So we all know how brutal these back-to-back games can be in the NHL. You’re tired, you have little time to recover and sometimes you can’t do anything more than push yourself as hard as you can, even if it looks like all you’re doing is coasting on the ice. We get that, and especially in this compressed, lockout-shortened season, there are going to be nights when you are off. So it was no surprise that almost the entire Edmonton Oilers squad looked horrific during yesterday’s victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After losing a tough one to the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday afternoon, the Oilers headed to Columbus for last night’s tilt and clearly had nothing left. It’s a good thing Devan Dubnyk got the start in net then, because he saved the team’s collective backside yet again with another stellar performance, stopping 39 of the 40 shots he faced.
With no disrespect to the Blue Jackets, Oilers fans should probably take this win with a grain of salt. If the Oilers had played just about any other Western Conference team last night they probably would have lost. When you get outshot 40-14 in the second half of a back-to-back, you are probably going to lost that game nine times out of ten. The Blue Jackets are not the Chicago Blackhawks or Vancouver Canucks, let’s not kid ourselves.
Even with the return of Eric Belanger from injury, the Blue Jackets still should have been able to win more faceoffs than the anemic Oilers’ centers did and they should have been able to secure more takeaways from the Oilers who pretty much lose this category every single game. And I can’t remember the last time the Oilers outhit an opponent, let alone by a two-to-one margin. It is a testament to how low the Blue Jackets are that they couldn’t beat an exhausted Oilers team whom they outshot by an almost three-to-one margin, and whom they allowed to stay so close to them in the other categories listed previously.
Belanger’s return was nice, Ales Hemsky collected a garbage goal more because of Sergei Bobrovsky‘s poor decision-making in net than any skill on his part and Magnus Paajarvi picked a nice time to score his first goal of the season (a shorty, no less), but Dubnyk was the real hero. He stood on his head and yet again gave his forwards and defense confidence that they might be able to eke out a victory with him in net despite the rest of the squad falling sleep on their skates. By this point there is no longer any question that Dubnyk is the goaltender of the future for the Oilers, and if he keeps performing like this–be it against the Blue Jackets or anyone else–the Oilers are slowly going to start winning more games, even when the rest of the team fails to show up.