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GDB 1.0: The Long Journey Begins Today (8pm MT, Sportsnet)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers are one of many teams who believe they have a real chance to win the Stanley Cup, but you can’t win the Cup in the regular season. They will use the 82 regular season games as building blocks to solidify their internal belief that they can win games when it matters most. Tonight is step one, and the Oilers have spoken often about the need to get off to a good start.
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The Oilers were 10-10 through their first 20 games last year. They were tied with Nashville for 21st in the NHL and 10th in the Western Conference. They were 11 points behind Vegas, and the slow start cost them home ice advantage in the second round. The Oilers went 40-13-9 over their final 62 games, and while they gained nine points on Vegas over the final 62 games, they still finished two points behind them. I believe you can’t win the Cup in the first quarter of the season, but you can lose it and the slow start cost Edmonton home ice advantage in round two. We’ll never know if the series would have played out differently, but it might have had the Oilers been on home ice for game five instead of in Vegas.
The Oilers won’t enter this season thinking about winning the Cup. Well, at least not daily. They know it is a long season, with a few ups and downs, but they have a plan. Jay Woodcroft has repeated his mantra to “take care of our day and take care of our standard.” He wants the players to focus on each day, and to ask if they are doing their best that day. Do your best in practice. Do you best on game day, and ensure you are getting the necessary rest on off days. Their standard is a bit greyer, but he pointed to the standard of the organization. They’ve won five Stanley Cups, and while it has been 33 years since the Oilers last won, the signs of success are all around them. They want to make their own history and add another miniature Stanley Cup on the shelf inside their dressing room that currently holds five.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Kane – McDavid – Brown
RNH – Draisaitl – Hyman
Holloway– McLeod –Foegele
Janmark – Ryan
Nurse – Bouchard
Kulak – Ceci
Broberg – Desharnais
Ekholm
Campbell
I put Ekholm as the seventh defenseman, because I’m not sure if he will dress or not. If he doesn’t and the Oilers go 11-6, I don’t see it being an issue for one game to be honest. They played 34 games with 11 forwards last year, and in the other 48 games they had six D-men dressed. Both the forwards and defenders will be fine with an 11-6 roster if needed.
I don’t put much stock into the fact Campbell is starting game one. He and Stuart Skinner will split the first two games, and I think Skinner at home on Saturday because he was the starter last season. But he will need to play well to maintain that title. I think the split between the two goalies, barring an injury, will be somewhere between 45-37, and I don’t know which goalie will play more. As long as neither has to make more than 50 starts, they should be well rested come playoff time.
I’m intrigued to see what the McLeod line can do. They have the makings of a very solid third line with size, speed and enough skill to outscore the opposition.
The Oilers’ roster tonight is actually quite different from game one last year due to injuries and new faces.
Jesse Puljujarvi, Devin Shore, Brad Malone, Ryan Murray and Tyson Barrie are out. Connor Brown, Mattias Janmark, Warren Foegele (he was injured last year), Vincent Desharnais, Philip Broberg and Mattias Ekholm (if he plays) are in.
I think the Oilers’ roster is better than what they ended last regular season with. Evan Bouchard, Holloway, Desharnais and Broberg have more experience and Brown is an upgrade over Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto.
Now they have to prove it.

Canucks

Kuzmenko – Pettersson – Garland
Di Giuseppe – Miller – Boeser
Joshua – Suter – Beauvillier
Höglander – Lafferty – Blueger
Hughes – Hronek
Cole – Myers
Hirose – Juulsen
Demko
Blueger is a game time decision, so not for sure on that line, and same with third D pair. Brisebois might draw in. The Canucks’ opening night roster is very different from last season’s. They have 10 different skaters, a new backup goalie and a new coach.
Not in: Forwards Bo Horvat, Tanner Pearson, Curtis Lazar, Nils Aman, and Vasily Podkolson. Blueliners Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Luke Schenn, Tucker Poolman, Riley Stillman and Kyle Burroughs and goalie Spencer Martin. Bruce Boudreau was the head coach.
In: Forwards Anthony Beauvillier, Philllip Di Giuseppe, Sam Lafferty, Teddy Blueger and Dakota Joshua. Defenders Filip Hronek, Ian Cole, Noah Juulsen, Akito Hirose and Tyler Myers (he was injured last season opener) and Rick Tocchet is the head coach.
The biggest difference for the Canucks this season could be Thatcher Demko. He played through an injury early, and struggled mightily, before finally taking some time off to heal. When he returned a few months later he was better. When healthy, I view him as the best goalie in the Pacific division, and he will have to play up to that level if the Canucks hope to make the playoffs.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers win their first road season opener in 11 years with a 4-3 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers’ power play scores in the first period.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor Brown scores in his first game with the Oilers. This will be Brown’s 10th “first game of the season” and he tallied a total of one assist in his first nine. He scores his first NHL goal since March 24th, 2022. He missed the final 78 games last season with an injury.

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