Monday, October 31, 2011

Game 11: Edmonton 4 St.Louis 2

The Edmonton Oilers closed out one of their best months in recent team history, with another win. By defeating the St.Louis Blues by the score of 4-2, the Oilers end the month of October as the top team in the Western Conference. Ryan Smyth led the way with his 4th and 5th goals on the season and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up two more assists, giving the rookie 11 points thru his first eleven games in the National Hockey League.

Edmonton finished the month off with a 7-2-2 record but they are now headed out on a tough six game road trip, starting Thursday evening in Los Angeles. The Oilers have had a favourable schedule to start the season, with eight of their first eleven games on home ice, but they have played a number of good clubs during that span. The key to having a successful season is always determined by a clubs ability to beat teams on home ice and for the first time in ages, Edmonton is making Rexall Place a very uncomfortable place for the opposing teams to visit.

The home side opened the scoring just past the five minute mark of the first period, when Shawn Horcoff took a beautiful feed from Nugent-Hopkins and potted his second of the campaign, on the power play, past Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak. The Blues tied things up early in the second period, on a bullet-like wrist shot from David Backes, but Edmonton quickly turned the tide and took over, scoring three more before the middle stanza was over. 

Smyth scored his first of the night banging in a rebound from in tight after Halak made the initial save off a point shot from defenceman Alex Plante. Plante was making his season debut in place of Cam Barker, who was a late scratch with a sore shoulder. The Oilers then stretched their lead to two, when Jordan Eberle finished a beautiful three way passing play for his third of the season. Before the period was out, Smyth potted his second of the night, once again on a rebound from in tight, to give the Oilers a 4-1 lead heading into the third. While the Blues managed to slip one more puck past the red hot Nikolai Khabibulin in the final twenty minutes, Edmonton held on to improve their home record to a very  impressive 6-1-1.

The Good

  • Two more goals on the power play moved the Oilers up to 12th in the league with a success rate of 20.8% and when you couple that with the penalty kill, which sits 4th in the league, it is no real surprise that Edmonton has had the start they have. If you win the special team battle, nine times out of ten you win the game.
  • After a quiet game against the Avalanche on Friday night, the kids rebounded with a very strong effort. Taylor Hall was arguably the best of the three on the night but only had an assist to show for it, as Halak robbed him on two point blank opportunities. The trio continue to create a ton of chances, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play.
  • Jeff Petry stepped in for the suspended Andy Sutton and was fantastic all night. Playing in all situations, the young defenceman logged nearly 23 minutes of ice which trailed only Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid. The only reason Petry was sent down to Oklahoma was because of numbers but with Ryan Whitney out for an extended period of time, look for Petry to become a regular, while others take a turn in the press box. 
  • Khabibulin was not tested like he had been in previous games but the netminder continues to be solid, night in and night out. The Blues came hard in third, throwing 14 shots his way and while one managed to get past him, the veteran did not allow them to get back into the game. The play of both goaltenders has been the major reason why the Oilers sit where they do in the standings. Edmonton currently leads the league with a goals against average of 1.46 and have allowed a grand total of eleven even strength goals on the season...simply mid boggling!!!

The Bad

  • With the likely suspension of rugged blueliner Andy Sutton and injuries to both Whitney and Barker, though the latter does not appear to be serious, the Oilers backend is starting to become paper thin. Couple that with an extended road trip and Edmonton may have some struggles over the next couple of weeks.
  • While the third and fourth lines have been better of late, they still have nothing on the score sheet. You don't expect much scoring from your fourth line but the third line has to chip in, especially with an extended road trip staring them in the face. The trio of Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner and Eric Belanger continue to get little done and they have a grand total of two assists between them on the season. Obviously, this is a major concern moving forward.

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