Mattias Ekholm shines and Dylan Holloway makes an impact in Oilers 5-1 win over Golden Knights

23 days ago
The McDavid-less Oilers took on the Vegas Golden Knights last night at Rogers Place with the opportunity to pull themselves within a single point of locking in home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. As such, I was incredibly eager to see who would step up in the captain’s absence. As it turns out, the answer was everyone. From the crease outward, every Oiler stepped up and contributed to a huge 5-1 win over the Golden Knights.


As much as I hate that it took Connor McDavid getting banged up to be the reason Dylan Holloway made his way back into the lineup, I sure was excited to see him back in blue and orange. The kid has the speed and grit that could make a difference in the bottom six, and I was eager to see how he would look after getting the chance to play some big minutes in Bakersfield.
Right from his first shift, Holloway was buzzing all over the ice and threw his weight around any chance he got. The hustle and the hitting were noticeable from the jump, and it was fantastic to see him get rewarded for it with a nifty wraparound goal at the midway point of the third period. That goal only happened because Holloway kept his feet moving and raced to the loose puck that Adin Hill bobbled behind the net.
I’m not going to pretend I know what’s going on with the Oilers depth chart, but games like this are going to make it pretty damned hard to keep Holloway out of the lineup. He may have only played 12:40 in TOI on Wednesday, but he made the most of those minutes. Holloway made something happen nearly every time he was on the ice, and a few more performances like that one may force the coaching staff’s hand with their line combo decisions.


I feel like I could write 100 Haikus about Mattias Ekholm if I cleared a day and really put my mind to it. The guy has been incredible since landing in Edmonton at last year’s trade deadline, and it’s blowing my mind how he only seems to be getting better down this stretch run. I’ve said it on podcasts, and I’ll repeat it here now: Ekholm is the best all-around defender we’ve had since Pronger.
While I’m sure someone will throw some numbers at me that prove why I’m wrong, I can’t think of a guy who keeps things calm on the ice better than Ekholm. It doesn’t matter the situation; the guy makes the right play more often than not, and it keeps pucks out of Edmonton’s net. And while we knew he would be a solid defender for us, I certainly didn’t see the offensive side of his game taking off the way it has.
In his last 12 goals, Big Viking Daddy has 16 points (6G, 10A) and looks every bit like the number one D-man we’ve been missing forever. Tightening that up a little bit, Ekholm has four goals and nine points in his last six. That’s the kind of production you’d be happy with from your top-six forwards, let alone a defenceman. In every possible way, Ekholm is making that trade look like a steal, and I cannot wait to see how he keeps this heater going into the postseason because he’s playing incredibly well.


Listen, I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t one of the people who hoped the Oilers upgrade on Cody Ceci at the deadline. I’m not going to pretend that I did not spend time daydreaming about what it would look like if Ken Holland could pull off a miracle — remember, this is my fantasy, so roll with it — and slot Brett Pesce in beside Darnell Nurse. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, I thought.
Even so, that doesn’t mean I’m not cheering for the guy now that he’s still with us for the playoff run. In fact, not only am I cheering for him but I actually think that he’s playing some pretty solid hockey right now. Not only is he defending well, but he also went from going a full calendar year+ without scoring a goal to chipping in with four since February 13th in Detroit, when he picked up his first of the campaign.


-Will I talk about Zach Hyman again after our free agent king scored his 53rd goal of the season? Yes. Yes, I will. Even though I’m basically repeating myself on loop these days, it bears repeating that Zachary Martin Hyman should be in the running (if not the winner) for best UFA add of all time. He’s been everything we could have ever hoped for through the first three seasons of his contract, and it makes the whole thing better knowing that he’s also supposedly a really good guy. He’s our modern day Smytty and I almost love him just as much.
-Speaking of Smytty, it was great seeing Ryan Smyth was at the game last night. There’s just something about knowing he’s in the building that makes me happy.
-I will never tire of watching Leon Draisaitl smash goals home from his office in the right circle. Like Ovechkin on the other side of the ice, everyone knows the puck is going to Drai but everyone seems to have a really hard time from stopping it. It’s the kind of magic trick that can make you a truckload of money over the course of a career. Pay the man his money.
-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up a pair of assists to give him five points in his last two games. RNH had been fighting it offensively over the last little bit, and it would be great for him and the team if he could start to heat up a bit as we head into the postseason.
-Now that the Oilers have all but locked in home-ice for the first round of the playoffs, I wonder if they’ll be even more patient with Connor McDavid. Would it make sense to sit him out for the back-to-backs against Arizona and Vancouver just to take an extra couple of days to recover? He would still have the final three games of the season to pick up assist 100, and we all know that’s more than enough time for him to do it.
-If there’s one thing I love as much as I love watching the Oilers beat the Golden Knights and that’s faceoff wins. And that’s why I’m thrilled to report that the boys won 50.9% of of them.
-Make it two home games in a row where Hunter the mascot has not really been featured on the broadcast. Pourquoi?


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