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.
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.