Every now and then, you need your goaltender to steal one. The Oilers, playing on back-to-back nights, received such a performance from Devan Dubnyk tonight.
He was spectacular for Edmonton and made 39 saves in the winning effort, his fifth win against the Blue Jackets in the last six tries. The 6-foot-6 former first-round pick (2004) made it seem like everything was hitting him square in the logo, and it befuddled the Blue Jackets who never relented.
It was a hellacious third period spent mostly in the Oilers end, and the Blue Jackets had the gas pedal down the whole way. Check the puck back, transition quickly and get right back in on the forecheck: they did this over and over and over, generated 40 shots on the game and were dominating for the majority of the game. This game hung in the balance until its 57th minute, and it came down to execution.
Magnus Paajarvi scored a huuuuge goal for the Oilers, a shorthanded tally with just 3:10 left on the clock when all the momentum was turned against them. The Blue Jackets pushed feverishly in the third period and kept all four lines involved, and their power play chance at 15:09 was an opportunity they had earned in the previous two periods. It was right there for them, but Sam Gagner made a great play to change everything.
The results are the only thing missing for Todd Richards' club right now, but the good news is they get right back on the horse tomorrow night against the San Jose Sharks on home ice.
Let's break it down with my post-game analysis from the Nationwide Arena press box:
1. Moving the process along: The key for a young, developing team is keeping things moving in the right direction. Richards said post-game that he thought his team took a step forward tonight in many areas, whereas he saw them going backwards in previous games. What it boils down to: they played a better game tonight than they did Thursday vs. Calgary, and a better game Thursday than they did against Los Angeles two nights before. Results are an unpredictable variable, but if you put the work in, you like your chances in the long run. The Blue Jackets have proven they're ability to improve from game to game, and that's an encouraging sign.
2. Shooting the puck: This has been an area of focus for the Blue Jackets, and tonight, they executed better in the offensive zone. They got traffic in front of Dubnyk and kept firing away, forcing the goaltender to make saves and creating problems for the Oilers defensemen. Nick Foligno, Artem Anisimov and Jack Johnson all put five shots on target and Umberger had four of his own.
3. Carry it over: Now that this game's in the past, the next game is the most important one. The Blue Jackets have a very good team in their building tomorrow night, one that's off to a darn good start in this abbreviated season. The Sharks can score, they're physical, and they test all aspects of your game. Over the course of a season, teams will likely win more than they lose with a lopsided shot total and scoring chance differential like we saw tonight, but this effort is nothing to be content with; a similar effort and performance tomorrow night is one way to generate a different result.