Look at Belanger there, he knows if he doesnt win the draw that he wont touch the puck the rest of the game. Maybe it is the years of watching last placed Hockey but my initial reaction to last night’s display fro the 4th line was “Is Krueger allowed to do that?”
I havent seen an Oilers 4th line that was good at Hockey in a LONG time. Just thinking about having the 4RW play 10+ minutes is weirding me out, but seeing it actually happen was such a welcome sight. Hartikainen played his best game of the season and showed exactly why the Barons were so high on him. He played 13:31 and contributed on both the PP and at Even Strength. He even took a couple shifts higher up the rotation. He showed a lot of Chemistry with his partner in Crime, Paajarvi. That line could have easily blown up in Krueger’s face and looked like an AHL combination but it didnt.
Belanger (and his much maligned Triangle) might not be good for much but he can take Faceoffs better than few else in the NHL, and that’s a great tool to have. In fact, it already helped the Oilers win against the Kings this year when he won the draw to allow Yak’s late game heroics. He does the 4th line a great service in that he can usually provide them with puck possession. Considering the relative inexperience on the 4th that’s a good thing.
Hartikainen is a big body that can crash and bang. He can cycle the well enough to pass at this level and he can play in the corners. He’s going to just start figuring himself out at the NHL and hopefully get a little faster. His body type is going to make him valuable in the Oilers’ lineup. He isnt replicated anywhere and more games like that will force some hard decisions when Ryan Jones comes back.
Paajarvi is exactly the kind of player that will create mismatches on the ice in the Oilers’ favour when that trio is out there. Paajarvi is a good hockey player. He isnt a shooter but he is lightning fast and defensively aware. With Belanger gaining possession off the faceoff the aim would be to get the biscuit to Magnus with some speed because he can back defenders off and draw penalties. Once he’s in the zone he has shown the Chemistry with Harski to stay in the offensive zone.
A 4th line that can play hockey. What a beautiful thing to behold.