PRINCIPE: #1 Line
Gene Principe takes a look at the play of Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins after a couple of tough tests
Dallas Eakins has said it time and time again that he can, anytime and for any game, throw together the trio of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It's like a scoring security blanket for Edmonton. Always there and comforting when needed. For all the decisions a coach has to make in a season, it would be easy to make the same one all the time. The decision to put Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle together has paid off against the biggest and best teams in the Pacific Division and the NHL.
It was San Jose vs. Edmonton on Tuesday night but it turned into the Oilers top line against the Sharks top unit of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. These three aren't only the best line on their team but maybe the entire NHL. Pavelski is third in the League in goals, Thornton second in assists and Burns a 22 goal scorer. A challenge of epic proportions but one in which the Oilers trio won the battle but lost the war. It was the Sharks who won the game but it was Hall, RNH and Eberle who won the meeting of top units. The stats line for the Oilers trio was 10 points, the Sharks five points. In fact after the game Burns said "they were handing it to us" and that his line took it as a challenge. They stepped up which is also what Edmonton's top line did.
The follow up to San Jose was Anaheim and another tough task. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and pick a left winger as it's been a rotating spot on the left side with the two Olympians. Sometimes it's been Teemu Selanne or Nick Bonino or Kyle Palmieri but let's use Bonino as an example. Here's the evidence of what the Oilers were up against: Getzlaf second in scoring, Perry second in goals and Bonino a 20 goal scorer. Now the Oilers kids didn't run up another 10 point night. Instead held to three while their Duck counterparts totaled four points. You win some and you lose some but sometimes it's about showing up on the ice and scoreboard.
Next year, the year after or soon enough as the Oilers work their way towards playoff positioning it will be Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle that will lead them. While the players and lines mentioned above on San Jose and Anaheim are older they are not ready for retirement. The Oilers young adults will have to work their way through the best in the Pacific Division, who also happen to be the best in the league.
Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle want to win. Edmonton needs them to win. A glimpse of how great they'll have to be was on display against other great players and teams. It was a real look at how Hall/RNH/Eberle can impact a game and their team. If they continue to grow it won't be too many more years before other teams' number one lines start comparing themselves to Edmonton's number one line.