Edmonton Oilers: 3
Tampa Bay Lightning: 2
Four in a row. No Hemsky. Four in a row. On the road. I repeated that because it bears repeating. Say what you will about the ultimate future of these Oilers, but there’s no arguing with the results so far. Also: I’m a fan of the current fourth line, featuring the new, half as enigmatic Robert Nilsson, Zack Stortini and 2005 WHL First Team All-Star Ryan Stone.
Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Ryan Stone. Stone had a great game and has done plenty to show that he might be a deserving of a cameo somewhere higher up the depth chart than the fourth line. He went after Steve Downie twice, and managed to beat up on him without drawing an instigator penalty. Also recorded an assist on Zack Stortini’s goal and did it all with just a hair over six minutes of ice-time.
2. Zack Stortini. Also played just a little more than six minutes on the night, and managed a Gordie Howe hat-trick, a plus-2 rating, and three hits. His goal stood up as the game winner. Fought not once but twice with Zenon Konopka, who I’ll talk a little more about below. It’s incredible how much better a player Stortini comes when he’s not counted on to be the skill guy for his line.
3. Robert Nilsson. Maybe it’s a little unfair to pick just the fourth line guys, but they did a ton and they did it with not much ice-time. Nilsson’s been worlds better since coming back from a concussion, and I firmly approve of how Pat Quinn has spotted him in on higher lines from time to time, as well as using him on the power play.
I quite like this Tampa Bay team; not that I expect them to win anything but they are enjoyable to watch, even with Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos for big chunks of the night. Martin St. Louis was the best player on the ice for either team and constantly created stuff, while the other guy who jumped out at me was Zenon Konopka, who held back when he had Zack Stortini in a vulnerable spot and struck me as a classy guy from the audio bits I heard (he was mic’d up on the Tampa Bay feed).
Dustin Penner had a fairly good game, although he had better plays than the one that got him a goal. The other red hot Oiler, Lubomir Visnovsky, had the worst game he’s had for a while and I wonder if he wasn’t a little shook up after taking a hard hit from Downie. In any case, the pairing of he and Smid was overmatched in a tough assignment.
Tom Gilbert had an interesting game; he managed a goal but his play was spotty in places.
It’s definitely time to reconsider that second line. I haven’t been that impressed with Horcoff the last little while but he looked good by eye tonight and it wasn’t enough to bring success to his line. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen that line have a good game since being put together.
A good, solid outing for Jeff Deslauriers, who (inconsistency aside) has been a highly capable replacement for Nikolai Khabibulin. I have my doubts he can keep it up, but I’ve had my doubts all along and so far he’s proven me wrong.
I’m as critical of the Oilers as anyone, but give them credit for putting the game online free of charge rather than sticking it on pay-per-view. It could have gone the other way.