With 3-2 regulation win over the Vancouver Canucks, the Edmonton Oilers won their third in a row, looking to wreak havoc within the Western conference standings.
Last time out, it was the San Jose Sharks that learned that Edmonton is looking to have the last laugh in the tight Western conference. Secure in their assured last place (15th) finish in the West, and most likely the entire NHL, the Oilers are having fun with their new power. The power to frustrate the big guns out West, and to throw major curveballs into others wishes to position well for the playoffs. That was accomplished Tuesday night as they snuck out to a 2-0 lead early in the 1st period, hanging on to win.
After allowing what color commentator John Garrett noted as “soft goals”, he and play by play announcer John Shorthouse posed the question: Should Luongo have played this game? Of course, it’s not a new topic. Many have cast their opinion on whether or not the Canucks organization rides Roberto Luongo too hard.
Garrett didn’t pull any punches when Luongo failed to stay tight to the post when both Tom Gilbert and Robert Nilsson scored 3:56 apart. He pointed out that Luongo ‘cheated’ slightly on both plays, leaving his blocker/ stick side vulnerable, both scorers going high. Quite a number of fans somewhat expected to see backup Andrew Raycroft get the start, particularly after Luongo was pelted with 54 shots versus the Red Wings. The Sportsnet panel weighed in that it would be more of a ‘win-win’ situation if Raycroft played, -not appearing so bad were the Canucks to lose.
Regardless of who should have played, the fact remains: Tuesday essentially destroyed any hope Vancouver had of solidifying one of the top two playoff spots in the West. The Canucks loss, coupled with San Jose downing the Wild, distanced the Sharks by 6 points with 9 games remaining. Though the Canucks play the Sharks again in that period, it’s hard to imagine San Jose or Chicago conceding 4 or 5 additional points, even if the Canucks beat the Sharks Saturday (in SJ).
A lot has been mentioned about the Canucks’ goaltending, but the games’ 1st star, Jeff Deslauriers will be the talk Wednesday around Edmonton water-coolers. He faced 33 shots, stopping 31 for a .939 Save percentage. His best of the night came in tight on Kyle Wellwood, who took a cross-crease feed on the forehand, and pulled it wide to his backhand. He quickly got the puck up, but Deslauriers launched his tall, 6’4 frame from the far post to a sprawled position with his trapper above his right leg, gloving the shot.
Vancouver will try to regroup and put their 26-8-2 home record on the line tonight with the Anaheim Ducks in town. The Ducks allowed the Calgary Flames some optimism at a post season spot; Calgary defeated Anaheim 3-1 Tuesday. The Flames are 2 points back of the Detroit Red Wings for the final playoff spot, likely to play either Chicago or San Jose. The Red Wings hold one game in hand, and would make for quite a wild card if they secured 8th in the West, with their traditional playoff success.