FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Wow. The Edmonton Oilers won their first playoff game in a generation last night, and entertained an ecstatic audience that approached rock concert decibel levels. Zack Kassian was Eddie Shack squared, the McDavid line skewered opponents, the Nuge line drilled the toughs, and the Nurse-Benning pairing were sweet music on the third pair. Cam Talbot was fabulous, and we’re on to San Jose tied in what looks like a fantastic playoff matchup.

THE FORWARDS

  • The McDavid line soared like eagles last night, the trio was 17-3 against the Sharks. McDavid’s goal came shorthanded, and was another example of his fantastic speed/cerebral magic. He is so difficult to contain, even a veteran group like San Jose has a lot of trouble.
  • Leon had an effective game, his feet were moving and he was part of the hit parade. On a night he didn’t hit the scoreboard, the big man made himself useful.
  • Patrick Maroon did a lot of good, including a nice chance coming out of the penalty box. I do think he needs to pull back a little, those penalties could have been costly. As is the case with Leon, Maroon had a nice bounceback game.
  • Line was 3-0 in HDSC according to Natural Stat Trick, my guess is they were a little better than that, all told. Had 19 shot attempts on the night.
  • Line went 15-2 with Nurse-Benning, things were heading north lickety-split.
  • As usual, Vlasic (8:28, McDavid won battle 11-3 at 5×5) and Braun (7:55, McDavid dominated 10-2 at 5×5) were the top pairing against the line.
  • Donskoi-Marleau-Ward (97 was 5-2 in about five minutes), Hansen-Hertl-Boedker (McDavid was 8-0 against Hertl in three minutes) and Karlsson-Couture-Pavelski (McDavid was 7-1 against Pavelski in 2:43) shared the load but none of them were successful.
  • I thought we might see Todd McLellan double shift 97 to get him some 5×5 time with Drake Caggiula, but they spent just 43 seconds (2-0) together.

  • The emergence of this line in the final weeks of the season is one of the great storylines to follow this spring.
  • Nuge is getting his offensive game back, driving to the net and using his creativity to get good looks. I have mentioned this before, but Dave Keon talked about getting so focused on the defensive side of the game, he inadvertently sabotaged his own offense. Nuge may have gone through such a period.
  • Effective on 5×5, I thought this line had more scoring chances than in recent days.
  • Eberle drew a penalty as well, this line seems to have figured out how to complement each other’s style. A big damned deal.
  • Lucic was once again a positive on the line, passing well and playing a physical game. Careless stick contributed to the penalty parade, have to clean that up.
  • Once again saw the Martin-Burns pairing most often (6:19, Nuge was 6-3) and the top line in minutes was Karlsson-Couture-Pavelski (Nuge was 9-3 in 8:55 against Couture). Since Nuge played nine of his 11:40 against this trio, we can safely call it a hard match. The fact the Oilers 2line could be so dominant against the Couture line is a very good thing. One caveat: Couture didn’t look to have the same jump as he did in Game 1, we’ll have to monitor his play in the next few games.

  • Zack Kassian, man. He was a man possessed out there, getting the winning goal, hitting everything that moved, and generally being a complete disturber. An extremely effective game from the big man.
  • This trio went 10-5 against the Hertl line, that SJS line did real damage in the first game.
  • HD scoring chances from Natural Stat Trick counted 3-0 while Kassian was on the ice, that seems about right. Brilliant evening.
  • Letestu and Caggiula had their moments as well, this line is emerging as an effective 3line.

  • Line went 1-5 against the Tierney line.
  • You would like to see more from them, and Desharnais needs to be as involved offensively as he was in his first week or so here. He did have moments with the puck, so perhaps things are improving.
  • I like both of these wingers very much. Pouliot is effective on the PK, Slepyshev is among the 12 best forwards on the roster.

DEFENSE LAST NIGHT

  • Nurse-Benning had a very successful evening, starting with mega-minutes alongside McDavid. This pairing and that line meant things were moving quickly most of the time. They went 11-0 (!!!) against the Hertl line, an impressive rebound for Nurse and a major arrow for Benning’s return. Nurse picked up an assist on McDavid’s dash, and took a necessary penalty against Brent Burns when the giant got position on 25. Benning played at pre-concussion levels to my eye.
  • Klefbom-Larsson played a rugged game, and Klefbom’s injury appears to be something he can recover from. Huge deal. Pairing went 5-2 against the Couture line. Larsson is a tough, mean man. I’m not saying he’s Ted Harris but you can see him from here. Klefbom is maturing before our eyes, his wonderful skating, passing and transportation on display.
  • Sekera-Russell played against Couture-Pavelski (4-3) more often than the other lines. Sekera moved the puck well but had a couple of defensive moments, mostly not being able to find the puck in time. A little wobble, but much improved over his previous game. Russell was most noticeable on the PK, including a Burns shot that may have put a dent in his hood.
  • Cam Talbot stopped all 16 shots he faced.
  • Numbers via HockeyStats.ca, NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick.

It was a fantastic game, tense and brilliant and physical. I don’t recall a game this season that was more fun than this one, more please!

Last night the Oilers were doing so much damage I doubt the refs could have called it all, but this should have been charging.

MCDAVID ROAD MATCHUP

Entering the series, I thought the Sharks might run the Hertl line against Connor McDavid (along with the Vlasic pairing). In Game 1, the Couture line got the matchup, although it wasn’t a hard match. Couture-Pavelski v. McDavid in Game 1 was the story for 4:27, 97 was on the ice for 16:14 in that game. I don’t count 25 percent of a game as a hard match, what we saw last night (Nuge v. Couture) is a hard match.

All of which is to say we shouldn’t be worried about the Couture line and Vlasic pairing being hard matched to the McDavid line. Game 1 was a tough one for the line, but along with going 4-5 against Pavelski in that game, 97 went 1-7 against Hertl. I’ve been reading about this demon Couture line so far this series, I’m not buying. If Connor McDavid lines up against that line on Sunday night, expect him to have success. Edmonton’s big issue isn’t Pavelski at 5×5, it’s staying out of the penalty box so the captain can wheel 5×5. That’s the barrier here.

CONDORS FLYING?

Bakersfield lost last night, and will not move on  to the playoffs. That may mean an airlift (well, it’s 391 kilometres to San Jose) of several farmhands to the big club. Among the players who mayIbe considered:

  • R Jesse Puljujarvi. He is 38gp, 12-16-28 in Bakersfield (RE: 82gp, 14-18-32 using the Vollman accelerator), not sure we will see him in the playoffs. However, giving JP a taste of an NHL postseason has value all the same.
  • LD Griffin Reinhart. I’m not sure about where he is in the estimation of the organization, but reports have him playing well (54, 7-14-21) this year and perhaps he’ll receive the call.
  • L Joey Laleggia. He is 66, 20-18-38 for the season, wonderful numbers after the position change. I know he won’t play, but this young man has placed himself on the prospect map, seems to me that is a player who deserves a week or two in the show if only to practice.
  • RD Mark Fayne. It’s the right thing to do.
  • LC Anton Lander. For crying out loud.

 

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222 Responses to "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS"

« Older Comments
  1. frjohnk says:

    leadfarmer: I agree that Oesterle is a bad idea but Fayne is almost as bad.He’s too slow now for the NHL, he was ok 6 years ago but the speed of the league has passed him by.Just like Lander born a decade too late.As far as getting the puck up to the forwards you had it correct at the word TRY.Cause he cant pass so he just gives the puck away.In todays NHL all guys have to act like a 5 men unit in all aspects of the ice.Fayne is a guy you park in front of your own goalie as he does nothing for you anywhere else on the ice.

    Fayne is the D cores version of Lander.

    Slow boots + increased speed of NHL game + not physical + inability to play McLellans defensive system = banished to AHL.

  2. Pescador says:

    OriginalPouzar:
    Holy Crap – the Oilers play one of their most dominating games in years, in the playoffs no less, and quite a few want to make material lineup changes including making changes on pretty much every line?Reasoning is our 4th line center is struggling?

    Really?

    I can understand inserting Lander or Hendricks for DD but inserting JP? Moving Drai off the 1st line, the 1st line that was arguably the best line in the NHL this season.

    Moving Kassian to the first line? The NHL is littered with examples of 3rd liners being extremely effective and beneficial, getting moved up, changing their games and becoming les effective.Lets leave Kass exactly where he is and hope he continues to do exactly what he has been doing.

    These arguments hardly seem original,
    Pouzar

  3. Ryan says:

    frjohnk: Fayne is the D cores version of Lander.

    Slow boots + increased speed of NHL game + not physical + inability to play McLellans defensive system = banished to AHL.

    Nicely done.

  4. admiralmark says:

    So this whole analyzing every hit in an NHL game thing that’s going on? Where we break down frame by frame in detail what body part moved first(and I actually care) is a Playoff thing? I’m new to all this.

  5. Admiral Ackbar says:

    That was a bloody fun game to watch! My sports anxiety hasn’t subsided though…. Now I’m nervous about Sunday’s game. Which Oiler team will show up? Which SJ team will show? Game 1 was nothing like game 2. I have no idea what to expect with only 2 games worth of data!

    Lowetide! Please help me make sense of this! Or take away my pain!!

  6. Admiral Ackbar says:

    frjohnk: Fayne is the D cores version of Lander.

    Slow boots + increased speed of NHL game + not physical + inability to play McLellans defensive system = banished to AHL.

    That is absolutely correct. It sure looks right now though that: Lander with all those imperfections is likely superior to DD (who also hasn’t really proven to be great with TMac’s system.

    I’d take Fayne over Gryba reluctantly except that Benning is (and has proven) that he’s light-years ahead of either vet.

  7. Centre of attention says:

    Bakersfield Condors‏Verified account @Condors 4m4 minutes ago
    More
    After a fantastic season in #Condorstown, @GriffinReinhart is headed up the ladder to join the #OrangeCrush.

    Reinhart on his way up.

  8. Professor Q says:

    Admiral Ackbar: That is absolutely correct. It sure looks right now though that: Lander with all those imperfections is likely superior to DD (who also hasn’t really proven to be great with TMac’s system.

    I’d take Fayne over Gryba reluctantly except that Benning is (and has proven) that he’s light-years ahead of either vet.

    The question is: can he play the Trap?

  9. Professor Q says:

    Centre of attention:
    Bakersfield Condors‏Verified account @Condors4m4 minutes ago
    MoreAfter a fantastic season in #Condorstown, @GriffinReinhart is headed up the ladder to join the #OrangeCrush.

    Reinhart on his way up.

    McDavid was going to get a ‘Hart one way or another…

  10. stephen sheps says:

    Centre of attention:
    Bakersfield Condors‏Verified account @Condors4m4 minutes ago
    MoreAfter a fantastic season in #Condorstown, @GriffinReinhart is headed up the ladder to join the #OrangeCrush.

    Reinhart on his way up.

    I hope this is just to get him some practice time with the big club and that Oscar’s good to go tomorrow.
    But good for Griff

  11. fifthcartel says:

    Is Reinhart the only recall? That seems odd.

  12. npanciroli says:

    What’s the Lander sample size with his good numbers this year without the plugs? Big enough?

  13. digger50 says:

    wheatnoil:
    Thing about Lander at this point is it’a not a question of whether he can play 3C. The question is does he offer more than Desharnais.

    If you’re going to play 6 or less minutes a game at 5×5, you’ve got to bring some secondary skill set. DD doesn’t do that. He’s not great in face offs. He doesn’t PK. With Pouliot and Slepyshev, he doesn’t drive offense. The coach doesn’t seem to trust him either.

    Now, Lander is no screaming hell and offense at the NHL level has always been a question. However, he does have NHL playing experience at center, which puts him over Khaira. He can PK. He’s reasonable on faceoffs, which means you can pop him up late in the game for a defensive zone draw if Letestu has just come off. His offense is questionable, but as has been pointed out by others, he shows flashes over the last 3 years of offense, including this year.

    Ultimately, the argument for Lander is he offers more options for McLellan than DD and has more experience than Khaira in a context of DD not doing much of anything out there since the first couple games of the trade.

    Brilliant.

    It’s about who can help right now looking at the next few games.

  14. jake70 says:

    The Original JDI:
    Trip down memory lane:

    http://www.thesportster.com/hockey/top-20-worst-edmonton-oilers-players-since-the-2004-05-lockout/

    Huggy Bear! Peckman! Barkerlounger!

    No mention of Mike Youredoinahellovajob Brownie though.

    Thanks for the link, that was great. Was chuckling almost laughing the whole read. Mike Milbury back on HNIC ripping O’Sullivan for bailing on a play for fear of getting smoked came to mind. I ‘d be very interested on Hunter’s opinion on these players….nevermind, think I can guess, in fact he probably wrote the article…haha.

  15. jonrmcleod says:

    McLellan said Klefbom is “fine” and will be ready to go tomorrow.

  16. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    NHL Player Safety @NHLPlayerSafety 1m1 minute ago

    Columbus’ Matt Calvert suspended one game for cross-checking Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl.

  17. square_wheels says:

    Woodguy v2.0,

    That means McDavid can break his stick on someone’s head and it’s only worth one game, correct ?

  18. square_wheels says:

    jonrmcleod,

    If Woodguy was the hugging type, he’d totally bro-hug you for that news !

  19. Professor Q says:

    What a stark difference from Simon and Bertuzzi.

  20. theres oil in virginia says:

    The Original JDI: Okay, but incrementally so. I still don’t think it satisfies the definition of ‘leaving your feet’ though, because he did not jump up and into Cooter.

    It’s a veteran move to be able to pull it off without getting called. The interesting thing about it is that this is exactly the fine edge Kassian has to walk in order to be effective.

  21. Lowetide says:

    Professor Q:
    What a stark difference from Simon and Bertuzzi.

    I really liked their earlier stuff, even into the early 1970s. Simon had the better solo career for sure.

  22. square_wheels says:

    Lowetide,

    Do you qualify for Thread Victory points ?

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