Columbus Blue Jackets: 3
Edmonton Oilers: 2 (SO)
That was some good, entertaining hockey if nothing else. Two fights very early in the game and a ton of scrums kept everybody tuned in despite no goals in the first, and the powerplay was deadly for both teams, with all four goals scored with the man advantage.
Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Ales Hemsky. Always lethal against the Blue Jackets, Ales Hemsky scored the Oilers’ first goal on the power play as the puck slid between the legs of both Mathieu Garon and Dustin Penner. He also landed a big hit on Rick Nash, which caught the play-by-play crew (and undoubtedly more than a few fans) by surprise. His goal tonight is his eighth power play point of the season and third goal, both of which are tied for the team lead. Not that this will stop people from suggesting the Oilers run a better power play without Hemsky. After all, he’s been shooting for years too (right now Hemsky’s 2.83 shots/game is just a hair behind Patrick O’Sullivan’s 2.95) and people still say he doesn’t shoot nearly enough.
2. Nikolai Khabibulin. Had a fine night, coming up big on several different defensive zone breakdowns. More importantly, he stopped 30 shots as the Oilers were once again outshot by an opponent.
3. Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky was in on both Oiler goals and while Sheldon Souray rightly gets credit for his potent shot, it was Visnovsky who hammered home a one-timer past Mathieu Garon (on a Sheldon Souray rebound) tonight.
I wandered over to mc79hockey.com after the game, to find that the scoring chance numbers were already up. I was unsurprised to see that Sheldon Souray, who had been tremendous with the man advantage, was on for three chances for and eight against at even strength; he’s still not quite up to snuff after coming back from injury, and it’s perhaps a bit early to be giving him 26:56 in time on ice. That said, it’s nice to see him back, and the sooner he gets up to 100% the better this franchise will be.
Also in "nice to see", Dean Arsene got his first NHL action tonight courtesy of Sam Gagner’s injury, and played 6:24, all at even-strength. Pat Quinn said after the game that he would normally have been the Oilers’ first call-up, but he was sick and then Chorney performed well. I wonder if that means we haven’t seen the last of Arsene this season.
It’s interesting how perception plays a role in things. Rick Nash had two breakaways tonight, one completely clear and one one partial, and he lost the handle on the puck on both of them. Meanwhile, Dustin Penner didn’t manage a shot on his shootout attempt. These are naturally reflections of bad ice or bad luck, rather than a lack of skill on the part of these two players, but I’ve seen other players jumped on in these situations.
There still seems to be confusion about which line is the fourth line. Quinn referred to the combination of Moreau, Stortini and Cogliano as the fourth line, probably because they seem like a natural fit for the role, but they haven’t played fourth line minutes in some time now. Louie DeBrusk suggested the Brule line, again excusably given that he was playing with two callups. Neither was correct. Rather, the fourth line was the line of Comrie, O’Sullivan and Strudwick (who Sportsnet bizzarely listed as the second line). Strudwick wasn’t the giveaway (although he bounced back to defence at times) but Comrie should have been. He’s been Quinn’s least-used even strength forward pretty much every game over this road trip. Comrie still gets power play minutes, but at 5-on-5 he very rarely sees the ice.
I thought Gilbert Brule’s line (with Potulny and Reddox) had a very decent game.
Going back to scoring chances, the only real loser on the night was Steve Staios, who was on for 14 of the Blue Jackets’ 20 even strength opportunities. Also looking bad by this metric was the Stortini, Cogliano and Moreau line, who averaged 2/8 at even strength on the night.
Funny things Doug MacLean says (this has potential as a regular feature): apparently, there’s a fear both in and out of the Columbus organization that they aren’t tough enough to match up with league heavyweights like Zack Stortini. No, I’m not making that up.
What did everyone else think?