Edmonton Oilers: 1
Ottawa Senators: 4
The nice thing about the Dive For First is that there’s some solace in watching a loss. Add in the fact that the Maple Leafs beat Boston last night, and this was a pretty good night for draft pick aficionados.
It had some points as a hockey game, too. Jeff Deslauriers was magical in the first period, single-handedly keeping the Oilers in the game as the team around him collapsed and let shot after shot after shot get through to him. It also had some strong performances; the Whitney-Gilbert pairing may have finished minus-1 but they were pretty good, and the checking line did a fine job containing Alfredsson and Co.
The Oilers were badly outplayed at even-strength and compounded the issue by taking a string of unnecessary penalties. There were other problems too, although I won’t linger on them; suffice to say that this was probably Potulny’s worst game as an Oiler, watching Strudwick and Chorney try to figure out defensive zone coverage really needs circus music, and the Cogliano line, which was so effective last game, was the opposite of that tonight.
There was also some dirty stuff, with Shawn Horcoff throwing a hit I didn’t like on Anton Volchenkov; the hit was imitated a while later by Peter Regin, who chose Ryan Potulny to knock into the boards.
Oilers Three Stars
1. Fernando Pisani. It was a strong night for all three members of the checking line; not only did they shut down Spezza and Alfredsson but they contributed the Oilers’ only goal, off some good corner work by Horcoff and a nice point shot by Aaron Johnson, which Pisani banged home. It’s the sentimentalist in me, but I like seeing Pisani have good nights. He also tallied three hits, tops among forwards.
2. Jeff Deslauriers. Deslauriers started unravelling late in the game, and the game winner was of the wretched variety, but for the first half of this one he looked to be the only Oiler at the very top of his game, playing in a manner that had me flashing back to his performance over the Oilers five-game road winning streak earlier this year.
3. Aaron Johnson. The gap between the top of the Oilers’ defence and the bottom is a wide one, and Johnson is the final member of the competent trio, all of whom had good nights (Gilbert and Whitney are the other two). He recorded four hits, managed his first point as an Oiler, and has made Theo Peckham look as comfortable as we’ve seen him on defence. I’d like to see the Oilers retain him based on what he’s done so far, he seems to be a well-rounded defenceman who fits with the team.