Off the Top of My Head
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
You’ve got to like the edginess the Edmonton Oilers have been playing with during their winning streak and we saw more of that in their 5-3 win over the tough and talented Tampa Bay Lightning at Rogers Place Thursday.
Guilty of turning the other cheek too often at times, the Oilers weren’t shy about getting into it against the Bolts. The joint was jumping when Darnell Nurse threw down with Corey Perry at the buzzer to end the first period and Klim Kostin got after it with Patrick Maroon just three seconds into the second period.
“Kosti leads the way there,” said Connor McDavid, who watched Kostin get going with Maroon after he got a little too rambunctious with the Oilers captain. “He wants that. It’s been impressive to watch. He obviously takes on a big man there and (Nurse) does the same. I think some teams come and think that they’re going to run us right out of the building with physicality, and we got the guys to stand in there.”
It’s not just about fighting. If the Oilers are willing to impose their physical will consistently, it’ll serve them well. For me, this dimension isn’t far behind improved defensive play as the reason for the roll they’re on. They are certainly better equipped for it with Evander Kane back in the fold and Vincent Desharnais in the line-up to go with Nurse and Kostin.
Jan 19, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pat Maroon (14) and Edmonton Oilers forward Klim Kostin (21) fight during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
“I think Klim has really brought that,” Zach Hyman said. “He’s come in and brought an edge to the group. Getting (Kane) back and Desharnais, Vinny, and (Nurse) too. He’s one of the toughest guys in the league. You typically think of the Oilers as all skill, right? We’ve got some grit to us now, which is a good thing.”
When the Lighting tried to generate a spark late in the first period while trailing 2-0 by ratcheting up the physicality, the Oilers didn’t take a step back. What we got instead was Nurse and Perry and then Kostin and Maroon.
“We started the way we wanted to start,” coach Jay Woodcroft said after practice Friday. “We talked about how we controlled the bulk of the first period, but part of their script, and it’s what some of the best teams in the league do if there’s no emotion in the game for them, they find ways to find emotion.
“I thought our team answered the bell in more ways than one and it was a great atmosphere in our building.” For context, Woodcroft’s full availability is here.
Nov 16, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save during warmup against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
He just became a father. He’s got a full-time NHL gig for the first time in his pro career, a new three-year contract extension for $7.8 million and is on his way to the NHL all-star game as a rookie to represent the Oilers and the Pacific Division.
If you’re looking for a local boy makes good story, Stuart Skinner is your man. He got the job alongside Jack Campbell when the season began. He got the new contract and the financial security it brings Dec. 19. Son Beau arrived healthy on Jan. 14. He got word of the all-star nod via fan vote last week when teammates mobbed him and Leon Draisaitl on the ice at practice.
It’s been a life-changing few months for Skinner, who grew up in Edmonton as the youngest of nine children, played junior hockey in the WHL down the road with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and made his 27th appearance of this season and 41st of his NHL career with 27 saves in a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks last night.
“There’s a lot of going on,” Skinner said before the flight to Vancouver. “I’m just trying to enjoy whatever comes. It’s very cool that the fans voted me in, a very surreal moment for me. My whole family is super excited about it. It’s a moment I will remember.”
It’s been a whirlwind of positivity for the likeable 23-year-old stopper, who’ll share the net with fellow rookie Logan Thompson of the Vegas Golden Knights.
What remains to be seen is if Skinner, now 13-10-2, and a resurgent Campbell, who made 28 saves against the Lightning for his fifth straight win to improve to 14-8-1, can help push the Oilers over the top once the all-star festivities are done. First up in what’s a soft stretch in the schedule, are games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks.
“Stu has done everything that has been asked of him,” McDavid said. “He’s a young guy still finding his way. To play that many games and carry that workload, it’s been huge for us. He has been great and deserves it.”
The format for the all-star event, where each of the four divisions has a team of 11 players (six forwards, three defencemen and two goaltenders), games are played 3-on-3 and the final three spots on each roster are decided by fan vote, has been in place since 2016.
The fan vote, as I’m sure you remember, resulted in the farce that saw lumbering enforcer John Scott voted into the game in 2016. I’m not a fan of that, but no such gag campaigns and goofy results in 2023 fan voting.
- No coach, especially one who has travelled the hockey road with as much class, passion and success as Bruce Boudreau has since he stepped behind the bench in 1990, deserves to be treated the way he’s been treated by the Canucks. What a disgrace. During Friday’s 4-1 loss to Colorado, Vancouver fans let Boudreau know what they think of him by chanting “Bruce, there it is” after a goal by Elias Pettersson. That was something. More of the same chant last night in what could be Boudreau’s swan song.
NATION VACATION TO TORONTO
Do you want to come with us to Toronto in March for an HNIC matchup that we’ll be watching in a suite? Of course you do. That’s why I’m telling you to sign up for the #NationVacation to T.O. and join us for a weekend that no one will soon forget. Check out the details you need right here.
Recent articles from Robin Brownlee