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Three Key Things: Canucks get the saves, the 5v5 scoring, and it’s two straight losses for the Oilers

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
baggedmilk
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers got humbled and humiliated in their game one loss to the Vancouver Canucks, and the question we all had as fans was how they would be able to rebound. Even though it was only one game, the last thing we would tolerate was a repeat performance, and it was up to our boys to show that they could rebound. Unfortunately, the Oilers couldn’t make that plan happen as they fell to the Canucks for a second straight game.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE GOALTENDING

It’s tough to sugarcoat it. Stuart Skinner wasn’t good enough for the Oilers last night. That’s not to hang everything on him — his teammates left him in some tough spots and got beat by a couple of deflections in tight — but it’s pretty tough to win when you give up four goals on 16 shots. I mean, at the other end of the ice, Casey DeSmith stood on his head, and we just couldn’t match. We couldn’t get the timely save that kept the game tied. Put another way, if you didn’t know who won but saw that one team generated 40 shots while the other only had 16, it would be reasonable to assume that the former was the one to win. S0, when you look at the boxscore and see a second straight .750 save% for Skinner, it’s tough not to feel like this loss was a wasted opportunity. Again, I’m not trying to blame the guy for the loss because there’s more to the story than that, but I also think it’s fair to point out that this was another performance that Stu would likely want to forget.

WHERE IS THE 5V5 SCORING?

Through 120 minutes of play, the Oilers have only scored one goal at even strength and it’s a problem. When Leon Draisaitl scored only 42 seconds into the game, I thought that goal was going to be the start of a beautiful evening. I thought the hot start was going to be the catalyst for bigger things, but I was so very wrong because the floodgates never opened. Instead, the boys couldn’t get anything past the goaltender despite a flurry of shots from all over the ice. I don’t know what it is about the Edmonton Oilers that turns opposing back-ups into Vezina candidates, but last night was another example of getting goalie’d and having a decent effort get wasted. That said, this team is too talented to be struggling this badly to score when it’s 5v5 and it’s an issue they have to sort out like yesterday. We can’t always be relying on the power play to save us all the time.

MISTAKES APLENTY AND THEY WERE ALL COSTLY

In between the flashes of dominance we saw throughout the evening, the Oilers struggled with execution on the smaller details of their game. I honestly wish I had a count for how many missed passes there were again tonight, but there were plenty of moments in this game when it was just as likely that the Oilers would pass to a Canuck as it was that they’d find a teammate. What I’m trying to say here is that puck management was an issue again, and at least two of Vancouver’s goals could have been avoided with better decision making. And because of those mistakes, the Canucks were able to stick around and ultimately win the game even though they had no business being in the mix for two points. It was one of those games where the Oilers did most things correctly, but screwing up the small details gave Vancouver the daylight they needed to steal the win.

BONUS KEY THING: THE RETURN OF MATTIAS EKHOLM

Without question, the most significant Oilers moment of my day came earlier this afternoon when it was announced that Mattias Ekholm would be in the lineup for his season debut. After missing the entire pre-season and Wednesday’s opener in Vancouver, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about how long he’d be out of the lineup with that hip flexor issue. Missing your best defenceman for any length of time is a nightmare, and I don’t care what team we’re talking about here, so I was happy to know he’d be there. That said, Ekholm looked like a guy that hadn’t played a game since the playoffs. His hip injury kept him out of the Oilers’ eight pre-season games, and it will take a minute for him to knock the rust off and get up to speed. There was no better example of that rust than the play on the game winner that saw Sam Lafferty walk Ekholm to the outside before sinking a low shot through Skinner.
Ekholm finished the night with 15:47 in TOI, with two hits and one shot on goal.

OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING

  • Love to see a three-point night (1G, 2A) from my boy. We all had a blast watching Ryan Nugent-Hopkins set a career high with 104 points in 2022-23, but the question everyone has on their mind these days is how he will follow it up. After a quiet night in the season opener, it was nice to see RNH come back with a big game from a personal standpoint.
  • I like how the Holloway – McLeod – Foegele line is coming together. If Woody leaves them together long enough for a chance to build some chemistry, that trio has all the tools to be a menace on the offensive side.
  • Evan Bouchard is having a tough start to the year, and we need him to calm down when he has the puck on his stick. Through the first two games, he’s handled the puck like a live grenade, and the result has been some egregious giveaways that simply cannot happen at the rate they are right now.
  • The power play is starting to come back to life, and it was great to see the boys snapping the puck around the way they were. Obviously, it would have been nice to get another goal or two, given the number of chances they had with the man advantage, but I think these early at-bats will help the boys get back to where we need them to be sooner rather than later.
  • Special teams are important, and the only thing the PK is killing is my spirit.

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