Take A Break
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
For all the drama the Edmonton Oilers have endured in a season that’s been up and down and all over the place, you couldn’t ask for a better way to hit the NHL all-star break than the 7-3 waxing they laid on the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place Saturday.
This game produced a lot more positive vibes for an Oilers team climbing Pacific Division standings than just a lopsided score and two points because, let’s face it, the Blackhawks aren’t a very good team right now and just about everybody beats them – save for the Calgary Flames getting spanked by Chicago 5-1 on Thursday.
The Oilers hit the break on a 7-0-1 roll and are 28-18-4 for 60 points after an 8-2-2 January. They are poised to make a push, but there’s more. Zach Hyman scored 1-2-3 and has goals in five straight games at 6-7-13. He reached 60 points for the first time in his career. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two assists to reach 60 points for the third time and Evander Kane’s goal to make it 6-2 was his first since returning from wrist surgery.
As feel-good storylines go before the team scatters for a few days off, all that takes a back seat to Matt Berlin, a local lad who plays for the Alberta Golden Bears and dressed as Jack Campbell’s back-up after Stuart Skinner fell ill. With a nudge from Connor McDavid, coach Jay Woodcroft gave Berlin the tap with 2:26 to go. In he went, finishing with one save.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
“The whole day was a whirlwind, but the finish to the day was unbelievable,” said Berlin, a 25-year-old who has been an EBUG for the Oilers the past two seasons and has also practiced with the team. “Something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
“I thought they were joking, but (Woodcroft) said to be ready to go and that at the first whistle after the three-minute mark I was going in. So, I went into the back, did a couple of stretches, took a couple breaths and I was in. My heart was pounding for the four minutes once he told me, and then once I got in there and got a drink of water I was all right.”
“First of all, it came from the players,” Woodcroft said. “We wanted to make sure we did it in a respectful way, because we have nothing but respect for the Chicago Blackhawks, their players and their coaching staff, but we wanted to give someone an opportunity they’ll remember for the rest of their life.
“I was proud of our team that they came to that decision. Jack Campbell came to our bench at TV timeout. We told him what we were thinking, and he was on board. He was so happy for him, and the opportunity presented itself. That’s what we did, and good on the young man for going out there and making a save, and I’m sure he will carry that memory with him for the rest of his life.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Nov 26, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) celebrates with Edmonton Oilers left wing Dylan Holloway (55) after Holloway’s goal during the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports
The feel-good Berlin storyline aside, Campbell seems to have found his game over the last few weeks, and that’s significant. His numbers in January have improved. That, along with much better defensive play, the return of Kane, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl staying hot and Hyman and RNH rolling, are reasons to believe the final 32 games will be fun.
With McDavid, Draisaitl and Skinner headed to Florida for the all-star game, the Oilers don’t play again until Feb. 7, when they begin a stretch of four straight road games in against the Red Wings in Detroit. Given what we’ve seen lately and in Saturday’s send-off, who isn’t looking forward to that?
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