The Oilers played one of their most complete games of the season en route to a 5-1 victory in Dallas. They worked harder, won more one-on-one battles, and they finally had a few breaks go their way.
Their 9-game road trip is off to a great start.
They got three points in two games that most of us, me included, didn’t expect them to get. The Blackhawks are the best team in the league, but the Oilers escaped with a point on Monday and tonight they went into Dallas, historically a place they lose before the puck drops, and dominated the Stars.
- The Stars got two lucky goals in Edmonton a few weeks back, and tonight the Oilers had the breaks go their way. Sam Gagner’s opening goal and Jeff Petry’s backhand haven’t gone in for the Oilers this year, but tonight they did. Sometimes you need a few breaks to give you some confidence and allow you to relax.
- The Oilers earned their breaks though. They were excellent at creating turnovers tonight, and the dogged work of the Hall/RNH/Eberle trio along the boards led directly to Justin Schultz’s first non-powerplay goal of his career. It was a great pass from Eberle, but all the hard work leading up to the goal is what mattered. More of that and the Oilers will score more regularly at ES.
- I know many don’t want to see Sam Gagner fighting, but I don’t have an issue with him standing up for himself. He fights once, maybe twice a year, and he does it when he feels an opponent is taking advantage of him. He was clearly upset at Dillon when he asked him to go, and I wish more of his teammates’ "Give-A-Shit" meter was as high as Gagner’s.
- It is just about fighting that shows me Gagner cares. He hacks and whacks guys and he isn’t afraid of anyone. Showing no fear can be infectious and the more he does it, the more his teammates should follow.
- I also don’t believe Gagner’s fight wouldn’t have happened if the Oilers had a tough guy. He acted in the heat of the moment. He was annoyed and took matters into his own hands. Having a tough guy on the bench wouldn’t have changed it. The Oilers need more grit and toughness, but not a guy who plays four minutes a night.
- I know many want Jamie Benn suspended for his cheap cross-check on Ryan Jones. I doubt he gets the Shanaban, but I have a different take on the play. When was the last time you saw an opposing player that annoyed and frustrated. The x-check had as much, if not more, to do with the Oilers dominating play all game than Jones’ love-tap into Lehtonen. It was only one play, but the Oilers clearly frustrated one of the Stars best players. That is a good sign.
- Jones’ greasy style of play is a welcome addition to this team, and while he hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard his tenacity helps this team. They are 2-0-1 since he returned. He isn’t the main reason for this mini hot streak, but his play has given the Oilers more life.
- I’m curious to see who comes in for Potter tomorrow. I suspect it will be Whitney. Potter’s head hit the top of the boards, and I doubt he plays tomorrow in St.Louis. You never want to see a player get injured, especially on an awkward play like that.
- That might be Ales Hemsky’s quietest 3-point night. That isn’t a bad thing, but usually when he puts up three points he’s all over the ice. He hasn’t produced a lot v. the Stars, 16 points in 27 games, but tonight he scored a beauty and was solid. If he and Gagner keep producing and that kid line scores like many expect, the Oilers could make a good run.
- I’d rather see Eager take that penalty than a one-handed hooking call. In a perfect world he doesn’t take it, but I like that Krueger kept playing him and the fourth line rewarded him with a goal. Last year Renney likely staples him to the bench, but Krueger let him play. That goes a long way with players, when they know if they screw up the coach won’t automatically sit them.
- Devan Dubnyk looked great tonight. He was tracking the puck, had excellent rebound control and he looked poised all game. He made some huge saves in the first ten mintutes when the Stars were pressing, and that allowed the Oilers to get comfortable.
- I thought Lennart Petrell had another solid game. He isn’t flashy, and many seem to want to take him out of the lineup, but he does a lot of little things well. Chipping in with two assists is a major bonus from him.
- The Oilers 5-on-3 PP needs some work. They went 0 for 3 with two extra men, and although the final 5 on 3 was excellent, hit two posts, the first two when the game was closer weren’t great. They didn’t have any urgency during the first two, and I was surprised that Yakupov didn’t get an opportunity on either one. He might be their most dangerous shooter.
- He didn’t register a point, but I thought Nugent-Hopkins had an excellent game. His work along the boards led directly to the Schultz goal and his defensive zone play impresses me more every game. He almost works harder in his own end than he does in the offensive zone, and that is very rare for a young offensive-minded player.
- The key for the Oilers is to try and play the same way tomorrow in St. Louis. The Blues got shutout at home by Chicago tonight, so both teams will be playing back-to-back. If the Oilers can find a way to win tomorrow, suddenly the road trip from hell could turn into the road trip to competing for a the playoffs.
- Crazy day for the Flames. They sign Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year, $10 million offer sheet in the afternoon. The Avs matched it less than seven hours later, not a real surprise to me, and to make matters worse the Flames then blew a 3-0 lead in Denver and lost 5-4. A double whammy for the Flames.
- I didn’t mind the offer sheet attempt by Jay Feaster. I don’t believe O’Reilly is a $5 million player yet, but Feaster stuck to his guns of not just accepting a rebuild. He tried to improve his team, and no doubt O’Reilly would have made them better. Trading him for a 1st and 3rd rounder would have been a good deal, but I wasn’t shocked the Avs matched it.
- Many suggested the 2nd year at $6.5 million will make it hard to re-sign him because you’d have to give him a matching qualifying offer. But what if the Avs just take him to arbitration. That would solve it, since I highly doubt he puts up big enough numbers to justify getting $6.5 million in the future.
- The Avs can’t trade him for a year now, but with the Olympics coming up next season the trade deadline likely moves into early March, so if things are still sour they could look at a trade next year. And I suspect they will get a better package than a 1st and 3rd round pick.