The Oilers have played well in back-to-back-to-back games now, highlighted by a thrashing of the Metro-leading Blue Jackets in their home arena. Are things finally turning around?
Finish your check and go to the net. Good things will happen. pic.twitter.com/1vbwWw7mFd— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 13, 2017
The Oilers opened up the scoring just a few minutes into the game off of some excellent work from the fourth line. Anton Slepyshev finished his check on the forecheck, Mark letestu did a good job keeping the puck in, and then Slepyshev and Letestu did a quick give-and-go before Letestu found Zack kassian waiting in a perfect spot beside the net. There was an impressive combo of grit, skill, and patience on this play from the fourth line.
Mike Cammalleri finds The Nuge for a beautiful power play snipe. pic.twitter.com/fVPHUquIBr— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 13, 2017
The Oilers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second period on a power play goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Matt Benning got a puck on net from the point, it bounced out to Mike Cammalleri who made an incredible fake-shot-pass to Nuge who fired a rocket into the yawning cage. Beyond the obvious gorgeous pass and finish on this play, I liked how Benning simply got a puck on net, which was something the Oilers were failing to do in the game against Toronto.
The puck has eyes! pic.twitter.com/AUlGOP8cZr— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 13, 2017
Another example of how getting the puck on net is a good thing… Connor McDavid rushed the puck up the ice, lost it in the offensive zone, and Benning fired a low wrister that fooled Sergei Bobrovsky and found its way into the back of the net.
Tiiiiiiiiiiic taaaaaaac toe! pic.twitter.com/yg5sMwrdqT— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 13, 2017
The Oilers converted on their second power play goal late in the second period. Leon Draisaitl picked up the puck on the backcheck at Edmonton’s net and feathered a saucer pass up to Connor McDavid in stride. He worked his way into the zone slowly and hit Milan Lucic at the perfect time for an easy tap in. This isn’t exactly your standard power play goal, but it was a nicely executed play nonetheless.
GO GO GO GO GOOOOO YES! pic.twitter.com/vSA93jJNju— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 13, 2017
Right before the end of the second period, Mark Letestu intercepted a pass on the penalty kill and busted down the ice in a race against the clock, burying the team’s fifth goal of the game past Bobrovsky at the last possible moment. This goal was the dagger for Bobrovsky and it resulted in John Tortorella having to make a mid-game goalie switch for the first time all season.
Hey look, the guys are having a good time on the bench! This is always a good sign.
"Hey remember when you didn't draft me in 2016?" - Pool Party pic.twitter.com/QaqsHCL3gv— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 13, 2017
I’m sure this one felt really good for Puljujarvi. Remember when the Blue Jackets passed up on him at the 2016 draft? He played a pretty strong game last night, using his body to battle to the net. He buried the sixth goal of the game after outworking Columbus’ defender and making a skilled play to shoot the puck while falling.
Jesse returns the favour and it's 7-2! pic.twitter.com/ujG5G6luE9— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) December 13, 2017
Soon after, Puljujarvi returned the favour to McDavid, feeding the a nice pass to the captain for an easy tap-in goal to make it 7-2.
It was an evenly contested game in the first period, but the Oilers broke out in the second. They had 16 shot attempts to Columbus’ 11, and they managed 11 even strength shots on goals while the Blue Jackets were only able to get four on net. In the third, Columbus battled back for a while, but the Oilers smothered them and put their foot back on the gas. All told, the shot attempts at even strength were close, 51 to 45 for Columbus, but the Oilers did a better job of getting the shots on goal, leading 28 to 26 in even strength shots. They also had eight even strength high danger chances throughout the game while the Blue Jackets have five.
- The Oilers have played three good games in a row since Todd McLellan barked at them after that terrible effort against the Flyers. They pounded Montreal on Saturday, thoroughly outplayed Toronto on Sunday but came up short because of poor puck luck, and played a very good game against Columbus last night. I think the Blue Jackets game was easily the most impressive because Columbus is a good team. They don’t get knocked around like that, especially at home, but Edmonton smothered their offence, made easy work of their defence, and matched them physically. The Oilers looked last night like the multidimensional, high energy team from last season we expected them to be this year.
- If the Oilers are going to climb back into the playoffs, it’s going to come off of a god-like run from Connor McDavid. The reality is the team has dug a big hole and it there isn’t much room for error down the stretch. So when there’s games that the goalie isn’t good or the team is tired, the MVP is going to have to put the team on his back and make magic happen. Last night was one of those MVP games. Though the rest of the team was good on its own merit, McDavid was flying around the ice, not only creating chances and driving offence, but playing responsibility in his own zone.
- I liked Jesse Puljujarvi’s game last night. I feel he’s the perfect winger alongside McDavid because he’s got a rare combination of size, skill, and speed. He goes to the net and can handle passes in traffic, which is something many wingers have struggled to do when playing on the team’s top line. It was also nice for Pool Party to have a good showing in front of the Blue Jackets to remind them they messed up at the draft in 2016. I’m sure that’s a confidence booster for the young Finn.
- Laurent Brossoit played a solid game last night. During the last three games, Brossoit has posted a .934 save percentage in all situations. He’s been good enough for the Oilers to win, which is all you can ask for from your backup during a stretch like this. I think he’s proved a lot of doubters wrong on this stretch.
- Overall, the team has just looked different the last few games. I find it’s a major key for the Oilers to score first because they look a lot better protecting a lead than they do chasing the other team. But, in general, the team has looked a lot more confident and energetic. I’m not sure if it’s McLellan yelling at them after the Flyers game, finding the right combinations on the lines, Brandon Davidson as a waiver claim injecting life into the room, or if they’re naturally regressing to the norm after a poor start in which they had good underlying numbers. There are plenty of theories, but whatever it is, the team proved on this road trip they’re still good, now they just need to keep it rolling over a prolonged period of time.
Source: NHL.com, Official Game Page, 12/12/2017, 7:30pm MST