Author of the article:

David Staples  •  Edmonton Journal

Publishing date:

Feb 09, 2021  •  18 hours ago  •  7 minute read

Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid (97) skates against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA Today Sports

Article content

The story of the night, the Men of the Hour, the heroes of Oil Country? Mike Smith and the Grinders.

Smith played a great game in net, fourth line ace Tyler Ennis scored a glorious and timely goal, and his linemates Josh Archibald and Jujhar Khaira hustled, hit and battled, as the Oilers beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on Monday night.

Edmonton’s defensive effort will warm the heart of the team’s coaches, as the Oilers thwarted the Sens at every turn, especially as the game went on. Edmonton’s third period checking and defending was outstanding.

The final Grade A scoring chance tally was 11 for the Oilers and six for the Leafs (running count).

Connor McDavid, 7. He worked his heart out this game, leading the team in hustle. He created the game’s first Grade A chance deking right through the Sens on an end-to-end rush before going backhand on Sens goalie Matt Murray. It was the only Grade A chance of the first period, though McDavid came close to creating a number of others, including one just before the buzzer. But his o-zone turnover kicked off the sequence of pain on Ottawa’s first and only goal. In the third, set up RNH on a great chance off of a face-off win, then later set up Jesse Puljujarvi for a one-timer, along with Josh Archibald’s empty-net goal.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 5. He’s not lighting the lamp on the top unit and seems to lack chemistry with McDavid. Quiet game early on but set up McDavid on a breakaway chance early in the third. He then had a Five Alarm scoring chance shot (33 per cent+ chance of going in) but was foiled by Matt Murray. But he’s struggling to drain his chances and I’m still not seeing any obvious chemistry with McDavid.

Jesse Puljujarvi, 6. Not a great game but his third solid game in a row, showing off some much needed consistency here. He came out moving his feet fast and drew a penalty. Hustling hard, he set up Draisaitl for a Grade B chance in the second. Zinged an outside shot off the post late in the second. He almost scored a beauty of his own late in the third on a one-timer off a McDavid feed.

Leon Draisaitl, 6. He looked like he was steaming at 29 Kbps through the first part of the game, such was his slow-mo skating speed. But he made up for it, potting an even strength goal, just his third of the year on just his third Grade A scoring chance shot at even strength this year. Was part of a solid defensive effort in the third period.

Kailer Yamamoto, 6. He made one of the strangest plays of the young season, taking a two-on-one pass from Draisaitl and having a clear shot on net, only to pass back to Draisaitl who was way out of the play by then. His turnover in the second period led to a Five Alarm Ottawa chance, but Yamo was saved more humiliation by a brilliant Mike Smith save. He and Dominik Kahun made sweaty hustle plays to set up Draisaitl on his goal.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

Domink Kahun, 7. Huge effort on Edmonton’s first goal, solid effort and play all game. I liked his effort the best of any player on his line, which is saying a lot when you’re on the same line as Yamamoto.

Kyle Turris, 3. He was pretty much M.I.A. in his 10: 05 of play.

Zack Kassian, 6. He clearly got the message from Oilers head coach Dave Tippett, picking a fight with Erik Gudbranson early in the game. The fight took him out of the game with an injury, a not uncommon event in modern hockey fights.

James Neal, 4. He got off a dangerous jam shot on the power play in the second but otherwise had little impact on the game.

Jujhar Khaira, 7. I liked his game a lot. He moved his feet, checked hard, won battles and played like he’s finally made up his mind to go down blazing if he’s going to go down. He also must have heard Tippett grumbling about Kassian’s lack of physical play because he came out and accepted/instigated a fight with Austin Watson. He followed up with a nasty check on Gudbranson. He had three hits on the night.

Tyler Ennis, 8. His best game of the year, the kind that earned him a new contract last season and will keep him in the lineup this year. His beauty toe drag-and-snipe broke the back of the Sens in the third. He was flying from the start of the game and zinged a tight angle shot off the post early in the second. On a hustle play he won the puck behind the Ottawa net and set up Tyson Barrie for a solid blast in the second. He made four major contributions to Grade A chances for, not a single mistake on a Grade A chance against.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

Josh Archibald, 7. He was all over the ice winning battles. He won a slot battle in the first and almost got off a dangerous shot on net, but just missed. He led the team with six hits.

Darnell Nurse, 7. That’s more like it. Strong game from Edmonton’s best d-man. He made a solid defensive stop on Connor Brown to thwart a shot attempt in the first. He led the team with four blocked shots.

Tyson Barrie, 7. Maybe his best game of the year, simply because he attacked well but also defended well. He rebounded from a woeful outing against the Flames. He was active all game, jumping up into the attack and, this game at least, not getting caught out slacking on his defensive chores. He got off a few nasty one-timer shots early in the second but could not score. But his pinch kicked off the virtuous cycle leading to Draisaitl’s goal. He also pinched smartly and set up Draisaitl on a Grade A chance in the third.

Adam Larsson, 6. Yet another solid game. He was slow to back check and let in Evgeni Dadonov on Ottawa’s first goal, firing the puck into his own net trying to thwart him. He had a bogus penalty call on him late in the second. Otherwise, his game was marked by the smart and fundamentally sound gave he’s played all year in Edmonton.

William Lagesson, 6. He made a bad read and was slow on the uptake on Ottawa’s first goal as well. He redeemed himself in the third, winning a battle and tipping the puck ahead to Ennis on his winning goal. Overall, he’s playing the kind of smart, safe and tough hockey that will convince an NHL coach to keep you in the line-up.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

Evan Bouchard, 5. He’s a bit high event, isn’t he? His slapshot is so hard it hurts opponents, a testament to just how dangerous that weapon is going to be. He made an iffy clearance up the middle of the ice that Ottawa picked off, creating a dicey moment early in the game. He also made some fine breakout passes in the first, redeeming himself a bit. He got deked on the rush by Nick Paul in the second for a Grade B backhand chance. He snapped a power play wrister off the post in the second.

Kris Russell, 4. He continues to battle hard but he’s looking like he’s lost a gear in his skating speed. He got hurt blocking a shot late in the first but shook off the pain to block a Brady Tkachuk one-timer. He failed to clear the puck short-handed, leading to two Five Alarm Ottawa chances late in the second. That sequence could easily have cost the Oilers.

Mike Smith, 8. Loved his game. This was Mike Smith at his best. His puck moving was a huge asset. He made an early save of what colour commentator Louie DeBrusk called the “dreaded knuckle puck” early in the game. He made a strong play half-way through the first period, hustling out to just below the blueline, beating a racing Sen to the puck and passing it up to McDavid, a play that Mikko Koskinen would have struggled to execute. He wasn’t at fault on Larsson’s own goal. A few shifts later, his team down 1-0, he made a monster save on Connor Brown’s breakaway. He made two huge saves late in the second as well on Ottawa’s late power play.

At the Cult

STAPLES: Shots fired! Coach Dave Tippett says it’s an “understatement” that Oilers need more from Zack Kassian

STAPLES: Mysteries of the Edmonton Oilers revealed: Draisaitl’s lack of even strength goals explained

LEAVINS: 9 Things for Sunday, Feb. 7

McCURDY: Leaky goalie, porous defence leads to loss versus Calgary

CBD Oil, 9 Mesmerizing Examples Of Cannabinoid
Find out more