Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Game 50: Edmonton 3 Colorado 2

Heading into their first game after the All-Star break, the Edmonton Oilers had one goal in mind...showing the rest of the NHL that they are for real. After starting the season on fire and following it up with some absolutely dreadful hockey, this team clearly has something to prove over their final thirty-three regular season games. If last night's 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche was any indication of what is to follow, these Oilers might just make a few teams cringe at the thought of facing them down the stretch. Rookie forward Philippe Cornet made his NHL debut and picked up his first point. While Devan Dubnyk stood tall in between the pipes, making thirty-one saves in picking up his eighth victory of the season.

Edmonton would open scoring, when leading scorer Jordan Eberle picked up his nineteenth of the season on a nifty wrap-around. Cornet won a battle along the boards to gain possession and hit Sam Gagner, who spotted the streaking Eberle. The All-Star winger took the feed and started heading behind in the Avalanche net, when he decided to do his best Doug Gilmour impression. Stopping on a dime, the talented sophomore reversed his course and promptly stuffed the puck inside the post, to give the Oilers an early lead. Not too shabby of a start for Cornet, who had his first point, less then five minutes into his first NHL game.
Before the period was out, Edmonton would double their lead courtesy of a four minute high-sticking penalty to Colorado's TJ Galiardi. Surprisingly, struggling centre Eric Belanger would be the one who doubled the Oilers lead, with only his second goal of the campaign. Belanger's quick slap shot found it's way through some heavy traffic and past Varlamov, to give the home side a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.

The Avs wasted little time getting on the board in the second period, when Peter Mueller banged in his fourth of the year at the 1:16 mark. Mueller made a great play to lift Cory Potter's stick on a Colorado dump in and feed the puck to an open wing deep in the Oilers end. The puck was instantly reeled in by Chuck Kobasew, who quickly hit Mueller, in front of the Edmonton goal, for the easy tap in.

It would remain a one goal affair until Taylor Hall would restore the two goal cushion, six minutes into the third period. After gaining possession behind his own net, Hall made a quick pass to Shawn Horcoff who quickly  returned the favour, to start the breakout. Hall hit a streaking Ales Hemsky, just outside the Avs blueline and while his shot was stopped, the rebound found its way directly into the slot and sat on a tee for the hard charging sophomore. He made no mistake and buried it, for his seventeenth of the season   

Just over four minutes later, Colorado would cut the lead back down to one when Gabriel Landeskog knocked in his eleventh of the year. Dubnyk mishandled an innocent looking shot from Ryan O'Reilly and was unable to control the rebound. After a mad scramble saw the Oilers netminder make two saves, the Avs rookie pounced on the loose puck and fired it past Devan, to make it a 3-2 game.

Dubnyk did the rest, stopping fourteen third period shots, which included a game saver off O'Reilly with just over two minutes to play. The victory gives Edmonton two wins in their last three contests and puts them in a positive mindset, heading into the final two games of their current three game home stand. It won't be easy for the orange and blue, as they will be facing two of the elite teams in the Western Conference. They host the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday and square-off against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

The Good

  • The strong play of Devan Dubnyk is certainly a site for sore eyes. Devan has not only struggled to put together strong starts back-to-back this season but throughout his brief NHL career. If he wants a legitimate shot at being this clubs starter in the future, he needs to show what he can do and now. As of this moment, he is the man so let us see what the young man does with the opportunity.
  • Nothing but positive things to say about young Philippe Cornet. While he played just over ten minutes on the night, the kid did not look out of place. Is he the solution to the secondary scoring problems? Probably not but giving him a shot with good players is what he needs and playing with Gagner and Eberle, is exactly where he should have been. If anything, I would have liked to have seen that line get a few more minutes five-on-five.
  • For the second consecutive game Ryan Whitney was fairly solid.While he is nowhere near the level he was last season, he has been much better in the last two games then he was at any point during the first seventeen. Good to see the coaching staff not force feeding him minutes, as he played a hair over seventeen on the night and that is frankly all he should be playing.
  • While Taylor Hall or Jordan  Eberle did not stand out as much as they usually do, they both did what they needed to do and scored the two biggest goals of the game. Eberle's opener was simply sick and watching Hall transition the puck up ice and follow in for the rebound on the winner, was a thing of beauty. Can't wait to see RNH back in the lineup and see what these three will do down the stretch. 

The Bad

  • Looking at the starting lineup, you would have thought the the trio of Ryan Jones, Eric Belanger and Ryan Smyth was going to be the club's third line. Not surprisingly, that wasn't the case and the player who got screwed, yet again, was Jordan Eberle. All three played 14-15 minutes five-on-five while Eberle played just over twelve. As far as total ice time goes, Jordan played 14:10 while the others played 17:06(Belanger), 17:18(Jones) and 19:07(Smyth). If anyone out there would care to explain this to me, please feel free because I am at a loss. I don't know of any other team in the league that decides to play their top goal scorer and points guy on the third line because of injuries to other top end players but that is what this coaching staff continues to do and it is simply mind boggling. It is the same issue I have had with this staff from day number one and if it doesn't change, it should cost them their jobs.   

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