Edmonton Oilers: 3
Florida Panthers: 2
That was a good, entertaining game that could have gone either way. When Pat Quinn does finally keel over and die from a heart attack, you can bet money it will happen because Jeff Deslauriers decided to do his Marty Turco impression for the 100th time.
Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Lubomir Visnovsky. I got called out last game for always awarding Visnovsky a star, but he always seems to deserve one and tonight was no exception. Goal, assist and calm play under pressure. Remarkably, of the 15 scoring chances the team recorded at even strength, Visnovsky was on for 11 of them. He’s the best player on this team.
2. Robert Nilsson. Nilsson showed the drive and courage that he’s showed at his best, and even managed to land a big hit in the neutral zone. He also dodged a big hit from Bryan Allen, and Allen ended up dropping his teammate Gregory Campbell instead on an ugly play. Again, Quinn bumped Nilsson up to the second line from time to time and he seems to have gotten Mike Comrie’s spot on the power play for the time being. Three points in three games for the Swede who I can’t help describing as "enigmatic". Scored a shootout goal, too.
3. Shawn Horcoff. A decent game from Horcoff, who scored the Oilers’ first goal and also the winner in the shootout. I’m still perplexed why a guy with his shootout record took so long to find his way into the rotation; probably because he just scores and doesn’t do it as slickly as some of the young kids. Aside from that he forechecked well and had two hits that I saw.
On another night, J-F Jacques might have found himself in the three stars. He still has limitations but he saved a sure-fire goal against in the second period, and threw several crushing hits including one that levelled Bryan Allen behind the Panthers’ goal. He might be playing a little higher in the batting order than I’d like, but he’s an NHL’er.
Gilbert Brule had an okay game by my eye, but the one thing I note about him is that he plays on the very edge of legality. His penalty for boarding tonight was earned, and he’s thrown several hits of that nature in games past (the hit on Filpulla comes to mind). His penalty on Ballard was a little on the selfish side but since the two of them were jawing all night I was a little surprised not see Ballard fight him, and I imagine Brule was too.
Dustin Penner looked ordinary again; fortunately it’s happening while others are scoring.
Jeff Deslauriers is going to kill not just Pat Quinn but me too with his puck handling. I like puck-moving goaltenders, but when it comes to guys who can’t do it, I prefer ones like Vokoun who don’t bother trying. Still, I suppose it shows confidence if nothing else.
Sportsnet mentioned Cameron Abney as a prospect, but if he has the career Steve MacIntyre does I’ll be surprised. Yeah, he was his team’s most improved player last year; a difficult feat, given that he’d played all of four games the year before. Still, the offence is coming: last year it took him 48 games to reach the one goal, four point mark, and this year he’s done it in only 26. Progress, sort of.
I think we’re far enough along now that I can whine a bit about the coaching: watching first the fourth line and then the Staios/Strudwick pairing take shifts against the Weiss line late in the third drove me nuts. I know Quinn doesn’t like matching lines, but come on.
Speaking of Staios/Strudwick, what a brutal, brutal pairing. Fully half of the Panthers’ chances came against Staios and Jason Strudwick coughed up the puck plenty. It’s Ulanov/Cross all over again.
All in all, another win, but I refuse to be optimistic. Despite that, there’s no law against enjoying them while they come, and I’ll confess I had a blast watching tonight’s game.