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Monday Mailbag – First impressions of the Battle of Alberta

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
5 months ago
Happy holiday Monday, Nation, and welcome to a brand new Mailbag to help you get your week started and make sense of all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re looking at the Battle of Alberta, players battling through injury, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
May 18, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames forward Milan Lucic (17) gets tangled up with Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian (44) in the third period in game one of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Flames won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
1) Mitch asks – It’s been 31 years… what’s everyone’s first impression of the playoff Battle of Alberta?
Robin Brownlee:
Love it. It’s been a long time since these teams were good at the same time like they were in the BOA days.
Jason Gregor:
It has been highly entertaining. Amped up emotion in both rinks. I am a bit surprised how much Edmonton has dominated Calgary the last five periods.
Cam Lewis:
Even though it’s been 31 years since the Oilers and Flames met in the playoffs, the two teams have been building a rivalry over the past few years. The first three games have come as advertised, lots of intensity and excitement.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
It’s been awesome. The games have been wildly unpredictable with lots of goals and lots of energy from both of these sides. I think it’s lived up to the hype so far!
Baggedmilk:
The first thing that comes to mind for me is the stress that this series has already caused as every game feels so intense, ya know? But the very first impression wasn’t great because the Oilers lost Game 1 in a very disappointing way.
May 18, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft on his bench against the Calgary Flames during the third period in game one of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
2) Kale asks – I have never seen a team struggle with their starts for as long as the Oilers have regardless of who’s coaching, playing, or otherwise. What is your take on why this team seems to be back on their heels more often than not at the start of these hockey games?
Robin Brownlee:
Giving up early goals, especially bad ones, emphasizes slow starts. That’s part of it. Honestly, I have no idea why this has been an issue for so long under multiple coaches. Better start last night against the Flames — 0-0 is a step up.
Jason Gregor:
If I knew I’d get paid a lot. They have scored first in five of their 10 playoff games, which is decent, but even in games where they did score first they didn’t start well. I think it is mental. When they need a good start, games six and seven, they did it and again in game three of the Flames series, so they are capable of it. It has to be a mental block.
Cam Lewis:
I’m not even sure the players on the team can answer this one. It’s been happening through different coaches with different players. Thankfully it wasn’t the case in game 3. Ideally we see more of that.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I honestly don’t know. I feel like we’ve been asked this question 100 times in different mailbags over the last two years and I just don’t think there’s an obvious reason why. It’s inexcusable how often they struggle from the first puck drop and it needs to stop, but I have no explanation as to why it keeps happening.
Baggedmilk:
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I have no idea how to answer this but it’s so weird to watch that I’ve basically resorted to expecting it. Thankfully, we got about as good of a start as we could hope for last night in Game 3.
Feb 17, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers fans celebrate a goal by forward Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
3) Yves asks – Even though it’s been reported that Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse are fighting through pretty heavy injuries, how impressed are you with what they’ve been able to do so far in these playoffs?
Robin Brownlee:
Most impressed with Draisaitl. When he first returned his lack of jump was noticeable. You could tell he had no power or thrust in his stride. Much better since then. I suspect he’s getting shot up (freezing) but I don’t know that to be the case.
Jason Gregor:
Draisaitl has been very good despite playing injured. However, he is also starting to feel better. You can tell in how he skates, and that is a good sign for Edmonton.
Cam Lewis:
It’s been incredible watching Draisaitl, you’d never know he’s dealing with an injury in this series. That breakaway goal he ripped to full speed. Just a wildly impressive showing.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Draisaitl in particular has just been incredible. He started this series with back-to-back three point games and his two goals have been off the rush. Think about that, the guy playing through a high-ankle sprain is still using his speed to score goals. What he’s been doing is incredible and something we’ll look back at for a very long time.
Baggedmilk:
I’m honestly amazed that both guys are playing at all given what’s going on with their bodies, and for Draisaitl specifically, he’s still finding ways to contribute on the scoresheet on a nightly basis. It really is amazing. I’m not sure it’s the smartest thing to do in terms of the body, but Gord damn do I respect it.
May 8, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) shoots on goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in game four of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
4) Nancy asks – I’m a die-hard Nuge fan. I haven’t been overwhelmingly disappointed in his playoff performance, but I do think he can do better, especially offensively. He spends a lot of time in the D-zone and I wonder how much of a factor that is. I’d love everyone’s thoughts on what needs to change/happen for him to get on the level he needs to be at for playoffs – and silence the haters.
Robin Brownlee:
RNH has looked very ordinary to me as well. He’s trying to find his place in a line-up with far more depth than in past years. Being a two-way guy and 200-foot player makes him useful, but it’s not a spotlight-type role. RNH is what, the sixth or seventh most important forward now after McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, Kane, Yamamoto and . . .?
Jason Gregor:
He has never been a huge 5×5 scorer, so I don’t expect it now. His role on the team is more defensive starts and on special teams. You’d like him to chip in a bit more, but I don’t expect him to score very much at 5×5.
Cam Lewis:
I’m not sure Nuge needs to be a major catalyst offensively to be effective. The thing that makes him a good player is his versatility. Right now, the Oilers are popping offensively with McDavid going nuclear on a line with Draisaitl or Evander Kane so having Nuge sit back and carry a line that can get things done defensively certainly helps.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
He was very good in game two when Woodcroft put him with talented wingers and the results got better. Nugent-Hopkins can’t drive play alone, but when he’s with talent, the results are almost always good. So it’s no surprise to see that the Oilers are getting good results with him on the ice now that he’s on a line with Puljujarvi and Hyman.
Baggedmilk:
He needs to be better all over the ice. I thought Game 2 was his best of the series so far, and I don’t think it’s surprising that it came when he was moved away from Derek Ryan and Josh Archibald. If we’re going to expect offence from him, he needs to play with players that can help and Ryan and Archibald are not those guys. That’s not a shot against them but simply a reality of what types of players they are.
May 18, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) makes a save against the Calgary Flames during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
5) Alex asks – Read about the report from Europe that says Mikko Koskinen could be heading to Switzerland next season after the last five years with the Oilers. Is anyone else surprised to hear he’s going back rather than trying to find another gig in the NHL?
Robin Brownlee:
No. Good money. Easier schedule. Shorter season. He’s been a good soldier here through some tough times.
Jason Gregor:
Not really. He made $13.5m the past three seasons. He is very family oriented and in Switzerland he will play fewer games and have more time with his family. It is also a beautiful place to play and he’ll get paid decent money. Likely a more enjoyable overall lifestyle for him.
Cam Lewis:
Not at all. The Swiss league pays guys very well and it’s a nice lifestyle because the travel isn’t quite so demanding. Mikko will also be much closer to his family in Finland.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Not really. He’ll make good money overseas and the contract will likely have some stability. I’m not stunned that he’s taking a few years of guaranteed money close to his home country over possibly being a fringe NHL goaltender for a team like Arizona.
Baggedmilk:
I’m a little surprised, I suppose. I could have seen Mikko landing another gig in the league but if you’re going to bounce to Europe, landing in Switzerland is pretty damned sweet. What a beautiful country to end up in.

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