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Three Key Things: It was a hell of a run, mistakes prove costly, and the Oilers vs. Golden Knights rivalry

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baggedmilk
2 months ago
After a week and a half of waiting, the Edmonton Oilers finally resumed their schedule for the back half of the 2023-24 season with a chance at a 17th consecutive win. Standing in their way of glory was the defending champ Vegas Golden Knights, and exactly as predicted, last night’s game was as close to a playoff matchup as you can get in February. Unfortunately, a fine effort by Edmonton was spoiled by a few missed chances and a hot goaltender, resulting in a 3-1 loss.

WHAT A RUN

As much as it sucks that Oilers’ winning streak is over, I wanted to kick off the article by saying how much fun it was to watch them rattle off a month and a half worth of wins. Only four times in NHL history has a team won every single game in a month, and the Oilers are now among that tiny list. It was a heater unlike any I’ve ever experienced, and to have it come in a year that started as badly as this one did was a magical ride worth celebrating.
Regardless of what anybody says regarding the competition or how the schedule played out, the reality is that if winning 16 games in a row was easy, then every team would do it. Instead, only two teams in NHL history have won 16 straight games, and only one team has ever won more than that, and that’s a fantastic accomplishment that was so much fun to experience.

ONE MISTAKE TOO MANY

Was anyone else worried about how rusty the Oilers would be after doing whatever it was that the boys got up to over the week and change? Listen, I know what I’d get up to if I had that much time off, and I have fifteen cents to my name. Imagine what it must be like for a twenty-something millionaire (or close to it) when they have a week to do whatever they want.
Some of these boys probably still stink like cocktails, but there was a job to do, and my hope was that they would be sharp enough to avoid getting caught with costly mistakes. With the chances at both ends, strong defensive plays, and high-quality goaltending, it almost felt like a playoff game, given the atmosphere and the fact that there was no free ice available anywhere. It was intense, to say the least.
Unfortunately, when a game is that close, it always ends up being one mistake that proves costly, and in this case, it was a missed read by Ceci early in the third period that allowed Chandler Stephenson the space he needed to make a play. Unfortunately, that gaff resulted in the game-winning goal, and it was the exact kind of thing Oilers fans are talking about when they say they want an upgrade. Yet, to be fair to the guy, winning in the NHL is pretty tough when you only get one goal.

I CAN’T STAND THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS

You know the rivalry is getting good when you can’t stand the team the Oilers are going up against, and that is certainly the case when the boys are up against the Golden Knights. That loss in the second round against what I thought was a beatable Vegas team still stings, and it was almost poetic that the boys had the chance to tie the league record for most wins in a row if they could only find a way past the Stanley Cup Champs.
As expected, the atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena was fantastic, and the Oilers fans who made their way down did everything they could to make it feel like a home game for the boys.  It was the kind of game where there were so many road fans in the building that a win would have likely cleared the place early and left only our chants ringing out through the arena. The table was set for jubilation.
So to have the game end with Golden Knights fans celebrating the win like it was Game 7 of the Cup Finals had me seething. Their happiness was my misery, and it’s a feeling that can only come when you’ve met up and lost in the playoffs. In fact, it’s healthy to have fanbases you despise. On the bright side, a rivalry like this sets us all up for what would surely be a fantastic playoff series a few months from now. On the downside, the stress of that series might kill us all.

OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING…

  • I’m going to go out on a limb and say that giving up a shorthanded 2-on-0 to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is a bad idea. Thankfully, a fine poke check by Vinny Desharnais at the blue line sent the league’s two best players rushing the other way for a breakaway chance that they used to turn Adin Hill inside out.
  • Stuart Skinner was back between the pipes in pursuit of a 13th straight win, and while I would absolutely suggest that he did his part to get there, his counterpart at the other end didn’t want to let it happen. I thought Skinner was really strong throughout the game, but just couldn’t cover up that one mistake by Ceci, which ended up being the game winner. Skinner finished the night with 23 saves and a .920 save%.
  • Adin Hill has been, and continues to be annoying. The guy is turning into an Oiler killer and it’s driving me nuts, and last night’s performance was another chapter in that same story. Though, I wouldn’t be a biased Oilers fan if I didn’t also mention that the Oilers hit the post a couple of times and missed some wide-open opportunities.
  • As we head into Silly Szn, seeing the play Cody Ceci made on on Chandler Stephenson’s goal early in the third period isn’t going to quiet the noise that the team should try and find an upgrade on him at the deadline, I’ll tell you that for free.
  • I forgot Corey Perry is an Oiler for a minute. It was almost like a fever dream that he played that last game against Nashville before everyone broke for the all-star break. My own memory issues, I really liked the McLeod — Holloway — Perry line. From my side of the TV screen, I saw a line that was in on the attack more often than they were not, and it’s almost bad luck for all of them that they weren’t able to earn a goal.
  • Making my way into the spreadsheet factory, you see how well the Oilers played and why it’s a real bummer that they couldn’t pick up the two points. Looking at the possession numbers, Edmonton finished with a 61.74 CF% and a 59.34 xGF% at even strength. That’s tough luck.
  • The streak may be over, but at least the Oilers won 52.8% of the faceoffs.
  • Who scores first: Connor Brown, Corey Perry, or Cody Ceci? It’s my new favourite game.
  • You’ve gotta give props to the Oilers fans that travelled down to Vegas to watch last night’s game. From my side of the TV screen, it looked like there were a lot of them.

MORNING CUPPA HOCKEY

Fill your cup with all things puck Monday to Thursday at 9am EST with Morning Cuppa Hockey. Hosts and former players Jonny Lazarus and Colby Cohen will be on the mic discussing key topics, chatting with guests, and disagreeing on practically everything! Tune in and subscribe to the Daily Faceoff Youtube Channel catch the show LIVE at 9am EST, or stream anytime, anywhere you get your podcasts.
Updated: Additional links and context (2/7/2024)

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