The Edmonton Oilers are now at the All-Star break with Jordan Eberle in Ottawa to enjoy the festivities. The Copper and Blue ended their pre-break week with 2 games. After that debacle against the Calgary Flames last Saturday, it wasn’t looking promising.
The coaching staff worked the team’s asses off in practice on Sunday. According to reports it was as close to a bag-skate as you could get. Did it work? At least in the short term it appears so.
The team was home to the San Jose Sharks on Monday night and came up with a great effort. It ended with a 2-1 shootout victory. The team played hard and worked hard. They still made mistakes but like in October, they got the goaltending to bail them out. Devan Dubnyk has not been the “goalie of the future” that the organization thought he would be. Monday night was hopefully the start of him playing like he is. He was spectacular in making 44 saves in regulation and another 3 on 4 attempts in the shootout. This was a game that both he and the Oilers needed. It was a game that the officials let the teams play, except for one glaring error, and it was a fun game to watch. The only call by the zebras that was questionable was the 5 minute kneeing penalty to Ales Hemsky along with the game misconduct to go with it. Intent to injure? First off, how can anyone determine intent unless they can read minds. 2 minutes for tripping I could live with but a major was over the top. Second, it is Ales Hemsky. The same player who hasn’t shown much of anything this year and is hardly known as a dirty player.
We had a bit of discussion on Twitter about that call with @SportsnetSpec responding to my question about knowing the intent of a player with: “How do we think we know when hits are intentional or not? And, why should that matter?” @Magisterrex responded to that with “Uh…because it’s Ales Hemsky? Not exactly Andy Sutton-like.” We all know that Hemsky’s only intent on the ice is to score goals. Injuring another player isn’t in his make-up.
The Oilers then flew to Vancouver for a Tuesday night tilt with the Canucks. This was a game many expected the Oilers to be blown out of. What with the game Saturday, bag-skate practice on Sunday and the game Monday. We were to be surprised again. Another great effort by the team and another game taken to the shootout. Unfortunately the Oil dropped this one 3-2 but 3 points out of 4 against 2 very good teams was not something most were thinking about after that game Saturday but it was definitely a good 2 games. Again, the zebras let the teams play the game and there were only 3 penalties called. Devan Dubnyk got the call again and again was fantastic. This was the first time in his NHL career that he had played back to back games and made a statement to be the guy the team relies on over the course of the last 33 games.
I think that most of us are looking forward to those last 33 games if we get the same kind of effort we got Monday/Tuesday. I think we will all be wearing bags on heads if we get the same effort that we got against the Flames. The Oilers currently sit 29th in the league with a 9 point lead on last place Columbus Blue Jackets. If the Oilers do manage to finish the season in 30th, then everyone will be demanding heads on a silver platter. Looking forward in the standings they clearly have 6 teams within 6 points and could easily finishe 23rd. I personally would be happy with great a great effort by the players but for one last time I would be happy with them finishing 28th or 29th. ONE LAST TIME!! This will allow them to draft that stud defenseman that every team needs. They currently have some good prospects but no one who will be that play every situation and soak up the minutes that the stud defensemen do.
So here’s to a good last 33 games. A good honest effort every (most nights) and some team chemistry being fully developed. Here’s to Devan Dubnyk putting the stamp on the starting job for next season and here’s to one last top draft pick to finish off the drafting part of the rebuild.