Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The Day After 26.0: McDavid’s Oilers best Bedard’s Blackhawks in first Connor bowl
By Zach Laing2 months ago
Edmontonians knew they were in for a treat Tuesday night for the first-ever Connor Bowl between the Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks.
Connor Brown vs. Connor Murphy… — err…
Connor McDavid vs. Connor Bedard.
There we go.
Before the puck even dropped, you could tell the hype was there. Young fans rang the bleachers donning Bedard jerseys, getting a first-hand look at last year’s first-overall pick. Soon, the 18-year-old will contest the Oilers’ Connor for the best player in the league.
And if Bedard keeps shooting the puck like he did to open the scoring 3:21 into the game, it won’t take him too long.
“You watch it on video lots, because anytime you open up Instagram, the first thing that comes up is his shot,” said Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner. “It was a really nice shot. Give the kid some props.”
But Bedard can’t do it alone, and he couldn’t outscore the Oilers alone, who walked out of Rogers Place with a 4-1 win — their eighth-straight, putting them just one point out of a playoff spot.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
The Oilers got goals from lots of places en route, too. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who’s spent offseasons skating with Bedard since the Chicago star was 12, scored halfway through the first to tie it at one, with a great shot in tight elevation over Petr Mrazek. Then, another early draft pick in Sam Gagner tickled the twine in tight, giving the Oilers a 2-1 lead with under two minutes left in the first.
It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for the Oilers, who looked tepid out of the gate, but the second and third they turned it on. It was, at least in part, due to a lineup swap where Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch put Ryan McLeod between Evander Kane and Connor Brown, and Leon Draisaitl between Warren Foegele, and Mattias Janmark. That new look Draisaitl line would get on the board, albeit amid a line change, with under seven minutes to go in the second.
It sparked life in the Oilers, flipping the script on a Chicago team that is nowhere near the level of this Edmonton squad.
That squad, meanwhile, would score a power play marker 43 seconds into the third, as Zach Hyman’s 16th was the nail in the coffin.
The league has let the Oilers get hot, with the club improving to 10-3 under Knoblauch, a marketed improvement over the sluggish 3-9-1 start they saw under Jay Woodcroft.
They’re winning games in different ways, and that’s arguably what’s been most impressive about this eight-game win streak they’re carrying. Now, with two games left in their six-game homestand, they could arrive at a playoff spot before Christmas.
The Tampa Bay Lightning come to town Thursday, and the Florida Panthers Saturday, as the Oilers take on two teams going through their turbulent times.
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 email@example.com.
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