by Lisa McRitchie on 03/25/12 at 08:30 PM ET
Oilers beat Blue Jackets 6-3 in rare afternoon victory
It is official, the last place team has been determined and for the first time in three years, it’s not the Edmonton Oilers. Of course speaking to some Columbus fans in the stands, they believe that they will not be lucky enough to actually draft first overall. To that I say, you just never know.
This Oilers win also means that the Oilers are no longer the worst Canadian team, at least for now, and because they are now tied for 71 points with the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders.
The Oilers have had mixed luck in Columbus this year. In two games, they have lost two players to injuries in the same exact corner of the rink. Taylor Hall as we all remember took a spill into the corner and then received a scary cut from the skate of Cory Potter during the game’s warmup and then on Sunday afternoon, Theo Peckham was on his knees playing the puck and was checked into the boards, face first by Rick Nash. Peckham would not return to the game, and Taylor Hall couldn’t play at all. Coincidentally, Hall had a concussion and was unable to play this game as well. Nash would receive a boarding penalty, a 2 minute minor penalty, and play would go on.
While Nash will likely not be receiving a Shanniban, the situation may or should have been different. Nash is one of the top grossing players in the league, and he is played to make split second decisions and actions. Peckham was already on his knees and wasn’t going anywhere with the puck.
Although this was another “battle of the basement” or even “toilet bowl” there were still some feelings of excitement. That may have been due to the fact that there were so many Oilers fans in the crowd, so many that had also made the trip from Edmonton for the game. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a group of fans so large during warmup since my trip to Tampa Bay.
The unlikeliest of Oilers have been scoring this season, and that trend once again continued. Goals from Ladislav Smid (5), Ben Eager (8), Chris VandeVelde (1) and Eric Belanger (4) who scored shorthanded on the empty net helped ensure the Oilers win, but the goals by Sam Gagner and Ryan Jones secured the two points.
VandeVelde received the call up from Oklahoma City this week, because Shawn Horcoff has been suffering back spasms and likely because the Oilers would like to have a final look at the young centreman before deciding what to do with him this summer. The Oilers now have a plethora of young players that they need to find places for, or let walk; it’s too late to be trading players whose entry level contracts will expire this summer. The second period from VandeVelde was his first ever NHL goal, and something he will never forget, no matter where he plays his next season.
Ryan Jones’ goal combined with his two assists earned the feisty winger the first star of the night. Jones very nearly added to those totals a fight, but the officials were keeping tight reigns on this game and made sure to keep the players separated as soon as any play was whistled down.
It was also two assists night for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Whitney and Jordan Eberle. These two assists move Nugent-Hopkins to 48 points in 56 games. With that, he pulls ahead of Adam Henrique who as 47 in 67 and ties with Gabriel Landeskog who has 48 in 77. The Calder is for the most prolific scoring rookie, I don’t see how Nugent-Hopkins couldn’t fit that bill at this point in the season. These are exciting times in Edmonton, especially when you add in the fact that Jordan Eberle is #10 in NHL points and with only 8 penalty minutes has to be considered for the Lady Byng. Many will say that he hasn’t paid his dues and will not win the award, but his efforts and results are noticeable. It will be interesting to see how his career progresses from this sophomore season.
The Oilers’ scoring and offence had a lot to do with the speed and skill of the Oilers’ forwards, but unfortunately for Blue Jacket fans, the poor play of Steve Mason had a lot to do with the final tally. The Mason would receive the mercy pull for the start of the third period in favour of recent call up Allen York, but the score was already 5-2 for the Oilers. York flashed the leather on a number of saves, and to his credit was not beat through the final two minutes, the final Oilers goal was on the empty net.
For Columbus fans, they are not sure how to take the Rick Nash situation, and hope that he will be with the team through the remainder of his contract, especially when Nash score the team’s second goal of the night on a penalty shot that brought the arena to their feet.
With only a handful of games remaining for each team, there is some relief in knowing that it will all be over soon. Both teams know that they will have excellent draft picks, and for the Blue Jackets that this summer will be the opportunity for the players to heal and recover. Oiler fans are expecting the team to draft a top defenceman, but depending on where the team lands, it may still be a forward. No matter what, the team will draft the best player available. Thankfully, there are several of those to be had this June in Pittsburgh.
The Oilers will now travel home to host the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night. Looking at the schedule it appears as though this win against Columbus may be the last victory of the year, but a successful road trip, 3-0-1 and the recent resurgence of players such as Ales Hemsky may indicate otherwise.
The other side:
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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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