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Oilers Melt Avalanche, 4-1

AJ Haefele Avatar
March 31, 2015

One of the things that makes hockey such an interesting sport is how the unpredictable elements, such as ice and the oddly-shaped puck, combine with the natural speed and flow of the sport. Most of the time the teams with the most talent win out because they’re able to overcome the random elements of the game and convert limited opportunities into points on the board. So many times hockey games come down to who made the most out of the rare situation in which one team has a significant advantage over the other.

Tonight’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers is an excellent example of the latter, where a bouncing puck and the wrong guy in the wrong situation ran into the right guy in the right situation and it turned into the game-winning goal. When Avs defender Nate Guenin got caught trying to deal with a bouncing puck in his own zone, Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz took advantage of the slow-footed Guenin, walked around him, corralled the puck, and beat Semyon Varlamov blocker-side to give his team a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.

The goal by Schultz was the Oilers’ first shot on goal in a 13 minute stretch during a second period the Avs largely controlled and the Avs simply have not been a talented enough team all season to overcome these types of moments. Much respect has been given to the Avs for their resilient fight to stay in playoff contention but when you’re unable to overcome these situations against one of the bottom teams in the league for the second time in five days, you’re looking at a summer of moral victories. The Avs have plenty of reasons to feel good about their second half comeback but their play against the Oilers in a playoff race will not be one of them.

The Oilers got things off to a good start as recently called-up Brandon Davidson scored his first NHL goal 4:49 into the game on a shot Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov usually stops.  The Avs would respond later in the period with Ryan O’Reilly’s 15th goal of the season coming as a result of a beautiful give-and-go play between him and Alex Tanguay. This goal extended O’Reilly’s point streak to 8 consecutive games, a new career high. It would also be the end of Avalanche scoring for the night.

The Avs’ magic number for being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs drops to 1 tonight after the loss and knowing that going in makes the effort against the 28th place Oilers all the more disappointing. After giving up 38 shots to league-worst Buffalo two nights ago, to see the Avs give up 36 shots tonight to the Oilers really drives home the season-long issues Colorado has had with shot suppression.

Not even the typical brilliance of Varlamov, who stopped 32 of 34 shots before giving way to 2 empty-net goals by the Oilers, was enough to kickstart the Avs dormant offense. One of the few positives for the Avs tonight is the continued excellent play of rookie Joey Hishon, who saw only 8:50 of ice time tonight but tied for second on the Avs in shots on goal with 3. Late in the game, Head Coach Patrick Roy even tinkered with his lines some and moved Hishon with Dennis Everberg and John Mitchell, a line much more suited for producing offensive results. Moving forward, it would be in Colorado’s best interests to leave a line like that together for an entire game.

From the feel good part of the sport, Highlands Ranch native and Oilers goaltender Richard Bachman was awarded the 1st star of the game tonight as many of his closest family and friends looked on. Regardless of a negative outcome for the Avs, one has to appreciate when something good happens for a grinder like Bachman, who has made 40 appearances, and just 7 in the last two years, over the span of a 5-year NHL career.

3 Stars of the Game:

  1. Richard Bachman – 29 saves, 1 goal against
  2. Ryan O’Reilly – 1 goal, 4 shots, 22:22 TOI
  3. Justin Schultz – game-winning goal, 3 shots, 22:51 TOI

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