The 2011-12 Edmonton Oilers are ripe with young talent, whose development individually and as a group is evident in each game they seem to play. They’re 4-2-2 on the year and 4-1-1 at home in Rexall Place. Edmonton has won its last two against Vancouver and the New York Rangers.
While the Oilers are in the midst of a rebuild, if there’s one team that understands what a young, skilled lineup can do, it’s the Capitals.
“It’s always nice to see when young kids come into the league and they dominate most the time everybody,” Alex Ovechkin said. “I remember when I was 19, 20 years old, everybody so excited to play against us because they know we have young team with Backie, Greenie, Sasha, me. So right now they have the same kind of situation.”
The “kid line” of rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 18, and second-years Taylor Hall, 19, and Jordan Eberle, 21, lead Edmonton in scoring, having combined for eight goals and 22 points.
On Wednesday, Ovechkin was asked how familiar he was with the Oilers’ youngsters and was told that Hall figured the Washington captain didn’t know who he was.
“I know him, I met him a couple times. I met him last year in All-Star game; he probably forget it,” Ovechkin said, jokingly. “He’s superstar; he don’t know small guys like me right now.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau won’t have the benefit of the last change to match his shutdown line against the speedy trio constantly, so it will be interesting to see how the Capitals counteract that particular group of Oilers.
Washington will also need to find a way to solve veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who Boudreau said “is playing as good as I’ve seen him since his Tampa days.” Khabibulin is second in the league with a 0.97 goals against average and third in save percentage at .963; he’s stopped all but five of the 134 shots he’s faced in five games while going 3-0-2.
One difference between the young Oilers and the Capitals group from several seasons ago, Ovechkin pointed out, is that there is a different level of scrutiny here and a much brighter spotlight, regardless if the team is working through developmental years.
“It’s hard situation,” Ovechkin said. “When we was [young] I think when you compare Capitals and Edmonton right now — Capitals in the U.S. it’s not like more attention. Right now, here you can see cameras all over the place and it doesn’t matter how you play, you’re still going to have attention.”