Edmonton brought a nasty four-game losing streak to an end on Sunday by beating one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning, by a 5-3 score. The Oilers were dominant early, sleep-walked through the second but came through with just enough in the third to secure the win.
Thoughts on the Game
- I’ve made no secret that I don’t think much of Luke Gazdic but if he could string together a few games like the one he had against Tampa Bay I would need to re-think that. It wasn’t just the goal, which was a nice deflection, and it wasn’t drawing a penalty from Eric Brewer (who for some reason wanted to take Gazdic’s head off). For me, the highlight was a nice scoring chance in the second period off a takeaway; we’ve seen precious few signs that Gazdic can be hard on the puck and that was exactly the kind of thing a guy with his combination of size and speed should be doing.
- The whole fourth line was good, honestly. I’ve got time for Anton Lander and Will Acton has his points, but Mark Arcobello is playing head-and-shoulders above that duo. Honestly, I think he’s too good for the depth minutes but while he’s there he’s making that a useful unit.
- I also really like the Arcobello/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins penalty-kill duo; they’re super aggressive and so far it seems to be working nicely.
- Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov have rarely impressed me as a unit but they had lovely chemistry tonight. Gagner’s passing game can be excellent when it’s on and it was on tonight, while Yakupov had his third consecutive really solid game. I don’t know if either guy has turned a corner but if they have it didn’t happen a moment too soon.
- This is the first in quite a while I thought Edmonton had four useful lines. It’s nice to see.
- Martin Marincin’s played nicely during his current recall, and he has a chance to play himself into a job here. Andrew Ference has the only safe job on the left side of the defence, with Nick Schultz likely to be a deadline departure and Anton Belov falling off dramatically after a decent start to the year. Marincin’s going to keep getting minutes if he keeps playing well, but the real question is whether he can show enough to play on next year’s team. So far so good.
- Brad Hunt’s shown some nice things too but I think he’s playing on borrowed time; Corey Potter’s probably the better player right now and Taylor Fedun’s been so dominant in the minors that he almost has to be the next call-up (he was coming off an injury when Hunt was recalled, which likely played into things). Both Hunt and Fedun can and have played either side in the AHL, but Hunt is a natural lefty and Fedun plugs into that right side.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been solid for most of the year, but some poor puck decisions – and giveaways – seem to be creeping into his game the last while. It’s so easy to forget that he’s only 20 years old, and he’s a guy who on most teams would be killing a soft second line job rather than taking the brunt of the opposition’s best every night.
- It’s not game-related exactly, but Zack Kassian took a skate to the face in tonight’s Canucks loss to Anaheim. It’s never nice to see a guy injured but one wonders whether Sam Gagner might mention it to him when Edmonton plays Vancouver a couple of weeks from now.
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