Not long ago an injury to a starter in the Edmonton Oilers line-up would drop diehard fans to their respective knees as they prayed to the hockey gods for a miracle. Or at least a quick recovery.
Back then in the BC (Before Connor) era, fans and experts alike knew the fragile Edmonton Oilers line-up couldn’t take an injury and stay successful.
Back then injuries always messed up the Edmonton OIlers.
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By successful I mean the win/loss ratio stayed the same. In past years it was more losing than winning and injuries resulted in much more losses and much fewer wins. We Oiler fans know that feeling too well. We’d bury our heads in the sand, hum silly tunes and hope the reality changes.
It never happened and the Oilers kept their losing ways in the wilderness.
But those losses are last year and beyond. If the hockey gods are willing, We hope the Oilers make the post-season for many decades.
Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Detroit red Wings at Joe Lewis Arena Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Really, Oilers fans have suffered enough. It doesn’t matter what those Calgary Flames fans say, we have had enough and we’re not going to take it anymore.
Of course, that’s up to the Oilers.
A little juggle here, a line tweak there.
Prior to their 2-1 win over Detroit, the Oilers knew Jesse Puljujarvi, Kris Russell and Zack Kassian were on the mend. Kassian’s strong play put him on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot.
Coach Todd McLellan gave thumbs up to Puljujarvi making significant strides every game. Playing with Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon he is a force to be reckoned with, possessing a quick release and defensive smarts.
Corsi? What about it.
The Corsi statistic on Russell says he is an ineffective player. Corsi is a complex compilation statistics of NHL playesr in even strength situations. it counts shots for/against and shots blocked and shots missing the net.
But, I digress.
Russell has good puck moving abilities and was one of the leading shot blockers in the NHL. So, get out of here with the Corsi stat.
Anyway, the beauty of this season, and we don’t want to see a flood of injuries, is a player goes down and a replacement steps in. The team doesn’t skip a beat. Russell comes out, Gryba steps in and delivers. He continued his steady play on the blueline finishing the Detroit game with a plus/minus of 0. Not bad for a player ranked 7th on the Oilers defense chart.
Puljujarvi and Kassian go down while Taylor Beck and Anton Slepyshev draw spots on the fourth line centred by Anton Lander.
injury equals opportunity.
The opportunity door opens for Tyler Pitlick and Mark Letestu. Moving up means they play more minutes with offensively gifted players.
An excellent chance to take full advantage of a good opportunity
Letestu joined Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot on one line, while Pitlick gets to play with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl.
A pleasant surprise, but not a real surprise is the play of Pitlick. Not only did he score a beautiful wraparound goal off Lucic’s shot, he ended the game at plus one and got named the third star.
I wonder how he would look playing beside Connor McDavid? He’s bigger than Jordan Eberle, has more goals and players fewer minutes per game. But Eberle is a minus-six on the season playing with McDavid, who is a plus two.