It's funny how things sometime work out. When you combine the injuries the Edmonton Oilers have suffered of late with their poor play and the fact that their opponents on Saturday night are currently the best team in the Western Conference, all things were pointing towards a very long night for the Rexall Place faithful. That's the great thing about sports, you just don't know what is going to happen. Instead, many in attendance were throwing their caps out on the sheet of ice before it was all over.
For the third time this season, the young Oilers put on a stellar performance on Hockey Night In Canada and for the third time, it was the kids who led the way. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up five assists and Taylor Hall scored three times, as Edmonton destroyed the visiting Blackhawks by the score of 9-2.
Ales Hemsky opened the scoring on a beautiful individual effort before the game was a minute old and the Oilers never looked back. While they were helped early on by some shaky goaltending from Ray Emery, the home side were full marks for the victory. Some would say that Chicago had this one coming, after annihilating Edmonton on Rexall Place ice during the 2008-2009 season by the same score.
Patrick Sharp did tie it up at one briefly, at the three minute mark with his seventh of the season on the power play but the Oilers put up four more before the period was out. On top of Hall's hat trick performance and Hemsky's opener, Edmonton got goals from Ryan Jones, Ryan Smyth, Jordan Eberle, Tom Gilbert and captain Shawn Horcoff. Gilbert was a force all night in all areas of the ice and wound up with four points. The pairing of Theo Peckham and Jeff Petry, who were terrible on Thursday night against Ottawa, rebounded nicely. They both were +5 on the night and Petry picked up three assists to boot.
- While it's only one game...I told you so. It was apparent the lines needed changing early on during their six game road trip but they obviously didn't want to break away from a formula that was working. The only thing I question, is why did it take this long? Taylor Hall looked like the Taylor Hall from last season, Hemsky was into it all night and that was the first game this year that Sam Gagner didn't look lost. These were the top two lines I wanted to see when the season started and have been waiting for since Hemsky returned from injury. Both lines are better balanced and having a player as good as Horcoff on their third line, is a luxury that not many times have.
- What more can you say about Nugent-Hopkins. Before camp even broke, I said this kid would be here and be successful but I didn't expect him to be this good, in year one. He's already at the point where he is out muscling guys along the boards that are twice his size and his confidence with the puck grows more with each game. The mistakes are still there but they are becoming far less frequent. While he has shown some chemistry with Hall, Jordan Eberle is the one he has formed a special bond with. It was clear from the first game they played together, in pre-season, that they think the game alike. If it was up to me, unless they go in another horrendous scoring slump as a team, Taylor Hall goes no where near those two 5-on-5, unless it's for the odd shift here and there. Power play for sure but even strength, it makes no sense whatsoever to force them back together.
- As good as Tom Gilbert has been this year, I do not think he has played a finer game this season. He was all over the ice against the Hawks and took the physical play to a whole different level. Gilbert has gone out of his way to play with more grit this season but he actually looked natural doing it last night. Add to that, the four point night and not much more could have been asked from, arguably, the Oilers MVP this season.
- Theo Peckham has had his challenges and I have documented them as much as anyone out there. That being said, there is one thing I absolutely love about him. He still remains the only guy on this team, that will immediately jump to a teammates defence every time someone tries to take advantage of one of them. When Dan Carcillo decided to take a clean but hard run at Ales Hemsky late in the third, it was Peckham coming to his defence. Hemmer has been run at for years and no one has ever done anything about it. It was nice to see Theo step up, once again, when many of his teammates refuse to get involved in any sort of altercation.
- Nikolai Khabibulin was solid all night and looked like the goalie who has stood on his head for much of the season. The second Chicago goal was a little soft but the score was 6-1 at the time so I could really care less. Look for the veteran to start against the Stars on Monday and Dunbnyk to go Tuesday in Nashville.
- Taylor Chorney and Colten Teubert both looked ok out there but in a 9-2 game, you shouldn't be standing out in a bad way. Chorney played just under nineteen minutes and looked fine while Teubert played just under fifteen and led the team with five hits and blocked two shots. Until Edmonton actually makes a deal to upgrade the backend, the two "call-ups" are going to play a major role in the short term.
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