Two games into the NHL season, and the questions were already flying concerning the Edmonton Oilers. Not that this set of circumstances is any different from every other team in the league right now, but it is fair to suggest that the Oilers are one of the teams under a more intense microscope at this point, given all the youth, talent and expectations that are starting to be associated with this club.
After being absolutely railroaded by the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night, people were questioning whether or not Devan Dubnyk really has it in him to be an elite goaltender, whether the inexperienced Oilers as a whole will be able to do any damage this year, or if they are just going to be titanic flops yet again. Lost in all of the melodrama has been the fact that teams simply get blown out sometimes. It is not the end of the world, and the Oilers demonstrated this fact by coming out and playing a brilliant game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings last night.
Yes, the Kings are scuffling big time, having only scored four goals in their first three games, but last night was yet another example of the roller coaster ride Oilers fans should expect for the rest of the season. Not only did they bounce back in largely impressive fashion on the defensive side of things (Dubnyk was particularly stellar in net), but they kept digging in and believing they could do the impossible despite the obstacles that confronted them.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins‘ equalizer with 65 seconds left in regulation was erroneously denied by officials who said Sam Gagner was in the crease despite his having been pushed into the crease by defenseman Rob Scuderi, and Nail Yakupov was absolutely robbed by Jonathan Quick twice in the game on shots that would have been goals against most netminders. But did they give up? No. They kept swinging, both metaphorically and literally, as Yakupov’s baseball-swing of a shot with 4.7 seconds left sent the game into overtime before, ironically, Gagner scored the winner.
In the past, Oilers teams would have wilted in the face of these and other obstacles. They would have felt defeated, their body language would have suggested as much and they would have lost this game. But this is the same game that featured newly-acquired Mark Fistric‘s first forceful appearance on the ice as he drilled Jordan Nolan near the end of the first period. This game also featured Yakupov racing and sliding down the ice to his end in absolute ecstasy after scoring the game-tying goal. The Oilers were hungry to show the league their mettle and they put their passion on display throughout the game, even down to the bench-clearing OT celebration that you would think was associated with them just having won the Stanley Cup.
This season will be rough for the Oilers at times, but last night they proved why they are slowly making strides and will soon be joining the league’s elite for a long time to come.