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The Day After +19.0: Hockey gods get back at Oilers in Game 1 loss

Edmonton Oilers Florida Panthers
Photo credit:Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
In hockey, sometimes it doesn’t matter how many shots, expected goals or Grade-A scoring chances you get in a game. The Hockey Gods just have other plans for your team.
For the Edmonton Oilers, there might be no better yin and yang example than their Game 6 win over the Dallas Stars to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and their first game of that series Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.
The Oilers scoring two goals on 10 shots in that Game 6, 2-1 win over Dallas was the yin.
Them outshooting Florida 32-18, notching 3.73 expected goals to the Panthers’ 1.85, and dominating the high-danger scoring chances 18-6 while getting outscored 3-0 was the yang.
“Maybe it was the hockey gods getting us back for that Game 6 where we probably didn’t deserve to win,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid after the loss. “Tonight, maybe we deserved at least one goal, maybe two goals, and we don’t find a way to get them.”
McDavid’s Oilers had their looks. Seconds into the game, he knocked down a clearing attempt from Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, allowing Zach Hyman to come in and get a look, but the netminder made the stop. Both Adam Henrique and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had breakaway chances in the first, but Bobrovsky was there to shut the door.
Those seemingly set the tempo for the night, as the Oilers couldn’t convert on the plethora of looks they had.
The same can’t be said for the Panthers, who scored on their first shots of the first and second period, taking advantage of defensive mistakes by the pairing of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci, and forwards on the ice who missed their men.
“I’ve had a lot of chances in my career, and you continue to get them and eventually they go in,” said Oilers winger Zach Hyman, who generated five scoring chances. “When they go in, they go in in bunches. Sometimes, you got an amazing look and it doesn’t go in, sometimes it hits your shinpad and goes in. Hockey is a funny game.
“The key is to not get frustrated. You just continue to play, you play your game, and that’s why it’s a seven game series. You go out there and you execute. I liked our game. We had our looks. Tonight, we didn’t score ’em, but I’m pretty confident our team is capable of scoring.”
And while the Oilers would’ve had more than enough reason to be down in the dumps, there was no sense of that from the team. Stuart Skinner had media members laughing when asked about Bobrovksy’s game, saying “he made some spectacular saves, and you can’t do anything but say ‘wow, that was a really nice save,'” while adding he felt the Oilers played a full sixty-minute game, one they did a lot of right things in.
McDavid, as serious as he is, had air around him. He talked about how despite many doubting the Oilers in this series, “it showed tonight we can play with them,” something “that’s a confidence booster for this group, but we know our best can play with anybody.”
The Oilers have what it takes to belong. They’ve demonstrated that since their remarkable turnaround from November on, and in these playoffs where they dispatched the Kings in five games, the Canucks in seven, and the Stars in six.
And now, it’s about regrouping and getting ready for Game 2.
“There’s definitely things we can target,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch. “Every goalie has strengths and weaknesses, every system you play has strengths and weaknesses, so there are things that as a coach we can address.
“There’s also just the element of luck that goes through the regular season, the playoffs and sometimes, pucks go in like we had in Game 6, two goals on 10 shots. It was a good night for us, and it doesn’t always work out (that) you’re going to score on eight percent of your chances, because that’s what they say it should go in, or whatever it is.
“I thought there was a good share of opportunities for us to score, but there are things we’re going to have to look at and try and increase those chances.”
The Oilers will look to do just that in Game 2 Monday night, set to start at 6 p.m. MST.

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@thenationnetwork.com.

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