Christmas has come early for Oilers fans. On November 30th the Oilers were in last place and on pace for another disappointing season. Fast forward 15 days and the Oilers have won six straight games and are in a playoff spot; sitting third in the Pacific division with 30 points.
It has been quite the turnaround.
Last night Cam Talbot was outstanding in goal and Jordan Eberle provided the offence with a goal and two assists as the Oilers extended their winning streak to six, with a 3-2 win in Boston. Talbot played his second game in a month, but showed no signs of rust, stopping 47 of 49 shots.
The Bruins controlled much of the game, but the Oilers didn’t make any major gaffes, and when they made a mistake Talbot bailed them out. Talbot was very good early, and his rebound control was great all night. He showed head coach Todd McLellan he wants another start, and I’m sure we will see him between the pipes again soon.
Nikita Nikitin played his first game of the season, and didn’t look out of place. He chipped in with an assist, but more importantly he wasn’t a step behind like last season. You can add him to the list of Bakersfield players who have contributed after being recalled. The Oilers continue to receive solid performances from unlikely sources, and combined with consistent scoring from their top two lines they are suddenly right in the playoff hunt.
The Oilers are rolling and Oilersnation is excited about their hockey team (mid-season, anyways) for the first time in a decade. The pessimists will complain they didn’t deserve to win last night, but you shouldn’t. The goalies are part of your team, and when you get bad goaltending and it costs you games you are upset about it, so why not be excited when a goalie steals you a game?
The Oilers haven’t relied on their goalies to win them every game, but I’m sure the players feel much better knowing Talbot and Nilsson can steal them a game. Good teams need good, and often great, goaltending to win and the Oilers, with their young D corps, will need it more often than most teams.
The truth is the Oilers are in a playoff spot on December 15th. That is all you should be worried about. The Oilers are here despite losing numerous players to injury. Connor McDavid (18), Justin Schultz (14), Eberle (13), Nail Yakupov (10), Matt Hendricks (10), Benoit Pouliot and Lauri Korpikoski (8), Rob Klinkhammer (24) and Oscar Klefbom (1+) have missed games, yet the Oilers have climbed their way up the standings.
Only three players have dressed in every game: Taylor Hall, Teddy Purcell and Mark Letestu. Ottawa and Columbus are tied for second fewest with seven. Every other team has at least eight players who’ve played every game and in most cases it is 10+.
I didn’t expect this ascent up the standings two weeks ago, and I doubt many of you did either. It has been completely unexpected and it has rejuvenated the team and Oilers fans. Enjoy it.
The Oilers are still a work in progress. They are still very inexperienced on the blueline, yet they’ve found ways to win six straight games. They aren’t a tire fire in their own zone. They are getting solid goaltending. They have two scoring lines producing, and most importantly they are competitive every night.
The streak will eventually end, especially if the Oilers keep getting
out shot, but they won last night with one line scoring and great
goaltending. Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl were very quiet in Boston, I
doubt they are again tonight.
Can they win seven in a row for the first time since March 9th, 2001?
Two weeks ago we would have laughed at the thought of it, but tonight, against a Rangers team who are 2-6-2 in their last ten while allowing 33 goals, it doesn’t seem outlandish.
- Hall and Draisaitl only played 16:00 and 16:13 respectively last night. That was Hall’s lowest total of the season, and only the second time he’s played fewer than 17:54. They had a rare quiet night, and McLellan didn’t try and force feed them icetime to find their game. Both should be fresh for tonight and based on their play this season, they will be hungry to have a bounce back game.
- McLellan ran four lines. Gazdic was the only player under 11:22 and he played 8:29. Wise coaching to not wear out anyone on the first night of back-to-back games.
- Talbot played great, but after 49 shots it would have been a wrong gamble to go back to him. Nilsson will want to rebound after an average night versus the Rangers on Friday.
- Rangers’ forward Jarret Stoll was claimed off waivers today by the Minnesota Wild and he will play the Rangers on Thursday. The Wild have missed having right-hand faceoff guy in bottom six after letting Kyle Brodziak sign with St.Louis.
- Stoll was very impressed with the improved play of the Oilers from previous years, especially the top line last Friday. “They are playing great. Hall has slowed his game down and is making more plays. That Draisaitl kid is good. He made a great move on me late in the game avoiding OT,” Stoll said after the game last Friday.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Alain Vigneault spoke with the media following the Rangers morning skate today (NYR)
- On who is being called up, “we are going to call up Brady Skjei, we just have to wait for 12 for cap purposes. He will be in the lineup tonight.”
- McDonagh to the right side, “McDonagh will move to the right side.”
- Where will Skjei play, “at this time we will probably move Marc with Ryan and then there will be interchanging of the other four depending on how they are playing and who is coming on the ice for Edmonton.”
- On McDonagh on the right side, “he hasn’t had a lot of it but seemed alright. I know that with Team USA he did play on the right side and seemed very comfortable. I don’t foresee that being an issue tonight.’
- “He played real well, didn’t have an issue with it.”
- On Brady Skjei, “he has been very impressed with his overall skating ability, the fact that he competes real hard. They see him as a good defensive type defenseman who has the ability, because of his skating, to jump up into the attack when the opportunity is there. Young player going through the process has played real well and will get his first opportunity tonight.”
- On Jarret Stoll, “we aren’t there yet and will see what happens. I know Jeff has been talking to his agent and we will see what happens.”
- “we are going to try and protect the front of our net better than we did in that game. There is no doubt that this team is on a roll and playing with confidence. They have skill and speed up front that make them very challenging, pretty good number of goals right now. We will have to be at our best tonight, this team is one of the better teams in the league right now and we will have to be real good.”
- On Brady Skjei again, “I liked his training camp but you could tell that he needed some games in the AHL to improve his overall game. He has done that, he will get a first opportunity tonight and we will see how he does.”
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ride the wave for another night. The Oilers make it lucky seven with a 3-2 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With four goals and seven points in his last five games, Eberle keeps rolling and scores his eighth of the season.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Schultz has no goals in 17 games, and only one in his last 36 going back to last season. He hasn’t scored a powerplay goal in 111 games, but he breaks both droughts tonight and scores on the PP.
DAY 11: MONTH OF GIVING
Thank you James for your great bid of $4,000 on the awesome entertainment package from The Brick.
Today: Package #1
- $1,000 in Hughes Gift cards to be used for fuel or car washes.
- A signed game used Taylor Hall stick.
- 20 tickets to an Oil Kings game this season.
- 20 Hot dogs and pop
- A guided pre game tour of Rexall Place – a peek behind the curtain on
our final season at Rexall
- Team signed jersey (or a specific player jersey, autographed)
Post-game photo with
the player of their choice
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau and Operation Friendship Seniors Society.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- GDB 31.0: Klefbom injury creates concern
- GDB 30.0: Honouring Sather
- Thursday Thoughts: Khaira, Reinhart and more
- GDB: Win one for McLellan
- Nilsson making most of his opportunity
- What a difference a week makes