Edmonton Oilers fans were treated to another outstanding performance from Connor McDavid last night. The 20-year-old scored a hat-trick, had seven shots on goal and made at least ten dazzling plays. Just in case the NHL forgot how good the reigning MVP is, McDavid provided a healthy reminder of his skill set, and the scary fact for his opponents is he still hasn’t reached his prime.
He scored the first opening-night hat-trick in Oilers history, and he was only the fifth player in NHL history to have a natural hat-trick (three consecutive goals) on opening night, joining right-winger Radim Vrbata from 2013, left-winger Ray Getliffe in 1937, right-winger Bill Boucher in 1924 and defenceman Bert Corbeau in 1919.
McDavid was the first star, and rightfully so, but the Oilers’ defensive game was also excellent.
The Flames generated very little offensively, and Cam Talbot had an easy opening night in goal.
“They played a heck of a team game in front of me,” said Talbot. “It was one of the most complete games we’ve played here in a long time. The guys did a great job of eliminating their odd man rushes and their quality scoring chances and I didn’t have to do a whole lot from there,” continued Talbot.
By my count, Calgary only had two quality chances. They rarely had sustained offensive zone pressure. Talbot didn’t face one rebound situation all night. The quickest shot sequence he faced was six seconds apart. That was the only time the Flames had two shots on net in under 15 seconds. The Oilers defencemen were excellent all-around. I know some people will look at the CF% of the Benning/Russell pair and cringe, but last night was an example of shot attempts that weren’t dangerous. Very few of the Flames shots were from in close. Their forwards combined for only 16 shots. The Oilers defence had 18 shots on net.
“It felt like I was going four or five minutes without a shot. Other than having to make a few saves in the second period I had an easy night. It was great,” smiled Talbot.
It was only one game and it was against the Flames, who ranked 17th in goals for last season, but I didn’t see one major breakdown last night from the Oilers defence. Their structure was sound. They moved the puck efficiently and they rarely allowed the Flames to penetrate the dangerous scoring areas.
Their EV ice time was very even.
The Oilers don’t have a dominant top-15 defender right now, but they have a very good top pair, and last night their second and third pairs were solid.
The forwards helped out as well, and while McDavid was a skating high-lite reel every shift, the Oilers defensive play shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Oilers were seventh in goals against last season, yet many still questioned if their defence is good enough. They don’t have an all-star cast, but they play with structure and they know the system. It is a massive advantage having the same six defenders in the same system in consecutive seasons. When Andrej Sekera returns, they will have seven who know the system. I’m certain Peter Chiarelli will add a defender at some point this season — you can never have enough good D-men in the playoffs — but last night the Oilers D corps showed they can play a sound defensive game, and contribute in the offensive zone.
Klefbom had nine shots on goal and 15 shot attempts. Larsson had eight attempts, Nurse six, Russell and Gryba four and Benning three. Thirty-four attempts from your blueline illustrates how much offensive zone time the Oilers had, but also a willingness from the defenders to be involved offensively.
I repeat, it was only one game, but it was a very solid defensive effort for the first game of the season.
- Strome’s line was the second best forward line. They were around the puck a lot, but just missed some quality chances. Caggiula was feisty, which he must be to be successful, and lead the Oilers with eight hits in 13 minutes. He left the game twice to get repairs, and that disrupted the line’s rhythm a bit, but overall I thought they were good for a trio that has never played in the regular season together.
- Kailer Yamamoto looked nervous, which is normal, and when Zack Kassian was double shifting with Lucic/RNH that line was much better. Yamamoto will get better, but I always remind people the regular season is much different than the preseason. Jason Strudwick said on our show last week he believes the preseason intensity and pace is about 50% of the regular season. It is a major adjustment, especially for young players.
- Maroon and Draisaitl manhandled the Flames defence on the Oilers first goal. Hamonic and Brodie couldn’t handle their size and as the shift unfolded you knew a goal was coming. Skilled size is such a major advantage and the Oilers have a lot of it.
- Some of the Flames offensive players were invisible. I barely noticed Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Backlund or Michael Frolik. Those three combined for one shot on goal. Not a good night.
- The pre-game opening lacked excitement. Good video quality, but it didn’t pump you up. The player introductions were a debacle. The best part was when constable Michael Chernyk walked onto the ice only five days after being run over by a car. He earned a well-deserved standing ovation and ignited the crowd.
THE SEASON LAUNCH PARTY
We’re trying to raise as much money as possible for the victims of last Saturday’s attack in Edmonton and we could use your help. Tickets to the Season Launch Party are on sale now for $30 and will remain on sale straight through until the date of the party, or until they sell out — whichever happens first. Your ticket will also enter you into all of the draws for NationGear prizes and the jersey giveaways that will happen throughout the night.
- Where: The Pint Downtown
- When: Saturday, October 7th starting at 6pm
- Why: Because we’ve got a hankerin’ for some partyin’
- How Much: Tickets are $30 with net proceeds going to the victims of last week’s attack in Downtown Edmonton
- How: Tickets are available here
- Can’t Make It but want to help? We’ll ship the swag bag to you.
For each ticket you buy, you’ll get one of the exclusive season opener t-shirts (shown above), a $10 Denizen Hall GC, a card for FREE perogies and tacos for a year at the Pint, $10 Oodle Noodle GC, a Nation sticker package, and, most importantly, a chance to kick off the season with your Nation brothers and sisters.
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