A three game win streak has the Oilers one game under .500 and close to a playoff spot. The team is feeling much better than they did last Thursday after losing their fourth straight game to start the season. Winning cures most things, and it also alters many perceptions.
In pro sports winning is the most important factor. No one is paid to lose, and every fan base wants their team to win.
Connor McDavid played a season-low 15:36 and Oilersnation didn’t explode with rants about the coach. When Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov had low minutes, many demanded more minutes. No one cared last night, because McDavid scored a beautiful goal and the Oilers won the game.
Winning calms even the most boisterous pessimist.
Yakupov played a season-low 12:45, and the legion of YakCity didn’t care because he picked up two assists and the Oilers won. Yakupov is averaging 15 min/game and he is gaining confidence every shift.
Yakupov is having fun, and he’s playing much better defensively. In past years, Yakupov would bristle when you asked him about playing sound defence, but last night, after a game in which he only played 12 minutes (due to the Oilers being shorthanded for 12 minutes), Yakupov spoke like a cagey veteran.
“We still made too many mistakes, but not too bad so we won’t be embarrassed in film tomorrow,” he said.
He was proud of his nice play in the D zone that sprung Pouliot and led to the McDavid goal, and he should be. Regardless of what the YakCity supporters claim, Yakupov needed to improve his play away from the puck and his decision making with it. The majority of young players go through the same growing pains, and this year Yakupov has shown great improvement in those areas.
“We (his line) are getting more chances because we are working hard, but most importantly not turning the puck over,” said the 2012 first overall pick.
Yakupov didn’t care he only played 12 minutes. He understood penalties were a factor, but winning makes every player feel better, especially when they are contributing to the wins as much as Yakupov has recently.
He even joked about his pass on Mark Letestu’s first goal of the season. “”Usually I shoot from there. For first time in my life I made backdoor pass (laughs),” he said. He told me later he always wants to shoot, and will in most cases, but feels he can also help the team by passing when teams expect him to shoot.
His game is evolving and maturing, and he was quick to point out it helps playing with McDavid. Making the smart play defensively won’t always result in a goal, but having McDavid makes it more likely. I’m not sure many other forwards would have been able to skate away from the Detroit checker the way McDavid did to spring himself free. When Pouliot picked up the pass it looked like a harmless two-on-two, but McDavid’s speed (and hands) turned it into a goal.
Yak was most excited about the win. He, like many Oilers, is tired of losing, but you could tell he was excited to contribute in ways that he hasn’t in the past. He was also very aware of his game. “I made a few bad plays. I was hurrying to make plays. I need to calm down sometimes (laughs) and not rush things.”
Todd McLellan said this about Yakupov’s play, “I believe that Yak’s offense right now is coming from good defensive positioning by his linemates and by him.”
Yakupov has been excellent the past three games and his point totals are a huge positive, but the most encouraging sign for Oilers fans should be hearing him talk about making the correct play. Winning becomes contagious, and when players see their smart plays contribute to victories it becomes even more addictive.
- McDavid’s play in Calgary and his goal last night had Oilers fans buzzing with excitement. He is an electrifying player, and he is only going to get better. But you shouldn’t worry about the haters from afar, or the odd pessimist/doubter from within Oilersnation. Some will refuse to see his greatness, but when one of best players of all-time is impressed by McDavid, I’d say it is okay for you to get excited about what you will see in the future.
I took a selfie when I watch McDavid score goal tonight. Not bad for 18 years old 🙂 pic.twitter.com/8VZdCuMLzQ
— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) October 22, 2015
Jagr’s life revolves around hockey. He loves it, and he clearly appreciates high-level skill.
- Cam Talbot was excellent last night. The Oilers had a very good start, but despite only allowing five shots in the first frame, Talbot was forced to make two outstanding stops. The Oilers need to improve their puck management against the top teams, but great goaltending can cover up many mistakes and right now Talbot and Anders Nilsson are providing that.
- It is still early, but even the biggest Justin Schultz doubter has to be impressed how much more competitive he’s been this season. He’s engaging in battles regularly. He’ll never be physically imposing, but so far he’s shown me he is much more willing to compete.
- I have to admit seeing Letestu score last night to make my NSOGDP correct made me fist pump. The best part about it is today NHL.com has his face on his page and not Nikita Nikitin. The power of Oilersnation is strong.
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