Nothing to See Here
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers got the two points they wanted and Stuart Skinner got the rest he needed. Other than that, I can’t think of any good reason to ever reference Monday’s 5-4 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Place ever again. You?
After a game in which video coach Jeremy Coupal made almost as many saves as Jack Campbell did, resulting in three San Jose goals being taken off the board, and Zach Hyman had another goal called off – his sixth — in what has to be approaching a record, the Oilers needed every break in the book to overcome the sad-sack Sharks.
At the bottom line, the Oilers got the two points and Skinner got the night off, watching whatever it is Campbell is doing from the end of the bench in a bizarre and entertaining example of the NHL game. On paper, this looked like no contest. Out on the ice, it took Darnell Nurse charging down the ice and beating James Reimer in the final few ticks of overtime to decide a winner.
Other than that, we know it’s Skinner-or-bust in the blue paint down the stretch and in playoffs because fixing what’s wrong with Campbell’s game looks like off-season stuff, not off-day stuff. The best the Oilers can hope for is that Campbell, who was guessing again and allowed four goals on 28 shots, can provide Skinner another game or two off to catch his breath leading into the post-season.
WHAT THEY SAY
Mar 20, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by defensemen Mattias Ekholm (14) during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not as if there wasn’t anything to like about the Oilers in this game. Mattias Ekholm continued to make GM Ken Holland look brilliant with two more goals. What a find he’s been. The Oilers carried the play, as you’d expect, and pumped 52 shots at Reimer. They were the better team in almost every aspect of the game, but not in goal. That’s been the wildcard when Campbell plays. Thank goodness for Coupal and video coordinator Noah Segall.
“We have two video coaches who do a really good job for us, and we have a process we believe in,” coach Jay Woodcroft said. “We spend a lot of time studying what gets called around the league.
“We ask a lot of questions and in the end, when you do your work like that, when the pressure time comes, we have a process that we follow. Tonight, we were proven right on a few, but it wouldn’t happen without Jeremy and Noah.”
In a game where Norris Trophy favorite Erik Karlsson, the D-man many Oilers’ fans wanted Holland to pursue at almost any cost, scored twice for San Jose, Ekholm countered with the 3-3 and 4-4 goals. There was no stopping the big Swede on his second of the night, a top-corner slapper from eyeball-to-eyeball range. Ekholm has scored 3-9-10 and is plus-15 since arriving from Music City 10 games ago.
“It’s been a comfort for me,” Ekholm said of his relationship with Coupal, who was his video coordinator for three seasons with Nashville before joining the Oilers in 2016. “(He) was probably the guy I knew the best coming here and I don’t think those guys get credit enough with what they do.
“They’re doing long hours, they grind it out, and if you look at it, what’s their margin of error? It’s an offside by inches sometimes, right? Because you’re supposed to always be right when you challenge too, so it’s a kind-of-not-so rewarding job at times and pretty hard because you always have to be right.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Oilers are 40-23-8 for 88 points through 71 games – they were 41-25-5 for 87 points after 71 games last season – as the Arizona Coyotes come calling Wednesday. Who knows? Maybe Campbell will get the nod from Woodcroft again because this is another game the Oilers should win. It’s another game off that would have Skinner even better rested for the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday. We’ll see.
Anything beyond that, questions about Campbell straightening out his game or talk about buying him out after the first year of a five-year contract – I see that as goofy and premature, by the way – is something to be addressed down the road. Move along . . .
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