Thursday, October 23, 2014

Could That Possibly Be Light At The End Of The Tunnel?


After earning all of one point from their first five outings of the season and back-to-back games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals next on their dance card, the Edmonton Oilers were staring at the very real possibility of starting their year off with a seven game winless streak. 

Facing the likes of a Steven Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin is tough enough to deal with at the best of times but with the Oilers struggling to the degree they had during the first ten days of their schedule, this three day stretch had potential disaster written all over it. 

Isn’t it funny how things can change in such a short period time? 

On the strength of another solid performance from netminder Ben Scrivens and a newly found commitment to trying to be better in their own end of the rink, Edmonton made it a perfect two for two on Wednesday night by edging the Capitals by a score of 3-2 in front of another sold out crowd at Rexall Place. 

Nikita Nikitin’s second period power play marker proved to be the eventual game-winner, as Edmonton managed to survive a third period push and promptly hand Washington their first regulation time loss of the young season. After scoring their first goal of the year during Monday’s win against the visiting Lightning, both Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins managed to find the back of the net for the second straight game to help lead the offence charge upfront. 

While some will certainly point to the shot clock and the Caps 34-20 advantage and look at this one as nothing more than two points the home team’s goaltender stole, it really wasn’t that cut and dry. For one of the few times this season, Scrivens made all the saves he was supposed and couple of timely highlight reel stops for good measure, one coming off Mike Green late in the first with the score tied at one and the other early in period three on a streaking Ovechkin, but it was not as though the Great 8 and company dominated the game. 

As previously mentioned, the Capitals came out hard over the final twenty but Edmonton found a way to hold them off and win yet another one goal game. To their credit, they pretty much kept Washington to the outside over the final ten or so minutes and made their netminder’s life fairly easy. On top of that, handing their opponents a number of “wide-open” looks in slot was not part of the equation for the second consecutive gameand not surprisingly they have wound up on the right side of the scoreboard on both occasions. 

Now by no means do a couple of solid showings mean this group and their goaltender have turned the corner but it certainly is an encouraging sign. From top to bottom, it was a complete team effort and one in which Dallas Eakins was able to use all four of his forward lines and three defensive pairings throughout the evening. While that may have been the plan since training camp, the Oilers inability to keep pucks out their net had made it almost impossible to employee through their first four games. 

No blueliner saw less than eighteen minutes of ice-time but not one of the six managed to crack the twenty-one minute barrier. While the top line of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins all played nineteen plus minutes upfront, the only forward who played less than twelve was Matt Hendricks but he also spent seven minutes in the penalty box thanks to a tripping minor and fighting major. 

It was far from a perfect night and they certainly needed a little help from Ben Scrivens to secure the win but at the end of the day, that is the whole point of having a goaltender. When it comes to goalies, it should never be about how many pucks they stop but rather when they stop them and for the third straight game, the guy wearing No. 30 in Orange and Blue held up his end of the bargain.

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