The Edmonton Oilers have given Devan Dubnyk many opportunities over the last two seasons to prove his worth. While at times he has looked very good, more often then not, his play has been uneven and less then spectacular. With Nikolai Khabibulin currently sidelined with a groin injury, Devan has been given yet another chance to show that he is a legitimate starting goaltender. If last night's performance, is any indication of what the Oilers can expect from the twenty-five year old netminder, then there is still hope for the man known as "The Big Easy". Dubnyk was sensational stopping all thirty-five shots fired his way, in leading Edmonton to a 2-0 victory over the high scoring Philadelphia Flyers. Sophomore standouts Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle scored for the Oilers, who continue to play their best hockey against the leagues top teams.
Edmonton struggled out of the gate and tough guy Darcy Hordichuk tried to jump start his side with a spirited tilt with Jody Shelley. Hordichuk picked up the extra minor for instigating things and if nothing else, energized a building that had gone silent in the opening minutes of play. The Oilers had already killed off an earlier penalty to Shawn Horcoff and would do it one more time behind the strong play of their netminder.
Despite some quality scoring chances, the game would remain scoreless until Edmonton was given their first power play opportunity, courtesy of a Pavel Kubina hold on Eberle. After swarming the Flyers for the first minute of the man advantage, it would be Hall who would finally break through and score his twelfth power play marker of the season. Ryan Whitney's point shot caromed off the end boards and came directly to the Oilers # 4, who made no mistake beating Ilya Bryzgalov for his twenty-second goal on the campaign.
Edmonton did their best to let Philadelphia even things up, when they allowed Brayden Schenn to be sent in on a breakaway seconds after Hall's goal. Luckily, Dubnyk was up to the task and stoned the Flyers youngster to maintain their lead.
The home side had started to take it to the Flyers but some quality saves from Bryzgalov kept this a one goal game. Unfortunately, at the 8:04 mark the much maligned netminder let one sneak past him that he would love to have back. Danny Briere mishandled the puck just inside the Flyers blueline that was gobbled up by Eberle, who turned and took to the Philadelphia goal and fired a quick wrister that found its way through the former Phoenix Coyote standout. The goal was Eberle's twenty-seventh of the season and second point on the night. His two point effort moved him back into the top ten in league scoring. He currently sits in ninth spot, tied with Ottawa Senator defenceman Erik Karlsson with sixty points.
Late in the period, Philly's Scott Hartnell was assessed a kneeing penalty after taking a run at Magnus Paajarvi. The second year Swede was knocked to the ice and after making it to his feet, was escorted to the locker room by the training staff. Paajarvi would not return and will likely be out of action for some time, with a knee injury. The Oilers could not convert on the ensuing man advantage but did take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. After blitzing the visitors in the middle frame for fifteen shots, they held a 24-20 lead after forty minutes.
As expected, the Flyers came out hard in the final frame hoping to salvage something out of this one. This time they would be the team to fire fifteen pucks on the Oilers goal but Dubnyk withstood the onslaught, to earn his first shutout of the season. Arguably his biggest save of the night came early in the period, when he robbed Hartnell on a point blank opportunity at the lip of the crease and preserved Edmonton's two goal lead. That is the type of goal that Dubnyk has had the bad habit of allowing but not on this night.
- Both Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle just keep finding ways to score goals. Even with his slow start to the season, Hall has a real shot at still scoring thirty-five and at this point, I would be stunned if Eberle doesn't hit forty. With twenty-two games left in the season, I don't think it would be too far fetched for them to each score another thirteen goals.
- Ales Hemsky didn't collect a point on the night but he continued with his rejuvenated effort and play. His chemistry with Hall is obvious and may be something to seriously consider for both the organization and Hemsky. With the trade deadline right around the corner, perhaps both sides look at things and come to some sort of agreement that keeps the talented Czech in Edmonton for the next season or two.
- Jeff Petry was once again outstanding. He logged a team high 22:43 of ice time and was solid in all three zones. Petry play has got to the point that he is arguably Edmonton's steadiest defenceman. Game in and game out, he is doing things that makes one think the Oilers may just have found one of those top four blueliners they so desperately need.
- As mentioned earlier, Devan Dubnyk has a chance to show what he's made of and now comes the real test. How will he play on Saturday against Phoenix and on Monday when he faces the Winnipeg Jets? The ability is there but the problem has always been consistency. If he can somehow make this performance the norm instead of the exception, he will be well on his way.
- The club had one of their better games in the face-off circle, as they went 38 for 57 on draws. Eric Belanger won twelve and had a ridiculous 85.7% face-off percentage and Sam Gagner wasn't far off, winning eleven, at a 66.8% clip. The fact that Gagner no longer gets schooled in the face-off dot makes things a lot simpler for this team. The days of Horcoff taking 95% of the draws in his own end, should be nothing more then a distant memory.
- Though he was credited with only one hit on the night, Lennart Petrell was outstanding. He was engaged physically from the outset and didn't stop for minute. He played just under nine minutes but he made an impact on the game and you can't ask for much more from your fourth line energy guy. The feisty Finn's continued solid play should have him in the conversation for the Oilers 12th/13th forward spot for next season.
- One area that Associate Coach Ralph Krueger has to be given props for, is playing the kids. Whenever he has been behind the bench, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle usually lead or are very close to leading all forwards in ice time. At even strength, no one played more then Hall and Eberle was third. A far cry from most nights, when the pair are usually in the bottom half for ice time in five-on-five situations.
- The only negative on the night would have to be the injury to Magnus Paajarvi. After finally starting to find his game, it is a shame that a dirty play from Scott Hartnell may end up costing the young Swede most of, if not the rest of, his season. Lets hope it is not as bad as it looked but I am not expecting positive news.