Evan Bouchard’s rebound performance
Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
29 days ago
Evan Bouchard was the talk of the town on Wednesday, and not for good reason. The young Edmonton Oilers defenceman was dismal in the team’s 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild and was involved in four goals against.
The result of his action had him demoted to the third pairing versus the New York Rangers on Thursday, at least to start. Bouchard rotated partners throughout the night, playing alongside Brett Kulak, Mattias Ekholm, and Philip Broberg, and finished with a team-high 20:16 minutes among the team’s defencemen.
Did he deserve the increase after what happened against Minnesota? Players do need to be held accountable when they’re costing the team, especially at the rate Bouchard was. However, there comes a point when you need a short memory in the NHL, and when you have a weapon like Bouchard, you need to unleash him.
Bouchard had a much stronger night at 5-on-5, limiting New York to only six shots whilst countering with 12. Kulak was his best partner, as the two didn’t allow a scoring chance. As we haven’t learned through Kulak’s time with the Oilers, he tends to get the best out of his partners.
The biggest complaint with Bouchard is always his urgency. He’s a very nonchalant player, and it affects his game in negative ways at times. Versus the Rangers, you could see Bouchard had an extra hop in his step and looked to make amends from what about against the Wild.
There were clearly areas that were being emphasized significantly more than the previous games. The most noticeable was his aggression in front of the Oilers goal. Earlier in the week, Marco Rossi scored an easy goal because Bouchard didn’t make life difficult for him. That changed drastically two nights later, with Bouchard delivering shots to everyone in the physiatry. Aggression around the net has been something that has plagued Edmonton since opening night, so hopefully, this is a sign of things to come from more defencemen on the team.
Pressure played a significant role in his game, too. Whenever a Rangers player came across the blueline, they were met by Bouchard. He consistently put his stick in great defensive areas, limiting time and space. Many other times, he found ways to neutralize plays with his body, forcing opponents to the outside and eliminating them off the puck shortly after.
Offensively, the talent he possess blossomed as usual. He was shooting the puck with great accuracy and power, causing a threat almost every time he had the puck on the blueline. He was active in the rush, putting pressure on the Rangers defenceman. Of course, the Oilers didn’t find a way to score a goal, but Bouchard made positive contributions on a disappointing night.
Bouchard showed all the tools that make him an outstanding defenceman versus the New York Rangers. His urgency, aggression, and high hockey sense were all displayed in his best overall performance of the season. Today, he gets to prove himself again in front of 50,000 people in what will be a historic game for the Edmonton Oilers.
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