It was really two games tonight; the first half where the Blues dominated, and the second half where the Oilers dominated. Regardless, the Oilers came out of it with the victory, and in so doing improbably set the franchise record for consecutive wins on the same road trip. Crazy stuff.
Three Stars, According To Me
1. The First Line. It might be a bit of a cop-out, but it’s true. Plus-4 on the night, with a combined nine points, this was the unit that drove the Oilers offensively. There were some bad moments early (both Brule and Gagner had brutal, brutal giveaways) and the bounces certainly went their way, but Penner’s size and strength were simply unstoppable and both Gagner and Brule were lethal in concert with him.
2. Shawn Horcoff. Horcoff took a whopping 28 faceoffs tonight, only six of them in the offensive zone, and he won 20 of them. He was brilliant in the third, scoring the winner on a play where he did pretty much all of the hard work. Not only that but he was double-shifted for most of the third period, and he left the ice for just over 30 seconds in the final three minutes as Quinn rode the heck out of him to hang on to the lead (he took Gagner’s spot on the top line in the defensive zone).
3. Lubomir Visnovsky. Asked to step into the breach after Sheldon Souray was ejected for unsportsmanlike behavior, Visnovsky was admirable, playing just a hair under 25 minutes. He may have had only a single assist on the night, but he was a big part of moving the puck in the right direction, and led the Oilers with a plus-12 Corsi rating.
Since that was such a fun game, let’s get the negativity out of the way early. The pairing of Steve Staios and Jason Strudwick was beyond brutal. Of the Blues 22 even-strength scoring chances, 12 happened with Steve Staios on the ice. Nine happened with Strudwick on the ice. By eye and by number they were dominated by the Blues. While we’re on the negative, let’s also mention the Souray elbowing penalty and unsportsmanlike call – for a guy who often plays on the edge of legality (and he does) he gets a lot of calls in his favour, and nights like tonight are going to go a long way to making him a marked man for NHL referees. Lastly, the penalty kill: I’m not sure what Penner, O’Sullivan and Staios were thinking on the Oshie power play goal, but whatever it was it wasn’t NHL penalty-killing.
Andrew Cogliano had a few chances tonight, but I really wanted to make note of his shooting percentage. Here it is for this season and the two prior:
- 2007-08: 18.4%
- 2008-09: 15.5%
- 2009-10: 6.7%
Guess which way it’s going to go.
Great fight between J-F Jacques and B.J. Crombeen; both deserve credit for hanging in that long.
Anyone else catch the play where Souray wanted to fight Brad Winchester, but Stortini intervened? The announcers figured that Stortini knew that the Oilers needed Souray on the ice, but I couldn’t help wondering if Stortini was just trying to save his old teammate from an ugly beating. I’m probably wrong, but that’s what went through my head.
I also thought that Tom Gilbert had a quietly effective game; given what he’s done so far this year “quietly effective” is more than welcome.
Zack Stortini didn’t see the ice for the last 10 minutes of the game, and O’Sullivan and Jacques were benched for the last five. Jacques only played 5:11 on the night, although he did miss some time because of his fight.