Oilers oldsters flying
ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
|Oilers forward Ryan Smyth celebrates a goal against the Blues at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Oct. 30, 2011. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/Reuters)
EDMONTON - The Kid Line is getting all the headlines, but the Lid Line of Ryan Jones, Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff — two guys with classic hockey hair and one who gained a little attention for his cap number — has been every bit as important to Edmonton’s mind-bending start this season.
In the last eight games (six of them wins, one of them an OTL), the trio has not only shut down the likes of Alex Ovechkin and the Sedin Brothers, but still found time to combine for eight goals and 20 points.
“Just good, old fashioned hard work,” said Horcoff, who’s also won 54% of his 220 faceoffs and ranks 10th in the NHL in total ice time among forwards. “We all feel pretty comfortable with each other. We’re skating well and we’re getting in on the forecheck, trying to create some battles, we’re getting pucks to the net, crashing there and getting rewarded.”
At 35, 33 and 27, Smyth, Horcoff and Jones have a few years on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle (18, 19 and 21), but they’ve still got game.
“That’s been an unreal line for us,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “They’re great at both ends of the ice.”
They’ve been a big reason why Edmonton’s goals against average is best in the NHL.
“We feel we’re creating lots of chances out there and a lot of nights we’re out-playing the top lines that we’re out against, so we feel good about that,” said Horcoff. “Our philosophy is the more we can play in their end, the easier it’s going to be on us in our end.”
Not only do the Oilers have supplemental scoring for the first time in years (actually, they also have primary scoring for the first time in years), but the veterans’ sense of timing is perfect.
Three minutes after David Backes tied it for St. Louis on Sunday, Smyth changed it back. Twenty-seven seconds after Colorado closed it to 2-1 in the third period on Friday, Smyth restored the two-goal lead.
“Smytty is a guy who you know exactly what he’s going to do every game,” said Jones, who’s stepping in for the injured Ales Hemsky. “He’s made a career of doing the things that he does well every night. He’s going to go to the net. And Horc is one of the most responsible guys I’ve ever played with. I just try to create space for them, put pucks where I know they’re going to be and let them do what they do best.”
With 10 points in his first 11 games, even Smyth wasn’t expecting this kind of start.
“Probably not, not this early,” he said, adding the youthful exuberance of the kids on the team is contagious. “It’s awesome, whether it’s practice or games it’s a thrill to watch, you feed off it.
“For older guys like myself, I can still learn, and I want to learn. I can learn by watching. And hopefully with my experience it can be a two-way street.”
When they watch the way Smyth, Jones and Horcoff play, they’d be well advised to pay attention
“Smytty is such a good leader, he’s just an Oiler,” said head coach Tom Renney. “I’m very proud of the fact it means so much for him to be here. He really tries to lead by example, say the right thing, play the right way. He’s a heart and soul guy, You need your young guys to see what that looks like and feels like.”