Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Entertaining Hockey

Well…that was different. For the first time in what truly feels like ages, the Edmonton Oilers were involved in one heck of an entertaining hockey game. 

While it was far from a perfect outing, as they managed to blow yet another two goal third period lead, last night’s 5-4 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks was exciting to watch and that is something Oilers fans have rarely been able to say over the last couple of seasons. 

While there is no question Edmonton was aided by what was a rather perplexing performance from Sharks starter Antti Niemi, it was an outing that featured number of highlights, with Jordan Eberle’s first of two goals on the night and some fine work from Nail Yakupov on Derek Roy’s second period marker being at the very top of that list. Frankly, it was nice change of pace and long overdue. 

Not everyone was a fan of the job Ralph Krueger did behind the Oilers bench but that group was much more enjoyable to watch under both his and Tom Renney’s direction. With essentially the same core pieces in place, Edmonton has become an absolute bore to watch. 

If a team is going to lose as often as this one has over the last couple of seasons, they better be entertaining to watch. Unfortunately, they have been anything but, which has made things tougher for this fan base to deal with. As if having to sit and endure one losing campaign after another wasn’t already bad enough, having to do so while being bored death makes it almost intolerable. 

That certainly was not the case last night. On a night in which both teams combined for eight goals, eighty-seven shots on net and a tone of mistakes at both ends of the rink, it was a thirteen round shootout that made this one all the more special to watch unfold. 

In the grand scheme of things, we are talking about a mid-season game in early February between a team buried in the basement of the standings and another trying to solidify themselves as a playoff team for an eleventh consecutive season. It was essentially a nothing game but it sure didn't feel like one. 

While it may be difficult to remember, it really was not that long ago that this Oilers team actually played with some jump and energy in their game. Just think about it for a minute and it will come back to you. Before having the enjoyment of playing the game coached out of them over the last year and half, we would routinely see the likes of Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and Yakupov all playing with a smile on their face. 

We sometimes tend to forget these players are essentially nothing more than a bunch of kids trying to learn their way as National Hockey League players. Unfortunately, that was taken away from them because of unrealistic expectations and was instead replaced with nothing but “structure and process”. While that is all well and good, the game still has to be fun to play and for the first time in ages…this group is starting to resemble the teams from years past and that is a very good thing. 

Don’t get me wrong, the Edmonton Oilers are still poorly constructed and destined to finish near the bottom of the league standings. Nothing is going to change that. However, watching these players enjoy themselves when they are out on that ice is certainly a step in the right direction. Let us hope it continues from here on out because for the next two and half months…wins and losses really don’t matter. 

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