PRINCIPE: Fruits of your Labour
Gene Principe touches on a number of topics in his latest blog
It is one of the oldest sayings around.
Enjoying the 'fruits of your labour' is what the Edmonton Oilers have done for the last two games. They did so against Nashville and versus Vancouver. An opportunity where your hard works pays off and you get to enjoy. Cue the Oilers on Sunday and Monday night. They put in some hard work and as a result had some scores to enjoy over the Predators and Canucks.
In these last two wins there have been countless items to look at that make you think the corner is about to be turned. That this team is getting more of what they want, understanding more of what is expected of them and what they can achieve when they move forward as a group. It really has been a team effort -- which is the only way to sustain success -- that Edmonton has used to win back-to-back games for the first time in 2014. Here are some of the more obvious and not-so-obvious things to be noticed from two straight victories.
First thing in the obvious column is David Perron. It's obvious to anyone that Craig MacTavish 'Blue' away his St. Louis counterpart Doug Armstrong in this deal. Listen, the Blues -- who are third overall in the NHL -- are just fine without Perron but where would Edmonton be without him? Magnus Paajarvi is a likeable, serviceable player who has potential. Perron is past potential. He's a player. A second career hat trick vs. Vancouver and he has 22 goals. One above his career high and on pace, if my math is right, to hit 34 goals. Taylor Hall is riding a five-game point streak. His second such streak of the season. He had two of these five-game point streaks in his first three seasons and has matched that already this season. Let's not forget Jordan Eberle/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who with Hall has a six point night against Nashville. A number one unit that could, in the not too distant future, challenge any other top trio for first line supremacy.
From the kids to the 'dad' on the team. He has four of his own children but it's the young ones on the Oilers who can't help but be inspired by Ryan Smyth. He'll be 38 on Feb. 21. Here's another number for you: 125. As in Oilers power play goals for Ryan. Tied with Wayne Gretzky and one back of Glenn Anderson. Think of the company Smyth is in. Players he idolized and looked up to. Now he's the one that RNH, Hall, Eberle, Perron and others look up to. Smyth has been part of a fourth line that has provided energy and in the game against Vancouver the winning goal. Jesse Joensuu has played his size at 6'4" 210 lbs. Bouncing in and out of the lineup, he's gained the confidence of the coach. It's helped him believe he has a place in this lineup.
Let's not forget the final member of the fourth line, Luke Gazdic. Wouldn't want to do that. He might shoot a 100 mile an hour puck at me or drop his gloves. He can do both but didn't need to do either against Vancouver. He showed up in warm-up to engage both Zack Kassian and Tom Sestito in a verbal battle. It didn't lead to fisticuffs. It didn't need to because Gazdic made his point. You mess with my team, you mess with me and I won't let that happen. There's also been the addition of another set of fighter hands with Matt Hendricks. He may be the 'new guy' but it hasn't stopped him from being vocal and accountable in a short time. Good elements to add.
There's the goaltending. In back-to-back games it's been stellar. Ben Scrivens made 34 stops vs. Nashville to get win one of his Edmonton career. Ilya Bryzgalov with 25 saves against Vancouver to make it back-to-back wins with different goaltenders. The Oilers need a netminder. In fact, they need two and watching Scrivens and Bryzgalov on consecutive nights makes you think what is achievable for this team if they get the kind of goaltending on display Sunday and Monday night. This friendly battle between Ben and Bryz will help shape where Edmonton is headed in net next season.
A few other things to note. The way Justin Schultz is jumping into the play. Offence is his strength. Defence is Martin Marincin's strength. He's looked good playing on the Oilers blueline. There's Ryan Jones and his reckless abandon and work as a player who provides energy. Nail Yakupov is gaining momentum with his play. Showing off the hands that help tie him for the rookie scoring lead last season. Sam Gagner is starting to get his hands back. Shaking off the pre-season pain and looking more and more comfortable. Bottom line is Edmonton, with a win Wednesday vs. SJ, could tie a season high with three consecutive wins. Another night where victory would allow for 'The fruits of your labour' to be enjoyed by each and every Edmonton Oiler.
Gene Principe is the host of Oilers games on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Oilers