When you win a hockey game there is no need to look for silver linings, which is an exercise in futility fans of the Edmonton Oilers have endured far too often in recent seasons. There is no need for “we didn’t get any bounces” or “we got screwed by the referees” or “we deserved better, but their goalie was great.” That’s a loser’s lament that gets tired in a hurry. No thanks.
So, as full of holes and imperfect as the Oilers 8-5 win over the woeful Ottawa Senators was Sunday, I’m not of the mind to forget about the bottom line, to moan and groan about how loose the team defence was too often (again), how Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had to carry the mail yet again or fill-in-your-deficiency-here. The Oilers won the game to improve to 5-6-0. They got the two points they needed.
And they did it in front of rookie Stuart Skinner, who looked every bit as nervous as you’d expect in his NHL debut after going 11 months without playing a game. He managed to get in front of 33 of the 38 shots he faced, doing enough to not only to get the points, but provide Mikko Koskinen a rest he needed after 10 consecutive starts. Warts and all, there was a silver lining to go with the points rather than instead of the points.
The power play continued a hot streak, scoring four goals in five attempts. Draisaitl flirted with tying the franchise record for assists in a single game, finishing one short of the benchmark of seven with six. McDavid had a five-point night with a goal and four assists. Tyson Barrie had his best game as an Oiler, making the power play go by humming rubber from the point and picking up a goal and an assist. James Neal had two goals. All this, and the points.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It was a lot of fun to get right into it,” said Skinner, who had a 1-0 lead to work with after just eight seconds and a 5-1 lead after 14 minutes. “They got a ton of shots at the start there. It was nice that we got up a couple. I was a little bit nervous at the beginning. Had to take a couple of deep breaths, lean back and just kind of see everything happening. Stay focused and not get too overwhelmed.”
Yes, Skinner, 22, did look a little overwhelmed at times, but he did enough to give Koskinen the rest he needed without giving away the points the Oilers needed even more. A local boy, one of nine children in the Skinner clan, Skinner got the game puck from Koskinen after the final buzzer. That’s a keepsake for the kid, who’ll be able to settle into the depth chart where he belongs when Mike Smith is healthy and ready to play.
“It’s not an ideal situation for him coming in, but I thought he did a great job,” Draisaitl said. “He made some big saves. We could have helped him out a little more, could have kept it a little tighter, but that’s his first win in his first game and it’s something that he will remember for the rest of his life.”
Draisaitl was nothing less than magnificent. His six assists give him 6-15-21 through 11 games. If there’s a better set up man than Draisaitl right now, I can’t think of a name. He has 6-10-16 in his last seven games. Fresh from another highlight reel effort against Toronto, McDavid was terrific again. Then, there was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a goal and two helpers. And Barrie . . .
THE BOTTOM LINE
There remains work to do, no doubt. They’ll continue to work out the kinks against Ottawa in a rematch Tuesday and then, after facing Calgary Saturday, they get the Senators back-to-back next Monday and Tuesday. The Oilers at least have Koskinen and Smith on the mend. I don’t know what the hell the Senators are going to do in the blue paint. Matt Murray gave up three goals on nine shots. Marcus Hogberg allowed five goals on 22 shots. They stank.
The coaches will break down the video and some of it won’t be pretty. Allowing five goals and 38 shots against the Sens isn’t good enough. The penalty killing, which allowed two goals on five attempts, can get better. Tippett still needs more from his bottom-six forwards. This we know.
“I was thinking about winning,” said coach Dave Tippett. “It’s about a team win . . . “We got Koskinen a rest. We got two points.”
Previously by Robin Brownlee
- Second Guessing
- In the Eye of the Beholder
- The Way I See It
- Opportunity Knocks for Tyson Barrie
- Jesse Puljujarvi: The Encore
- Deeper Blue