The Day After 63.0: The Oilers continue to thrive in the Mattias Ekholm era

Cam Lewis
1 year ago
The Edmonton Oilers had a quiet trade deadline on Friday, but it didn’t matter because their game-changing addition came earlier in the week.
Since acquiring Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, the Oilers have put together dominant performances in back-to-back games against playoff teams.
They pounded the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, a team that’s largely had their number in recent years, and, on Friday, they hammered the Winnipeg Jets, the team that swept them in the first round of the playoffs a couple of years ago.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins led the way offensively with two goals and two assists, Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto both scored a pair of goals, and Stuart Skinner stopped 25 of 28 shots as the Oilers beat the Jets by a score of 6-3.
Ekholm was again rock-solid on Edmonton’s blueline. He logged 18:03 in all situations and 14:39 at even strength and the Oilers beat the Jets 13-to-8 in shots and 2-to-0 in goals while he was on the ice. He’s stepped seamlessly into the Oilers’ second pairing, giving Evan Bouchard a veteran to play beside while also taking work off of the plate of Darnell Nurse.
There was talk all season about whether the Oilers should aim to acquire a defender who could help them shut things down in their own zone or whether they should look for a puck-mover who can help their transition game. With Ekholm, they managed to get both types of player in one.
He might be the best the Oilers have had on their blueline since Chris Pronger.

What they said…

“I think the pair has been good for us,” Head coach Jay Woodcroft said of the Ekholm and Bouchard duo. “The other day, I said that I think Ek inspires confidence in the people on the ice with him. I think for a younger partner to be able to look over and see someone with his level of experience and confidence and poise, I think that would help anybody, and certainly that pair has been a good pair for us.”
“I thought our effort was great. Our work rate was where it needed to be,” Woodcroft said. “The ability to draw as many penalties as we did was a credit to the way we were skating tonight. We built a big lead and found a way to get the win.”
“I want to bear down a little bit after last year in front of the net. I mean, guys are just finding me with great passes and I just know that I need to step up a little bit offensively and help produce and still try to play that two-way game,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said about reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. “I think it just goes to show the way that we’re rolling as a team right now, and individual stuff kind of comes from a team playing well.”


Quick notes…

  • The Jets are in a tailspin right now. Their loss to the Oilers on Friday night marked their seventh defeat over their last eight games and they now sit in the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference standings. It’s going to be a long bus ride back to Winnipeg for the Jets after that performance but they’ll have a chance to get back at the Oilers on Saturday night as they host the second leg of the home-and-home series.
  • The Oilers didn’t get any help on the out-of-town scoreboard as the Seattle Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights both won on Friday. The Oilers currently sit tied with the Kraken at 76 points and they’re two points behind the L.A. Kings and four behind the Golden Knights. Both Seattle and Vegas have one game in hand on the Oilers.
  • We’ll likely see the newly-acquired Nick Bjugstad make his Oilers debut in Winnipeg on Saturday. My guess is that Devin Shore will come out of the lineup and Bjugstad will centre the fourth line. Philip Broberg took a cross-check to the face late in Friday’s game so there’s also a chance he could come out of the lineup if he’s dinged up and the Oilers roll with 12 forwards and six defencemen.
  • With four points on Friday, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has upped his total to 77 on the season. He’s already well past the career-high of 69 points he had coming into this season and he’s now on pace to reach 100 points over the course of 82 games.

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