by Lisa McRitchie on 12/10/11 at 03:45 AM ET
Oilers beat Avalanche 4-1
After their worst game this season, the Oilers went back to basics and focused on the simple things on their off day. The results, a much anticipated victory against a division rival. Certain players stepped up, while others have remained invisible, but overall this game was a vast improvement over the last.
I have not been very high on Sam Gagner, not the Sam Gagner who has played the start of the season. Tonight, Gagner had his best game of the season, to date of course. Of course Gagner had extremely talented linemates in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, but regardless, Gagner’s two goals and overall “good game” was exactly what this young man in his fifth NHL season needed to do. The trouble is that so many of us still look at Gagner as one of the kids, but he’s not, he’s been around for a number of years now.
Oilers’ head coach Tom Renney said that he feels Gagner has been one of a few players who has been increasing the battle level of his team, going after the second and third effort “because that is how you make the difference in a hockey game”
Also standing out and playing exceptionally well was Tom Gilbert. I’ve often felt that Gilbert has been in over his head, but always wanted him to play more physically and shoot the puck more. Tonight, Gilbert laid impressive hits
Although Ben Eager had his first goal as an Oiler Wednesday, you could say that tonight Eager turned a corner and proved himself to be the hockey player, and not just agitator that he was signed to be.
Still absent and unimpressive, has been the play of Ales Hemsky. Because of this, Hemsky may find himself on the third line once Taylor Hall returns to the lineup.
Ladislav Smid has slipped to third in the NHL for blocked shots, but 3rd is still extremely good. Smid not only leads the team in blocked shots, but also in hits, and by a count of 21. Several improvements through the years will add up to a great Oilers team. Eventually.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins only had two assists on the night, and led the forwards in ice time through the first period with 8:41. Through all three frames, Nugent-Hopkins played 19:43 and was second only to Shawn Horcoff in terms of forwards.
Some of the ice time can be attributed to Nugent-Hopkins’ time on the power play, where he excelled. Nugent-Hopkins was on both power play units and in the words of Renney “He’s a pretty good player, [laughs] I just found that out.” Renney noted that Nugent-Hopkins played well, but that he doesn’t want to overdo it, especially with the Oilers taking on the Flames Saturday night.
Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist and of his line had a great game plan “Get the puck to Nuge and let him do what he can do.” This may only be Eberle’s second NHL season, but he is certainly proving himself to be a resourceful and successful NHLer and a true asset to the Oilers’ team. There have been trade rumours circulating, as there always is, but as soon as you see Eberle as one of the trading pieces, you know that it will never happen.
Eberle also had a positive review of netminder Khabibulin’s play. “Khabi closed the door. He’s been a guy that we’ve had confidence in all year. He makes the save, and then he makes the second save if we need it so he’s a guy we have confidence in making a save back there and if we do make a mistake, and we made a few tonight, that he’s going to shut the door.”
Gabriel Landeskog was surprisingly quiet on the night, but that certainly doesn’t mean that he’s not a good or even great player. Not every rookie will have career games every night, and this was the Avalanche’s second game in a back to back Alberta series.
The entire Avalanche team looked to many Oilers fans the way their team looked Wednesday night, but with playoff dreams still in the hopes and on the Christmas wish lists of many andy and every win is greatly appreciated and relished.
The Oilers have already boarded their plane for Calgary and their third meeting of the season with the Flames. If the Oilers can play with the same intensity and focus, they stand a chance.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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