I believe it was Momma Gump who said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get." Forrest’s mom must have had the Edmonton Oilers in mind when she coined that bit of wisdom.
That about sums up what we saw tonight as the Oilers, coming off a stretch of games that’s been spotty at best, waltzed into the Scott Trade Center and beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 to win in the Show Me State for the first time since 2009. Who saw that coming? Not me. I thought Ken Hitchcock’s team would chew up Ralph Krueger’s bunch and spit them out.
The opportunistic Oilers, backstopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 43 saves for his 46th career shutout – again, who called that one? – not only beat the Blues on the heels of a disjointed effort in Nashville, they hung together and showed plenty of jam when St. Louis finally got revved up and picked up the physical pace.
The Oilers had goaltending, to say the least. The rink was tilted toward the Oilers end all night, but Khabibulin refused to budge. Speaking of stubborn, and every bit as important as the score, the Oilers showed plenty of push-back when the Blues, led by captain David Backes, tried to flex some muscle.
They got virtuoso performances from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who looked as good as they have all season reunited with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between them. Feeble attack side, everybody looked engaged. Where was this in Music City or against the Blues at Rexall Place Saturday?
Tough read, this bunch.
THE WAY I SEE IT
. . . There’s been absolutely nothing not to like about Khabibulin in relief of Devan Dubnyk this season, but that doesn’t mean I want to see him carrying more of the load in the games that remain. Khabibulin started out last season red-hot, then the wheels came off. At this point in his career, he’s best spotted in without being overworked.
What I wouldn’t mind seeing, and I think it’s something that GM Steve Tambellini should consider, is re-signing Khabibulin as Dubnyk’s back-up for next season. The price has to be right, of course, and I wouldn’t be looking at more than one year, but if Khabibulin can still get the job done as a back-up with limited duty, I’d offer him a contract. That said, between now and then, I’d certainly accept calls from teams looking for a veteran back-up before the trade deadline.
. . . When Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins play together, the Oilers are a better team, period. I understand why it’s tempting for Krueger to split them up in the name of a more balanced attack, but if the second and third lines are wanting, then tinker with those units and leave the top line alone.
ONE LAST THING
Jason Gregor has been talking for some time about the Oilers needing to unload one of their young core forwards to change the mix in the top nine. I happen to agree with him on that. The question is, who moves to land a player who brings experience and a different dimension?
Gregor offered a scenario to Jason Strudwick today, asking if he’d be willing to trade Nail Yakupov for New Jersey’s David Clarkson, assuming Clarkson was signed to a new contract – he’s a pending UFA.
I said I’d do it in a heartbeat, which I would. Not because I don’t think Yakupov will turn out to be a very good player, but because I think Clarkson would bring exactly what the Oilers need – grit and skill capable of playing significant minutes – and because if I HAD to part with one of the kids, it would be Yakupov before Hall, Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins.
That, of course, drew a lot of razz from
kooks people on Twitter, who seem to think the Oilers can land impact players for spare parts and the rights to Linus Omark. While I blocked them respect their opinions, I’d roll the dice and make that move.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.