by Lisa McRitchie on 10/26/11 at 03:00 AM ET
Oilers beat Canucks 3-2
The Edmonton Oilers are an interesting team this year. They can play seemingly boring hockey for a week straight, then have two games in a row that bring fans to their feet, even while sitting at home. Facing division rivals the Vancouver Canucks this game looked scary to most fans who hoped that it would at least be a manageable pain. It seems that it is these games in particular that bring surprises, and where the Oilers shine. Leading the game 3-0 until the midway point of the game, the Oilers are showing longer glimmers of what is to come.
“They’re not wearing capes, so long as I know. That’s in the comic books. So go out and get them.” Coach Tom Renney says of his team taking on the Cancuks. Despite the fact that the teams finished on the opposite ends of the spectrum last season, Renney feels that his team stands a chance each game.
Several Oilers have been looking and waiting for their first goals of the season, but no players are as eager as the second year players including Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Tonight, Eberle can feel the sweet relief that only your first goal of the season brings. Scoring the first goal of the game, Eberle roofed it on netminder Roberto Luongo who was caught off guard.
The second goal came four minutes later due to the hard work and persistence of Ryan Smyth. Smyth made a wrap around attempt from behind the net which was denied, but the rebound landed on the tape of Shawn Horcoff who was wide open as was the Vancouver net. Horcoff also netted his first goal of the season, cutting down the list of players waiting to start their count.
Jordan Eberle was able to keep the momentum rolling from his last shift as his line made it 3-0 with a well played effort from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Eberle and completed by Taylor Hall. The three quick goals in succession were enough for Roberto Luongo to get the pull. Coming in for relief was Cory Schnieder who was able to play the rest of the night lights out.
Despite the stellar play by Nikolai Khabibulin through 60 minutes, he allowed a second period goal by Cody Hodgson and one in the third from Alexandre Burrows. Khabibulin faced 37 shots, and stopping 35 of them is quite astounding and a welcome relief for Oiler fans. There will still be complaints that Devan Dubnyk should see more starts if he is to be the future of the team, but with another year on Khabibulin’s expensive contract, it is good to know that the Oilers have options and that Khabibulin may be able to do what he was brought in to do, mentor and win.
Of course since this is an Oilers game, there were a few injury concerns. Ryan Whitney tweaked his right knee, and Sam Gagner looks to have twisted his ankle. Both of these players have just returned to the lineup and in the morning, we will find out if they are out once again. Following the game coach Tom Renney said Whitney’s injury is a “bit of a sprained knee” and may be out a few days. On Sam Gagner, the only response was that he’ll be OK. Gagner missed the last half of the third period, and appeared to be in some distress leaving the ice.
Renney like most Oilers fans “Thought Khabi was large tonight, and he was dialed in. I think that he sees the effort in front of him.” Seeing the effort in front of him, Khabi doesn’t want to bear the responsibility or blame for a loss and so is upping his commitment to ensuring team wins.” I think he’s dialed in.”
Tyalor Hall may be new to the league, but clearly he gets the point of division rival games. “It’s great, they’re a team that’s always fun to beat… We’ll take this win. We struggled at times in this game, but overall a win against Vancouver Canucks is great.”
And it’s not only the win that makes Hall happy, he is definitely pleased with the chemistry he is having with his line mates. “Like most other nights, we didn’t give up much defencively and we spent a lot of time in their end. With Nuge [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] in the middle making great passes, Ebs [Jordan Eberle] gets his first one tonight which is great and everyone’s chipping in. “
“We have a lot of chemistry going right now. As much as possible we’d like to play. And we got a lot of ice time tonight; I think that was a part. Tom believed in us in our own end and and we didn’t turn the puck over. So if we can keep that going I’m sure that he’s going to want to keep our line going and hopefully they tell Nuge to stay soon. “
Taylor Hall also had a close call with injury this game, but thankfully left the ice no worse for the wear and maybe a little more prepared for similar situations later in his career. In the second period, Hall looked down at an inopportune time and was the recipient of a clean hit by Alex Edler. “It’s a tough play, I’m fine after the hit, no headaches or nothing. “ Hall said following the game, but recognizes that he could see it again. “If I take a lot of hits like that in my career it’s not going to be good.”
Hall recognizes that taking hits will be a part of the game he plays, and all a part of the risk of an NHL career. “I have to play that way. I have to be the guy that’s going to get the pucks and going to the dirty areas. You’ve got to try to limit them.”
The Vancouver Canucks had a phenomenal night in the faceoff circle, Henrik Sedin was 70% on the night. As such, you would expect the Oilers’ numbers to be lower. Shawn Horcoff fell to 50% on the night but Anton Lander and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins brought their numbers to up 50%. Overall, the Oilers won half of their draws, and so that is a notable improvement. Especially since the major knock against Nugent-Hopkins has been his faceoff wins. Faceoffs can be practiced, and the Nuge will continue to improve.
Overall this was another outstanding effort by a team that had low expectations placed upon it to start the season. As concerning as goaltending and defence were before the season started, the Oilers are quieting the doubters, and although it is far too early, the talk of playoffs has not been met with guffaws of laughter.
The Oilers still have several improvements to make, and will still greatly benefit from a healthy Ryan Whitney, but at least for tonight, things are not looking nearly as gloomy as they may have.
Next up, the Oilers host the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
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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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