A combination of the Edmonton Oilers finally giving a full, 60-minute effort and a positively putrid effort from the home town Montreal Canadiens resulted in a definitive 6-2 victory at The Bell Center Saturday night.
I could go on abd on about how bad Montreal was, but this column is called Edmonton Oilers Game Grades for a reason. And there is fortunately lots of good to share.
The visitors out-shot the Habs 41-24, chasing Carey Price early in the 2nd period. 13 Oilers skaters got onto the score-sheet. The Edmonton power play, much maligned and rightly so, went 2-for-4. And beleaguered back-up Laurent Brossoit played the best game in his young NHL career.
And that is just the top-line data. Here’s the tale of the tape:
Edmonton Oilers Player Grades
LAURENT BROSSOIT. 7. A redeeming effort from Brossoit. The kid has been the target of much vitriol lately, some of it certainly deserved. But tonight he was rock-solid. No chance at all on the 2 shots that did beat him. His best sequence was a series of point-blank saves late in the 1st Period, after a Kassian turnover. Does Todd play him on back-to-back nights? We shall see.
KRIS RUSSELL. 7. Registered his 11th assist and 13th point, to lead all Oilers D-men, on a smart pass from the point that Khaira and Strome turned into a goal. A warrior in his own end with a staggering (some literally) 7 blocked shots. The Cult of Hockey’s David Staples only ticketed him once for a chance against in 21:10 of hard work.
NATHAN WALKER. 5. Had a shaky first 20 minutes, likely nerves. But Walker got his feet moving in the 2nd Period, which got him more involved. Ended with 2 shots and 5 hits in 12:46. But also had a nasty, D-zone turnover.
MIKE CAMMELLERI. 7. That is as good as I’ve seen Cammelleri play in Oilers silks. Had the puck on a string much of the night. Opened the scoring on a shot in-tight, his first as an Oiler and his first in 37 NHL games. That was one of 5 shots on the night.
JUJHAR KHAIRA. 8. Terrific. Skated extremely well. That quickness on the fore check help create the chance that he capitalized on for the 2-0 goal. Then absolutely leapt on a give-away for the 3-0, after starting the play with an effective cycle. Added 3 hits and was 100% on the dot. Has earned at least one more game on the 3rd Line. Named the game’s 1st Star.
RYAN STROME. 6. Showed real hustle on the forecheck to help create the 2-0 goal. And then chipped on a 2nd assist on Kara’s second goal. He is not the flashy offensive player he replaced on this roster. But is starting to chip in a bit more regularly. Added a shot and 2 hits in 14:09.
PATRICK MAROON. 4. You expect more from a veteran player than the misconduct penalty that Patrick Maroon took late in the 3rd period. When a team has been this brittle recently, especially late in games, when you don’t get a call on an icing play that wasn’t really that close, you shut your trap.
DARNELL NURSE. 7. Almost graded Darnell Nurse an “8”. After all, he played 21:13, had 4 blocks and was +2. But the fight he accepted with Andrew Shaw in the 2nd period with a 3-0 lead was not just needless…it was dangerous. What if that scrap gets Montreal back into it? Darnell cut up his hand, but if he busts a knuckle? At that point in the game — and I believe fighting has a place in the game — you need to skate away.
MILAN LUCIC. 8. Was flat-out terrific. Lucic has been quite good for a while now. But tonight, he and McDavid were magic together. Broke an 0-18 team power play drought with a laser wrist shot on the 4-1. Rang another one-timer off the post. A key play led to the otherwise-luck Klefbom goal. His passing was crisp and accurate, but also played mean, adding in 5 hits.
LEON DRAISAITL. 6. Finally, finally registered his first power play goal of the season on the 4-0 goal. Had 2 shots and was an impressive 64% in the faceoff circle. 4-0 goal. Lost his check on the 6-2 goal, which came on a delayed penalty after Leon dumped a Habs player in front (I dropped him a grade for the coverage error, but the penalty probably saved a goal, so did not for that). Also drew a penalty.
ZACK KASSIAN. 5. Had all kinds of jump in the 1st period. Then, with a 2-0 lead, committed a bad give-away with all kinds of time to clear the puck, which led to a prolonged fire-drill, and forced Laurent Brossoit to make a couple big saves. Was set-up all along in front by Connor McDavid, and came away without a shot on net. The effort was there, the results were not.
MARK LETESTU. 5. A solid feed to Klefbbom led to the back-breaking 5-1 goal. Back to his old self on the dot (64%).
OSCAR KLEFBOM. 7. The best defensive game Oscar had played all season. Led the club in icetime at 23:19, including on both special teams. Had 3 shots, one of which found it’s way into the net off a Montreal defender. Blocked 4 shots, and did not comitt a single giveaway all night. Was part of a tough sequence after the Nuge give-away. Otherwise, More, please.
JOHANN AUVITU. 7. As good of a 2-way game as I have seen the Frenchman play. Did get stretched out on one play, but fought back and prevented the resulting 2-on-1 from ending up in the back of his own net. Scored a lovely goal on a great feed from McDavid. That was one of 4 shots he had in 13:08.
MATT BENNING. 4. Got puck-watching and flat-out lost his check on the 4-1 power play goal against. Also committed 3 give-aways, and missed a cross-seam pass after the Nugent-Hopkins lost a puck battle. Not his best effort, by a long shot. That he ended +1 shows the basic flaw in that stat.
BRANDON DAVIDSON. 5. Davidson had a solid game in his own zone. A less high-event player than Eric Gryba, Davy had 5 shot blocks against his old club. Did have one notable give-away, and took a penalty which resulted in a Montreal power play goal. Started the play on the Auvitu goal with a sharp take-away. Earned another start.
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 5. Did manage an assist on the opening goal. But was pretty quiet after that, managing only one shot, and lost a puck battle in the first which led to a prolonged shift in their own zone. Has been much, much better than this.
CONNOR McDAVID. 9. Supernova. Pure dumb luck and an absence of finish by a couple of his linemates were all that stopped #97 from having a 4 or 5-point night. A gritty recovery in the O-zone led to the 4-0. Put the pass right on Auvitu’s tape for the 6-1. Set up both Lucic and Puljujarvi for chances that found iron. Looked healthy, rested, and Connor-fast for the first time in a few weeks. Was chosen the game’s 2nd star, but with all due respect to J.J. Khaira, Connor was the best player in the rink. What a sublime talent.
JESSE PULJUJARVI. 7. I thought the kid had the 2-0 goal, after ringing a Milan Lucic feed off the cross-bar, fooling most everyone on the ice, the referees and the goal judge, it was such a laser. But it was correctly called back. Was part of the beautiful sequence that led to the Auvitu goal. Had 5 shots in 13:39. Keep firing away, kid.
The 2 points were essential, as Calgary was to play Vancouver later Saturday night, so Edmonton would have lost ground to at least of those teams, and are presently chasing both in the Western Conference WIld Card Race.
Big back-to-back game in Toronto , Sunday. Which Oilers team will show up, I wonder?
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