The Day After 1.0: Edmonton Oilers drop season opener 8-1 to flu-ridden Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
6 months ago
In game five of the 1997 NBA Finals, suffering from food poisoning that had ailed him for hours, Michael Jordan stepped onto the court.
He played 44 minutes that night and dropped 38 points with seven rebounds and five assists, draining a game-winning three-pointer with 25 seconds left. It was dubbed “The Flu Game,” and it’s been one that’s gone down in sports fame.
Making their best impression of Jordan’s flu game, the Vancouver Canucks — with their whole team batting a vicious illness — scored eight goals in their season opener downing the Edmonton Oilers. Star forward Elias Pettersson, who scored a goal and four points, missed multiple days of practice last week with whatever’s been going around.


Thatcher Demko, who started for the Canucks, turning aside 21 of 22 shots, was pulled from the game with 12 minutes to go after throwing up in his mask. Conor Garland, who had the game’s first goal, left early, too.
For the Edmonton Oilers, it’s salt in the wound on a night they’d much rather forget.
“We laid an egg tonight,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Bottom line is we were at a pre-season level of work ethic and a pre-season level of execution, all of us.
“We had a lesson in regular season work ethic, and regular season battle level. We were not good enough. To a man, every single one of us is not good enough.”
Fresh off a tremendous pre-season, Jack Campbell earned himself the starting job on night one of the season. It was short-lived, as Woodcroft pulled him after allowing four goals on 16 shots. Stuart Skinner entered the game but fared no better, allowing four goals on 17 shots. That’s bad.
The Oilers’ penalty kill, a hot topic of conversation around Alberta’s capital given the waiving of Raphael Lavoie to keep Mattias Janmark around, crumbled like a cheap deck of cards. They looked dishevelled all night, allowing three goals on six Canucks attempts. That’s bad.
Rather than looking like a team that had been skating together for a little over a month, the Oilers looked like a group of kids playing mini-sticks for the first time. There was no connectivity on the ice, evident in virtually any goal the Canucks scored along the way — and boy were there plenty of them. That’s bad.
There’s more than enough saving grace, as not only will they have a chance to exact revenge on the Canucks on Saturday night, but they still have 81 games left until the playoffs start. If there’s a time of year to have this kind of a game, it’s now.
Above all, what’s undeniably difficult in last night’s effort is just how much noise surrounds this club today. Two years ago, they made a short-lived trip to the Western Conference Finals only to get swept by the Colorado Avalanche. Last year, they fell in six to the Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights. And heading into this year, it’s cup or bust.
To go out on night one and lay an egg, as Woodcroft said, is unacceptable. We’ll learn more about this club Saturday night.

Pucks in deep…

  • No update on the status of Dylan Holloway, who blocked a few shots in a sequence late in the game. He was forced out of the action, clearly labouring.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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