managed to give up one softie, and an evening success was destined to emerge.
What does this mean going forward? Who the hell nows. We have seen this show before this season. Just a week ago, the Oilers walked all over Vegas, and the songs of a season marked for redemption flew all over the Edmonton airwaves. 3 straight losses shut those thoughts down real quick.
The difference between then and now is that the Oilers will have a much easier schedule in their next few games. With Buffalo and Arizona being 2 of the next 3 opponents, an opportunity is here for the squad to maybe get something rolling… just don’t hold your breath… yet.
Players of the Game
More than a few contenders this evening, and its been a rare occasion to have nights like this, so let’s highlight a few guys that stood out:
- Darnell Nurse – 25:27 ice time, 1 goal, 3 shots, and a hit. The standout of the group mentioned here.Whopping game for a player that is having a career year.
- Jujhar Khaira – 14:27 ice time, 1 goal, 3 shots, 1 hit. He was impressive, and his goal got the Oilers train rolling with steam in the middle frame.
- Ryan Strome – 14:03 ice time, 2 assists. Made some pretty plays on the evening. More of that, please.
- Connor McDavid – 18:18 ice time, 2 assists. Looks like the flu is close to being beaten.
- Yohann Auvitu – 2 assists. Didn’t play a ton, but when he was out there, he was a major factor. Really impressive night for a player that should be a regular in the lineup at this point.
- At least no Red Wings’ fans were in attendance to witness the loss. In all seriousness, how empty was that arena?
- At this point, barring a disaster of a game by Auvitu, he should not be coming out of the lineup in favour of Gryba. He shouldn’t have been scratched after the Vegas game, let alone 2 more times after that, but it’s whatever now. Keep him in the lineup, especially paired with Benning. Good duo!
- Caggiula with McDavid is a nice little combo, considering Caggiula knows how to finish and has some speed. Positive returns, although early.
- Awesome to see Puljujarvi score, even if it was the 6th goal in a blow-out. That was a rifle of a shot, and hopefully, a glimpse into the future of what is to come on the Oilers power play.
Up Next: Friday Night Against the Sabres
McDavid and Eichel will clash again on Friday night in Buffalo. The Sabres are also off to a disappointing start meaning that the Oilers have an opportunity to bank a second win in a row. This is a game that they should win… now can they?