Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
It was just three months ago, during the earliest days of Jack Campbell’s new five-year, $25-million contract with the Edmonton Oilers, when some fans were all over GM Ken Holland for inking Campbell to a deal that was looking like a boat anchor.
At the time, after a 6-2 loss to the Dallas Stars amid a growing chorus of consternation, Campbell characterized his play to that point as “pathetic.” That’s what made headlines, but it’s the back end of what Campbell said that is more pertinent today after last night’s 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings to kick off a four-game road trip.
“I just haven’t brought my best,” Campbell said Nov. 5 after the loss to Dallas. “Frankly, it’s just been pathetic the way I’ve been playing. I owe it to this team to bring my A-game, and they haven’t seen it yet. So, I’m gonna just keep working hard. I’m gonna get through this, be there for the guys. I expect to play at a certain standard, and I haven’t done that yet. So, I’m gonna do that.”
A man of his word is Campbell. We’ve seen more of his A-game, and with 30 saves against the Red Wings, Campbell has won his last eight starts. The frustrating beginning to his time in Edmonton silks appears to be nothing more than a speck on the horizon in the rear-view mirror and it looks like coach Jay Woodcroft has a tandem in Campbell and Stuart Skinner the Oilers have a chance to win with.
WHAT THEY SAID
Jan 14, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault (81) shoots the puck at Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) during the third period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
“The boys have been playing great leading up to the break and we definitely wanted to continue where we left off,” said Campbell, a Port Huron, Michigan native who grew up watching the Red Wings.
“It was a great game by everybody. The PK was outstanding, all the blocks the guys got in front of me. A lot of emotion down there in the second half of the game. A really great game to start the road trip off and get all the juices flowing again.”
While it was Skinner who got the all-star nod with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl after picking up the slack in the blue paint when Campbell struggled, Woodcroft went with the veteran to open the trip. Down 1-0 after 20 minutes before going ahead 3-1, it was two saves in the third period — on Jonatan Berggren and Dominik Kubalik — to preserve a 3-2 lead that stood out for me.
“I thought they were big saves, but I would say this — Jack expects to make those saves and we expect Jack to make those saves,” said Woodcroft in his post-game availability.
“I just think he’s laying good games down on top of good games. He’s starting to build a little personal momentum for himself. I’ve seen that here pretty much since post-Christmas. He’s another guy that should feel happy for himself. I know the coaching staff and his teammates feel real happy for him as well.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Oilers have played .750 (11-3-2) since Christmas, tops in the Western Conference. Improved goaltending and defensive play have accounted for most of that.
Now, if Campbell and Skinner can continue to spell each other off in the crease without any significant drop-off, Woodcroft should have plenty to work with over the course of these final 31 games heading into the post-season. We’ll find out more about that Thursday against the Flyers in Philadelphia.
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