Hall best player in Oilers loss

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

He didn’t score a goal. Didn’t get an assist. And was a minus one.

But Taylor Hall was the most dominant player on the ice.

And the game he played Thursday night at Rexall Place against the Minnesota Wild should shut up the lunatic fringe.

While he was the second star because ex-Oiler Kyle Brodziak scored two goals and because the Wild won the hockey game, in his fifth game as an NHL pro, the No. 1 pick in the draft was the best player on the ice. Period.

On a night when he was “demoted” to the third line and a night when Tyler Seguin recorded his third point of the season for the Boston Bruins, Hall was still stuck with one assist to show for his rookie season so far.

But he was everywhere. He played possessed. He did everything but score his first NHL goal.

He played 20:29 minutes — a full nine minutes in the third period as the Oilers battled to get back in the game — had two shots on net and six which missed.

One hit the post.

Two more were blocked.

He was a horse and you couldn’t watch him last night and not think Mark Messier.

“It was reassuring, no question, because he has been in question, although not internally at all,” said head coach Tom Renney.

“From what I can gather there are some out there who think that maybe he shouldn’t be here,” he said of the wackos who somehow decided after his first four games he should be sent back to junior when the window closes with his ninth NHL game.

“I’m not suggesting for a second that people shouldn’t have an opinion. But he has proven to me from the get-go that he belongs in the National Hockey League. He just made another case for himself (Thursday) night.

“We believe in this kid.

“He hasn’t had a bad game yet.

“He certainly has had a best game now.

“I thought he has been good prior to this as well. The game against Calgary in Calgary. I think it’s going to be ‘arrow up’ for this kid in every way imaginable and the same thing for our team.”

Hall has been spending the last few days being asked the same question over and over and over — about being moved to the third line.

But the move by Renney put Hall against different defencemen than the top two he was facing before he ended up being placed with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule.

“You make those moves for a reason and you hope that things work. He had a strong game (Thursday) night. His line was good. I loved that line (Thursday) night.”

His roommate and former line mate Jordan Eberle, who collected another assist to make it three points for the season, made a pretty strong statement when it was over as well.

“It’s amazing how he was handling things. You guys were all over him a bit and he was brushing it off. He was playing his game and being himself. That’s amazing to see in an 18-year-old.”

For his part, Hall was as poised after the game as he had been all week.

“If I focus on doing the same things I did (Thursday) night, eventually there’s going to be production. It’s all about your consistency level,” he said.

“As a line, we had some chemistry and we were working very hard. We created a lot of stuff driving to the net. We battled for the puck. We competed.

“I put myself in position to go into areas with speed. I don’t have anything to show for it. I wish they’d start going in.”

He came so close, inches on more than one occasion.

“My goal was to get five shots in this game. I just want to keep getting the chances.

“You want to get in a groove where the puck is on your stick and keep it going.

“Other than the score sheet I thought I put part of the things together I want to be putting together. Even though we didn’t win, I thought it was a pretty good game we played.”

And Hall played and played and played.

“Tom is the kind of guy who rewards you. He doesn’t play favourites. If you deserve the ice time, you’re going to get it.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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