The Progress Report: Moving Forward
A sense of optimism surrounds Oilers coming out of All-Star break.
With one game left on the calendar in January and only three wins to show in the month, things have been a little bumpy. Although not the most successful stretch of hockey, the team does enter the All-Star week with some definite positives to build upon.
In the two games prior to the break, the Oilers were able to take three of a possible four points against two playoff teams. While that may not be a season changer by any stretch, it was definitely the type of effort the team and its coach had been searching for.
|Taylor Hall showed grit coming back off a scary injury|
“We are trying to right the ship every time we come to the rink, maybe we’re getting a little closer to being a good hockey team again,” explained Tom Renney.
Monday’s shootout victory over San Jose followed by Tuesday’s effort against the Canucks has spread a sense of optimism through the dressing room. Getting a strong effort in back-to-back games is something the team can carry forward into the rest of the season.
“We have to remember how these type of games feel and use that as motivation going forward,” said captain Shawn Horcoff.
It’s not only two good games that has the Oilers in a surprisingly good place coming out of All-Star weekend, it’s more the combination of a number of positive signs.
First, the play of Devan Dubnyk over the past two games has been spectacular. After stopping 44 of 45 shots in the win over the Sharks, Dubnyk turned aside 33 of 35 shots against Vancouver.
After a season in which a bulk of the goaltending duties have fallen onto veteran netminder Nikolai Khabibulin, the recent play of Dubnyk is certainly encouraging. A scenario where Dubnyk and Khabibulin could work as a tandem to provide steady goaltending night in and night out is just what the team had envisioned at the start of the season.
“When you play good games, you just try to use that feeling about where you are in your net and positioning in order to play more games like that,” says Dubnyk.
|Dubnyk put together two strong outings against high quality teams.|
Another positive sign is the recent return of some key players to the roster. With Taylor Hall back in the lineup quickly after having his forehead stepped on and Jordan Eberle and Ryan Whitney safely back from their injuries, a healthy lineup seems finally within reach.
If we add to this the fact that a number of other key players such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Cam Barker and Tom Gilbert are also getting closer and closer to a return to the ice, the outlook is so much brighter.
The Oilers after all have played a large portion of the season without a lineup that resembles the one General Manager Steve Tambellini put together in the offseason. If the team can get through this next little stretch without sustaining any other major injuries, Oilers fans might actually get to see what the true version of this year’s team is really capable of.
All in all the team seems to be headed in a better direction as of late. Don't look now, but things might just be looking up in Oil Country.