Cary, NC – The Caniacs finally got to see second year phenom, Connor McDavid and he’s everything, and more, that’s been written about him. Even during warmups, he was impressive: his speed is second to none, he’s strong, big, as accurate as a shooter as you’ll fine and can pick his spot like a sniper a mile away.
The Canes held on after an early leady for a tight 2-1 win over the same franchise they won the Stanley Cup over back in 2006. Cam Ward was on the ice then and was on the ice now as, I believe, the lone player from both teams still with their team.
Staal Finishes Pretty Play
The Oilers played the night before in Nashville and these guys are professional athletes so the “they should be tired” theory is more hope than reality. Both teams came out cautious: no risky plays, mostly getting one shot off then the action was going the opposite way for another one shot attack, then returning back in the opponents zone.
The neutral zone became no-man’s land as all plays were rushes from one end to the other. When the defense would collect the puck, both teams made line changes with D-man holding the puck politely until everyone got on the ice. It almost looked like a practice, and like a practice, at one point sitting five levels up I could hear coach Rod Brind’Amour yell “Move the puck.”
Within a nanosecond, the Canes were on the attack as Elias Lindholm banked the puck off the boards on a clear for a pass to Sebastian Aho. Aho, coming off his first career hat trick, brought the puck into the O-zone, passed to Jaccob Slavin on the left point, Slavin passed to Lindy camped out to the left of the goal and made a beautiful saucer pass to Jordan Staal crashing the net down the slot who buried the puck with authority in the net for the 1-0 Cane lead. Knowing Staal had the task of covering McDavid, getting that goal had to be more satisfying knowing you’re contributing on both sides of the puck.
McDavid Shows His Skill And Strength
The play in the second was a little less cautious but still not the run and gun style. Both teams are so equally matched, despite the 1-0 lead the game could have gone either way. The Oilers on paper are a stacked team. They have an abundance of first rounders and despite all the well deserved hype, McDavid entered the game third on their team in goals, granted he has 42 assits which is more than any two Canes combined. He exited the game tied for second on their team in goals as he scored a highlight reel goal just under midway in the second.
After breaking his stick in the defensive zone he got a new twig from the trainer on the far end of the bench and as he was just crossing his blue line Oscar Kelfbom (what a great name) made a head man pass right on McDavid’s tape. With Lindy barely catching McDavid and doing everything within the legal limits to stop him, McDavid barreled down on Ward and somehow put the net top shelf then, Ward, McDavid and Lindy also getting in the net after the puck. Caniacs have seen a guy named Eric Staal do that a time or two years ago.
Aho Nets Game Winner for Second In A Row
Early in the third the Canes got their one and only power play as Staal was tripped in the offense end. The powerplay looked good from the onset as they won every faceoff, made crisp passes, jumped on the puck and seemed to have the sense of urgency. Everything paid off as the young unit was out on the ice. Teuvo Teravainen passed over to Justin Faulk on the high point, Faulk saw Aho lined up on the edge of the far faceoff circle, threaded a pass that Aho one-timed into the near side for what turned out to be his second game winning goal in as many games.
The Canes did not change their game strategy, meaning they didn’t go turtle turning off the offense and concentrating only on defense. The game was still end to end continuously on a fast pace until the final 2:30 when the Oilers pulled their keeper. Ward came up big a several saves, the defense was solid and the forwards were apt at scooting the puck into the neutral zone.
Two other points in the game: the specials teams were perfect, one for one on the powerplay and three for three on the penalty kill, very impressive.
The other was early in the first, speedster Viktor Stalberg crashed into Matt Benning unintentionally behind the Oilers net with both players going down. Stalberg got up after a couple of seconds but Manning laid face down for about a minute. He was definitely injured and showing class and concern, Stalberg was the first player to go over to see if he was OK and I’m sure mentioned he was sorry it happened.
Next home game is Friday, February 17, 2017 against Colorado. Be There!