Off the Top of My Head
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
Fresh from getting the better of the Carolina Hurricanes in a barn-burner of a game Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers came out second-best in a totally different type of tilt in a 2-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues in a matinee at Rogers Place yesterday. This was a no-frills display of positional play and checking that was tight as a drum.
Simply put, the Oilers will have to learn to win both types of games if they intend to hang in the upper echelon of the NHL with teams like Carolina and St. Louis. The Blues took a lead just 5:04 in on a power-play goal by Torey Krug, then held the Oilers at bay in front of Jordan Binnington until Justin Faulk hit an empty net with just over as minute to go.
“It was a 1-0 hockey game and it was a power-play goal against for us that happened in the first few minutes of the game,” said coach Jay Woodcroft. I actually thought we had some good chances right off the bat. We didn’t score on them. We took an O-zone penalty, and it ended up in the back of our net. They made one more play than we did . . .”
Solid effort overall against the Blues or not, the Oilers are 2-3-0 as they take on Pittsburgh Monday, so Woodcroft wasn’t in the mood to hand out participation ribbons.
“They are a good hockey team,” Woodcroft said. “I thought it was two good hockey teams that played a tight game and that one moment of the game led to us not winning it . . . we’re not in the business of taking moral victories, we’re in the business of getting better each day.
“That was a good team we played (today). There was some good in our game but there has to be more for us to get the result that we want to get.”
Oct 20, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates after scoring during the third period goal against Carolina Hurricanes the at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday’s 6-4 win over the Hurricanes wasn’t only the kind of bump the Oilers needed after getting off to a 1-2-0 start, it was an extremely entertaining game – the kind of wide-open river hockey fans enjoy, even if coaches don’t.
“Well, the fans certainly got their money worth on the goals,” Woodcroft said. “We’re in the month of October. There’s some scrambliness, I think, to most teams, but the most important thing is we found a way to win against a very good hockey team that hadn’t lost yet this year.”
On a night when the Oilers and Hurricanes combined for 73 shots and Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had four-point nights, I found myself contemplating what a rematch of the 2006 Stanley Cup final might look like with these editions of the teams because styles make match-ups. Here and now, the bottom line is the Oilers beat a very good team.
“I thought it was a big win for our group. Obviously, a great test,” McDavid said. “That’s a really good Carolina team and they gave us everything that we could handle. I thought Soup (Jack Campbell) made some big saves and our powerplay did its thing. It was a big win. A bit ugly, but we’ll take it.”
In the time flies department, Carolina forward Andrei Svechnikov, who had a hat-trick on Thursday, was six years old when the Oilers and Hurricanes met in the 2006 Cup final.
Mar 7, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers left wing Warren Foegele (37) during the face off against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Warren Foegele was held off the scoresheet against the Canes, but he at least was on the ice, which is more than Ethan Bear can say. Bear, dealt to the Canes for Foegele in July of 2021, was a healthy scratch again by Carolina. Word is the Hurricanes are looking to move him.
A segment of the Oilers fan base complained long and loud about the decision to trade Bear, deeming him a huge overpay for a third-line winger like Foegele. The truth is Bear hasn’t managed to stay healthy enough or played well enough to cover that bet. Those touting Bear as a first-pairing guy, or at the very least a lock in the top four, have been quiet lately.
Foegele, 26, was no better than OK last season, but I liked him on a line with Ryan McLeod and Jesse Puljujarvi against Carolina and against the Blues. He can be a useful guy for Woodcroft to have in his bottom six down the road. Foegele is proving more useful than Bear, who probably needs another fresh start.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- Everybody who fights as part of their game the way Zack Kassian does is going to get worked now and then. That was on display in a tilt against Arber Xhekaj, a big rookie with the Montreal Canadiens. It’s a tough gig and Kassian has paid the price more than once. Kassian, 31, has always been a player who can fight as opposed to a fighter who plays. Don’t recall seeing him get rag-dolled like this.
- Carolina’s media relations crew knows how to do it.
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