Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
That’s More Like It
3 months ago
While Kris Knoblauch’s first win as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers obviously doesn’t constitute a turnaround, you don’t have to look very hard at Monday’s 4-1 win over the New York Islanders to see all the dimensions lacking during a 13-game stretch that cost Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson their jobs.
With Woodcroft’s fate sealed in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks last Thursday before a 4-1 win over Seattle Saturday, this was a homecoming for Knoblauch. He played two seasons here in the WHL with the Edmonton Ice and five with the Alberta Golden Bears, but with the Oilers off to a 3-9-1 start, this wasn’t about a stroll down Memory Lane, it was about results.
Knoblauch got them in spades as the Oilers won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Connor McDavid snapped an eight-game goal-scoring slump with a goal and an assist. Leon Draisaitl, held to 1-1-2 in his previous five games, put together a four-point night with 1-3-4. Stuart Skinner was sharp with 32 saves on 33 shots and has been on top of his game at .944 and .970 in his last two starts.
Factor in a slumping power play that sparked to life and finished up 2-for-3 and a struggling PK that held the Islanders scoreless on three attempts, and you’ve got the keys to success that too often eluded the Oilers during this season-opening skid. Like I said off the top, while we’ll need to see more of the same before we start talking about a turnaround, this is a start.
WHAT THEY SAY
“It feels amazing to get that first win,” Knoblauch said. “I liked how our team played. It wasn’t a perfect game and I think certainly we weren’t the better team in the first half of the game. I liked how we stayed patient. We just stayed the course. We didn’t take any unnecessary risks. There are definitely things that we need to tighten up and play better at, but again, I think the most important thing is we didn’t get desperate where things weren’t going well.”
When Mathew Barzal took advantage of some sloppy clearing by the Oilers and snapped a one-timer behind Skinner 40 seconds in to put the Islanders up 1-0, there was a definite here-we-go-again vibe, but the Oilers refused to give up a second goal and eventually worked their way back into the game.
“It wasn’t pretty at the beginning and we got better as the game went on, and all we can ask for is that as a team we get better each day,” Knoblauch said. Back-to-back power-play goals by Zach Hyman and McDavid, with his first goal in eight games, turned this game and the Oilers were on their way. McDavid’s pass to Hyman on the 2-1 goal was a beauty.
“It was everything that we’ve been kind of missing,” McDavid said after what was easily his best performance since sitting out two games with an injury. “Obviously, special teams were good. We’ve definitely missed that third-period offence. We’ve been missing that, and I thought Stu played really well. He was there when we needed him.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“It was everything that we’ve been kind of missing.” Under the circumstances, that’s the money quote right there. Let’s see what happens vs. Seattle Wednesday.
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