Just like we drew it up. Final Score: 3-2 Oilers in the shootout
The last time the Edmonton Oilers played a hockey game that mean anything left us all feeling crushed, angry, and ready to walk off a cliff after our boys dropped four straight at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets. Needless to say, the vibes around Oil Country were about as bad as they can get and it felt like there was a dark cloud riding along ever since. Thankfully, a new season offers a fresh opportunity to erase those memories and replace them with something a little more fun than the dread and anger that comes with a series sweep. I know I’m biased but I honestly feel like Oilers fans have lived through more than enough heartache in recent memory and that we deserve better than what we’ve got. And frankly, there’s nothing better than the early season Kool-Aid that always goes down smooth as we all dream of better days for our boys and the parties that would come with an extended playoff run. This is the time for those lofty dreams, my friends, and I went into the season opener with plenty of sky-high hopes.
The tricky part of any season opener, however, is having the hockey team show up with the same level of gusto and excitement that we’re all feeling as fans. I mean, if you were following along on social media in the hours leading up to puck drop, it was clear that Oilers fans were ready to put last season behind them and look ahead at a new challenge. And now that fans are allowed back at Rogers Place, I knew without a doubt that tonight’s game would have a playoff-like atmosphere as a barn full of people broke the seal after 19+ months of cheering from home and I appreciate that they did everything they could to make some noise and push our boys forward. And even though I’d say that this game wasn’t anywhere close to perfect — what else can you say when you almost cough up a late lead — the boys did what they needed to do to get the job done and keep the faithful entertained and maybe even a little bit stressed.
At the end of the day, the Oilers were able to close out a win over a team that they should beat more often than not, and it was a result that we all love to see even though the road to getting there was a little bumpier than we would have liked.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Jesse Puljujarvi opened the scoring for the Oilers (1-0) after parking himself in front of the net, fending off his checker, and chipping the loose puck up and over a sprawling Demko. Puljujarvi’s first of the season was the result of strong positioning and being an unmovable object in front of the net, and I’m thinking he’s going to score a bunch of goals just like this over the next six months. Did the guy lose a puck battle all night?
- Zach Hyman extended the lead (2-0) after being the business end of a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe from McDavid to Draisaitil to Hyman and in the net. I assume I’m going to talk about Zach Hyman’s puck pursuit a lot this year, but how can I not mention the relentlessness he showed on a shift-by-shift basis? The guy is a dog on a bone when it comes to tracking down pucks and I am looking forward to watching that effort for the next seven years.
- How many of you would have had Kyle Turris scoring the winner in the shootout? None of you. Tell the truth.
- What can you say about another casual two-point night for Connor McDavid? The guy is a freak and I just don’t see how anyone in the NHL will be able to stop him.
- I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to like Warren Foegele a lot. The guy is a machine when it comes to chasing down pucks and I can’t help but feel like that’s the kind of hustle that will make Oilers fans love him once they’re able to forget about the acquisition cost.
- Mike Smith got the first start of the years as many of us expected he would, and I felt like the old boy provided us with the type of tending we need from him. Outside of the second goal by Hughes, Smith was very strong between the pipes and he made the kind of saves you need from your starter if you’re going to have a chance to win. Smith finished the night with 36 saves and a .947 save%.
- As much as I wasn’t sure about splitting up Connor and Leon, I really liked the way the Hyman-Nuge-Yamamoto line played together. All night long, that trio was producing chances in the offensive zone and it almost seems unlucky that they weren’t able to get anything done at even strength.
- I was happy to see Duncan Keith come back for the third period after he got absolutely levelled by Tyler Myers late in the middle frame. The old boy got decked on the play and I was worried for a minute that his ancient body was going to turn to dust.
- The powerplay is going to be a big story for the Oilers all season long and it got off to a solid start to the year after finishing the night with one goal on only two chances.
- Not to be outdone, the penalty kill also had a strong night as the Oilers were able to kill off four of five of Vancouver’s chances with the man advantage.
- Did you expect to make it through the Wrap Up without me letting you know that the Oilers won 64% of the faceoffs?
THE FACE PALMERS
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson got the Canucks on the board (2-1) on the powerplay with a wrister from the point that changed directions on its way through traffic and through Mike Smith. Leading up to the goal, the Canucks were getting all kinds of chances with the man advantage and it seemed almost inevitable that they would manage to pop one eventually.
- Quinn Hughes tied the game (2-2) after throwing the puck towards the net from outside the circle and having it squeak through on the short side. There was some traffic in front of the net to be sure, but I’d suggest that this was a goal that the Oilers simply could not give up at that stage of the game.
- I thought the Oilers had a sloppy start to the game with many of the opening shifts were spent in the defensive zone chasing the puck. I don’t know whether it was nerves or what was going on there, but there was not a whole lot going from an Edmonton perspective which made for a frustrating start to the night. Thankfully they didn’t get punished for it and that’s a positive we can all enjoy.
- As sloppy as the start of the game was, I thought that the end of the game was just as bad if not worse. I mean, the Oilers were up by a pair of goals with only 20 minutes to play and they let their lead slip away as if the Canucks were an unstoppable force for whatever reason.
- As much as I’d prefer to watch Connor and Leon playing on separate lines — I think the team is much more balanced when they are — I have to admit how fun it was to watch them work their magic against the Canucks the way they did.********
- Oilers got outshot 38-34 which isn’t a great look given that the Oilers were the better team for big parts of the night.
- I know he could be back as early as Saturday, but I can’t help but feel like this was a game that Zack Kassian needed to have his fingerprints on. Obviously, that couldn’t happen after the pre-season scrap he got in against a guy that’s not even with the Canucks anymore, but I still felt like this was the kind of game he could have made an impact in.
— Baggedmilk, Oily Boy 🎃 (@jsbmbaggedmilk) October 14, 2021
They also said Nuge has been here since the Carter administration man time flies
— Ryan (@IAmByks) October 14, 2021
— Woodguy (@Woodguy55) October 14, 2021
Kris Russell if there's one thing you don't do in this town it's pushing an opposing player into your own goaltender
— Ryan (@IAmByks) October 14, 2021
It's all right everyone. The Oilers still have their top weapon and he hasn't scored yet tonight.
— WheatNOil (@WheatNOil) October 14, 2021
“Turris Revenge Tour” tee shirts all sold out?
— Kyle Thomas (@ktom_5) October 14, 2021