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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Three Thoughts: Finding a way

It was far from perfect and not the way coaches like Todd McLellan draw it up, but that’s what makes the Edmonton Oilers’ 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place just as impressive as the fact they have their first three-game winning streak of the season on the go. It’s how the Oilers won, not just that they won.

Despite a slow start that saw them thoroughly outplayed by the Blues in the first period, then falling behind not once but twice in the third period, the Oilers won it on goals by Mike Cammalleri, Connor McDavid and Drake Caggiula, who decided it in the final minute. The Oilers didn’t buckle. They hung in. They found a way.

I don’t know about you, but the way the Oilers scrapped back in the final four minutes after goals by Tage Thompson and Patrik Berglund when they could have panicked and been buried or folded and gone quietly into the night, reminded me of the team we watched last season. That’s something we haven’t seen enough of this season. No team plays a perfect game, but the best teams find ways to win on those kinds of nights. That’s my biggest takeaway from Thursday.

“We have a lot more belief in our group now. There’s a lot of confidence in our locker room,” said Caggiula, who beat Jake Allen at 19:10. “We were able to fight back. We’re a resilient group. We held on, we kept pushing, and we were able to answer right away after they scored. It just goes to show the character in this locker room. We have a lot of faith in ourselves. We know we’re going to keep this going.”

We’ll see about that when the Montreal Canadiens come calling Saturday, but there’s no question the Oilers are feeling better about themselves right now than at any point so far. They’re 16-17-2 for 34 points as they prepare to face the Habs and have a chance to make it four straight wins going into the break. I wouldn’t have bet a dime on that happening 10 days ago, but if this is the start of the push fans have been waiting for, we’re in for some fun the rest of the way.

STOP RIGHT THERE

The sick stick save Cam Talbot made on Paul Stastny with just over 13 minutes left made all the highlight reels, and it should, but Talbot was money in the bank start to finish as he won his sixth straight game and third straight since returning from injury. It’s a stretch in which Talbot has allowed just 13 goals on 166 shots. After some tough stretches, Talbot is looking like the goaltender who had the blue paint locked down last season.

With the game scoreless, Talbot lost the puck to Stastny behind the net, but as Stastny went by him to finish a wraparound on a gaping cage, Talbot somehow scrambled back, making a diving save with his stick. A bit of good luck? Sure, but the Oilers had no luck down at the other end of the rink, finding iron behind Allen five times.

When Talbot, who is now 13-10-1 with a 2.92 GAA and .905 save-percentage, is locked in, he’s one of the top five or six goaltenders in the NHL for my money. Talbot’s numbers aren’t there yet after an uneven start, but this six-game groove tells me he’s back to the guy we saw last season. That means a chance to win — even with ghastly special teams and less-than-perfect efforts.

THREE DEEP

Nov 23, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and left wing Milan Lucic (27) celebrate the goal of center Leon Draisaitl (29) in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Oilers won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been duly documented that the Oilers resurgence has coincided with the decision to go three centres deep, running McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on different lines. For me, the guy driving the success has been RNH, who set-up Caggiula for the winner – and looked a little bit like Wayne Gretzky operating in his office behind the net while doing it.

With 14-12-26, Nugent-Hopkins leads the team in goals and is tied with Draisaitl for second in team points. He’s collected points in eight of his last 10 games. Is there anybody out there who still considers RNH a too-expensive spare part who should be traded? If that happens, and I suppose it could, the asking price has done nothing but go up since the start of the season.

MORE OF THIS

A lot of Oiler players contribute to this community in ways we don’t see or think too much about, and this item about Mark Letestu and a couple of long-time fans is one of those stories. I’ve seen a lot of it involving many players over the years, but this one grabbed me. If you haven’t see it, it’s worth a look.

I’d like to wish everybody who takes the time to visit this website a very Merry Christmas and all the best, no matter how you choose to celebrate the season.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    “With 14-12-26, Nugent-Hopkins leads the team in goals . . . Is there anybody out there who still considers RNH a too-expensive spare part who should be traded?”

    That’s a tougher question than it first appears. Personally speaking, I’d do what can be done to keep Nuge; however, he’s a got one point more than Eberle right now, and I don’t expect that you’d get a lot of folks making the argument that the Eberle trade was a bad one (I could be wrong). So if you’re just using his pts (which is all that’s offered in your argument in that paragraph) then the Oilers probably did a bad, bad thing in trading Ebs–and Spyder will be the first to tell you that Ebs has a better +/- than RNH right now, too. The other thing to consider is who could the Oilers have traded for RNH. If one answer is Tyson Barrie, then I’d have thought the Oilers might have had a better first 30 games and they’d be better on the PP. Barrie’s actually got one more pt than RNH right now. So the answer to your question hard to answer and really depends on the asset the Oil get in return, as much as it matters who they give up. I hope Nuge wins a cup here (or 3), but I can see him being traded if the right deal came along. We won’t get Barrie now, but there may have been a small window when the option existed. And who knows what a puck handling RD would have done for the Oilers over the first 30 games.

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      “I don’t expect that you’d get a lot of folks making the argument that the Eberle trade was a bad one (I could be wrong)”
      Really? I think they only people who would NOT consider that a bad trade are delusional Oilers fans and/or delusional Oilers executives.

      I’m hoping that Chia sees the value in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Chia definitely valued David Krejčí so I’m hopeful that he keeps the Nuge.

      • MacT's Neglected Helmet

        Btw:
        Eberle for Strome + cap savings was pretty bad.
        Eberle for Strome + cap savings that you aren’t even going to use when it’s clear that you’re lineup has holes was very bad.

        • Sir Dudeinstein

          I think the whole
          Eberle didn’t compete much along the boards
          He shown more interest in watching the play from a distance than actually try to prevent a goal or even try to check. When he yawns when he skates off the ice when the puck is in our zone I think is what made a lot of fans, coaches, and management upset.
          I suppose Eberle plus the 8 million co tract who shows declining goal scoring, shooting percentage, who doesn’t want to stand up for teammates and gets gifted top line minutes is far more valuable than Strome at his cost who must I add, got into more fights this year than Eberles junior career.

          May I also add Ryan Strome is 3 years younger

      • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        I never made the argument that Ebs is more valuable, only that if one uses a points-based logic (which is what Brownlee offers here) for keeping or losing a player, then the argument to trade RNH is about as strong as it is to trade Ebs. Regardless of how one feels about trading RNH (and I really don’t want to trade him), it all comes down to what you can get in return. Does getting Barrie for RNH make that trade a bad one? Very hard to say. And that’s my only point. Brownlee makes it seem obvious that trade talk for RNH is mistaken, but if it’s for a Barrie or Karlsson then maybe it ain’t all bad, as hard as it would be to see RNH go elsewhere.

  • Trading Nuge would be a horrible idea. Remember, centremen can play on the wing if needed, but it’s way hard if it’s the other way around. Having McDavid/Drai/Nuge as your Cs is depth that any team would kill for.

  • D

    The Oilers have three #1 centres, which is a luxury that should not be squandered. Keep RNH with the team for as long as possible (preferably his entire career).

  • Beer

    This whole Eberle thing comes down to what the value other GM’s put on him. His scouting report in his draft year had included the word “lazy”. If he would have dispelled that belief during his time in Edmonton, he may not have been traded. I blame Eberle for the Eberle trade.

  • Rama Lama

    I suspect that the success of the “three deep lines”, is more predicated on the return of Larson and Sekera and the addition of Davidson. Hopefully PC has learned his lesson.

    No trades until we can properly assess the state of the current group……..I for one do not trust PC in pulling off an meaningful trade.