*Austin Powers shows his impressive skills at blackjack… almost as impressive as the Vegas Golden Knights were this evening*
Oilers 8 – Golden Knights 2
I guess in hindsight it should have been obvious that it would take a team from Vegas to make us realize how much fun winning can be again.
Yeah, yeah, yeah lots will be said about the Oilers beating up on an expansion opponent that was relying on their 4th and 5th string goaltenders, and how that defined this win. Yes, those are factors to consider. But before we halt the celebration, there is some seriously genuine points of positivity to address in tonight’s game, that shouldn’t be easily dismissed.
For starters, of course Vegas is an expansion team. However, this is an expansion team with 10 wins under their belt. Additionally, this is an expansion team that to this point in the season, had not lost to a Western Conference opponent. And lastly, this is an expansion team that prior to tonight, had never not been within at least a goal in the 3rd period.
Expansion team? Yes. Weakening as of late? Yes. Pushovers? Not necessarily.
And of course, when a team is down to the level of goaltending that sees a kid from Junior get tagged in, that isn’t the most confident jolt of energy between the pipes. Considering that, if a person was to go back and watch the Oilers goals, almost all of them were plays that the goalie had very little chance of stopping.
Why is that? Because the Oilers played a very good game of hockey this evening. Every single player on the ice can head home this evening (through the mounds of snow) and feel proud of their game. It was the same kind of spirited affair that left so many of us awe struck in the 16/17 season.
Let’s see: we had the dominance of the McDavid trio, Nuge continued his scorching pace, the bottom 6 chipped in on numerous goals (including a shorty and a power play marker), Klefbom looked like classic Klefbom, Nurse and Larsson remained a force to be reckoned with, and hell, even Benning showed the same offensive instinct that shimmered last season.
It was an all around, full tilt affair that will hopefully be used as a catapult for this team back into their expected quality of play.
Edmonton has slowly been improving, having bow gone 3-1-1 in their last 5. It was up until this evening that scoring remained a concern for a squad with an impotent shooting percentage of around 6. Now, this isn’t to say that everything is solved here, it isn’t. Youbjust have to hope that maybe a game like this, where 13 different players were able to register a point, is enough to kickstart a stretch of 3 or 4 goal games.
With Mike Cammalleri as an added bonus to the lineup, and a recently porous Blues team in town on Thursday, the Oilers may just be able to keep rolling hot.
Players of the Game
Can I cop out and say the whole roster? Nah. Let’s focus on two players, arguably the best two Oilers of the year so far:
- Connor McDavid: 2 goals, 3 points, and what should have been a hat trick. He continues to methodically work his way up the scoring rankings.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 2 goals for him, he has 8 now on the season. He is on pace to have a career year. So glad he wasn’t traded for Matt Dumba, as was rumoured last summer.
- Very nice to see Oscar Klefbom come out with a massive game, in which he showed the same dominant presence that stamped his authority all over the ice last year. After a shaky start to the season, he has a real opportunity to use this as momentum going forward.
- Auvitu is a tremendous skater, and it is showing in his frequent ability to get up in the play and add to scoring opportunities. Tonight he picked up an assist on the Patrick Maroon goal by forcing a presence in the o-zone. A smart decision with the puck eventually lead to the back of the net. He won’t be coming out of the lineup at this rate.
- Speaking of Maroon, how nice must it have felt to score, after having about 5 point blank opportunities to do so on Sunday?
- Jason Strudwick often talks about the need for fringe players to come into the lineup, when given the chance, and continually have the best game of their career, night after night. After 2 games of being reinserted into the lineup, Khaira has certainly been close to achieving that. Tonight he turned heads with a brilliant short-handed rush that directly lead to the Klefbom goal. McLellan will be very impressed with his performance.
- Ryan Strome was impressive tonight. All he needs to do is have games like this, where he isn’t necessarily lighting the world on fire, but where smart puck management is paramount.
- Lastly, I thought the kid Puljujarvi played well again tonight. No points, but he was a factor on at least 2 goals, and demonstrated the same dedicated forecheck that has been on display thus far. Good times!
Up next: Thursday Blues
The St. Louis Blues will roll into town on Thursday night, and the Oilers will look to get their 8th win of the season. It will be important for the honeymoon of tonight’s victory to not carry over though, as St. Louis sits atop the Central Division. The Blue are not unbeatable though, as they have given up 12 goals in their last 2 games.
For the Oilers, it is a serious chance to keep the momentum rolling.