Off the Top of My Head
Photo credit:Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
In the end, the Edmonton Oilers got the result they deserved after sleep-walking through the first 25 minutes or so of Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the worst team in the NHL. That’s the bottom line. Still, the dazzling performance that Connor McDavid put on in the second period stole the show for me.
Down 4-0 by 5:56 of the second period and seemingly out of it in Ohio, McDavid almost single-handedly dragged the Oilers into a 4-4 deadlock with the kind of stunning, over-the-top performance you just don’t see very often, even if you get to watch No. 97 play 82 games a season. The sick skills we’ve seen, but there was some Liam Neeson thrown in there too.
I don’t know if it was the blocker shot McDavid took in the yap from Joonas Korpisalo for poking at a rebound that set him off or if he was pissed about how poorly the Oilers were playing on the heels of waxing Pittsburgh 7-2 Thursday. Whatever it was, McDavid went off and he grabbed his team and the game by the neck and didn’t let go until it was even-up 14:42 into the second period.
“We did a good job getting ourselves back in it, but it’s an embarrassing start and then it’s an embarrassing finish,” McDavid said. “Not quite good enough.”
We’ve seen McDavid’s feed to Leon Draisaitl on a two-man advantage to make it 4-2 countless times. Not so McDavid’s shorthanded goal to cut it to 4-3 as he took a loose puck off the boards in his own end, swung wide through the neutral zone and wheeled around Johnny Gaudreau before tucking it past Korpisalo.
And the 4-4 goal? Are you kidding me? McDavid dished the puck to Brent Kulak, called for the rubber back by slapping his stick on the ice and then pounded it high behind Korpisalo with a slapshot for his 48th goal of the season. It looked then like McDavid might hit the 50-goal mark in this one, but the Jackets managed to get to the second intermission even and took control in the third on a pair of goals by Jack Roslovic.
“We had some people who had some good efforts, but not enough. Too many passengers today for us,” coach Jay Woodcroft understated. “Connor played very hard and tried to do things to spur the team on, but again, it’s the NHL. You need all 20 people in the line-up to find ways to contribute to the win.”
Now, if McDavid only had more help. Paging Ken Holland . . .
THE OLD BARN
With Rexall Place – also known as Northlands Coliseum, Edmonton Coliseum and Skyreach Centre depending on your vintage – facing the wrecking ball between now and 2025, media people were posting Friday about touring what’s left of the rink that closed in 2017.
While I spent a lot of time in that old barn between 1989 when I first walked into it alongside Jim Matheson to cover practice and 2007 when I stopped writing the beat for the dailies, I haven’t missed the old place much. I’ve always thought it’s the people who make a place memorable, not the bricks and mortar.
Be it the last Stanley Cup for the Oilers in 1990 – I arrived in time to cover the back half of the 1989-90 season and the post-season — the 2006 playoffs and Cup final or all the jersey retirements these last several years, it’s those events that stick with me. The emotion of Rod Phillips presiding over Wayne Gretzky’s jersey retirement, having a quick chat with Grant Fuhr as he slipped on his gear for his ceremony, to name just two, come to mind.
As for the people, you know the names. There are worse ways to make a living than spending time around Joe Moss, Sparky Kulchisky, Barrie Stafford and the training and equipment staff. Shooting the breeze with the scouts, a trip down the back hall to try to squeeze a scoop from Ron Low or Glen Sather. A Teddy Green handshake. Rem Murray mimicking a reporter about his interviewing style. You get the drift.
Mark Spector of Sportsnet, who was at The Journal when I arrived and is still writing about the Oilers, penned a good read about the old rink at the end of January. I can’t say I’m nearly as fond about the old rink, but the people that were part of writing the beat made it a great place to work before the move to Rogers Place.
IN BEN’S NAME
You know all about the many editions of the World’s Longest Hockey Game that have been played at Saiker’s Acres out in Sherwood Park. Get ready for the Kids World’s Longest Hockey Game – an event that begins Friday March 3 in support of the Ben Stelter Fund and the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
More than 70 kids, aged 10 to 16, will be divided into shifts of four hours each to be played from noon on March 3 to about 6 p.m. on March 5. Proceeds from the event will help kids fight brain cancer through research. Ben Stelter passed away last August 10 after a courageous battle with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.
You can follow Kids World’s Longest Hockey Game on Facebook. If you’d like to donate, you can do that here.
HALLSY . . .
Bryan Hall is 88, but he’s not done working the microphone at 630CHED. Hall, who has been in the broadcasting business for 70 years, yes 70 years, is cutting back from working daily to making weekly contributions on the air – specifically with the new show This Morning, with J’lyn Nye and Daryl McIntyre.
Hallsy, the play-by-play voice of the CFL in Edmonton for 45 years, was inducted into the CFL hall of fame in 1989. He called more than 10,000 thoroughbred horse races and even did play-by-play with the Oilers. Hall put in his last daily shift Friday.
“I don’t think you can base decisions on one game. Certainly, going into the trade deadline, when your team is performing at a high level, as a manager, if possible, you’d like to pitch in.” – Holland, asked by Matheson if the blowout of the Pens during a hot streak means he’ll stand pat at the trade deadline.
THE OILERSNATION 15TH BIRTHDAY PARTY
The Nation is turning 15 and you’re invited to join us for a viewing party unlike any other. Get the details you need and tickets for the party right here.
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