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Three Oilers’ positives heading into Game 2 against the Canucks

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Photo credit:© James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
1 month ago
On some nights when the Edmonton Oilers hit the ice, their play is almost as if they’re crafting a Picasso masterpiece.
On other nights, it’s more like they’re chaotically tossing paint at a canvas and crossing their fingers for a good outcome. The latter is what Game 1 was like against the Vancouver Canucks.
After a game where the Oilers held a 4-1 lead but ended up losing 5-4, there was a lot of blame to go around and perhaps a feeling that everything was unravelling. That said, for Oil Country, the loss to the Canucks somewhat resembled the same feeling when the Oilers lost the first game against the Calgary Flames in the second round of the 2022 playoffs, getting shellacked 9-6.
However, it’s crucial to remember that the Oilers went on to win the next four against Calgary to win the series. I’m not guaranteeing Edmonton will win the next four in a row against Vancouver, but to win a Stanley Cup, there will be some tough hurdles along the way.
With that in mind, despite the gloomy outlook after Game 1, below are three positives for the Oilers as they head into Game 2 against the Canucks.

Oilers Scoring on Silovs Early and Steadily Was a Good Thing

A storyline heading into Game 1 was the stellar play of Canucks’ rookie goaltender Arturs Silovs, after posting a remarkable 1.70 goals against average (GAA) and a .938 save percentage (SV%) in three games in the first round against the Nashville Predators.
There was a subtly brewing narrative of the Latvian netminder having a chance to perhaps go on a mythical playoff run to such an extent that even before the start of Game 1, so much so the Sportsnet broadcast ran a segment. They noted a list of rookie NHL goaltenders who went on to win a Stanley Cup in their rookie season, with the likes of Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, to name a few, and questioned whether Silovs would be next.
The Oilers, with their high-powered offence, likely ignore that possibility, but there’s a chance that it could’ve crossed their minds. Yet, they squashed the idea of that storyline unfolding (at least for Game 1), by putting one past the 23-year-old just two minutes in when Zach Hyman roofed a one-timer upstairs. Silovs didn’t look like a goaltender on the brink of a historic run, but rather resembled a rookie netminder facing jitters in net, letting in four goals, three of which he likely wished he could have another crack at.
In contrast, if Silovs had shut the door on the Oilers in Game 1, he would’ve likely been on their minds and in their heads before Game 2. However, Edmonton showed they can beat him, which removes one worry at least, and allows them to put their focus of attention on other areas they need to improve on.
It remains to be seen if the Canucks will stick with Silovs in net moving forward, but if they decide to make a switch because of his subpar outing in Game 1, that could also benefit the Oilers as they could face a cold Casey DeSmith, who hasn’t seen game action in almost two weeks.

Oilers’ Penalty Kill Remains Flawless

Edmonton’s penalty-killing unit put on a clinic in Game 1 against the Canucks, like they have all postseason. They successfully killed all three penalties and have yet to surrender a goal in 15 shorthanded situations this season.
Mattias Ekholm and Vincent Desharnais were the top two-minute munchers on the Oilers’ blue line, averaging 3:00 minutes on the PK. The top three forwards in minutes played there were Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (3:10 minutes), Mattias Janmark (2:52) and Ryan McLeod (2:46), and all three forwards stood out in shutting down the Canucks’ power play.
In one sequence in the second period, while McLeod was applying pressure in the neutral zone, he intercepted a Canucks’ drop pass attempt. Moments later, he made another good interception at the Oilers’ blue line, which led to a chance for Warren Foegele to go the other way. On the same PK, Janmark won a board battle against J.T. Miller and created a rush for himself. Moreover, Nugent-Hopkins’ stick was active, as he made good interceptions and executed a big backhand clear off a Brock Boeser rebound later in the middle frame.
With seemingly more negatives than positives stemming from Game 1 for the Oilers, successfully killing off all three penalties and maintaining their 100 percent PK success rate in the playoffs is definitely something to hang their hat on. They also capitalized on their sole power play opportunity, so their special teams continued to click. This means the obvious area for improvement in Game 2 is playing better at 5v5.

McDavid and Skinner Have Proven to Bounce Back After Off-Nights

There are occasions when Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid looks like someone is continuously tapping his speed burst turbo button when he’s skating and then there are other occasions when he looks like a regular human being. Game 1 was one of those times.
For only the third time this season, the Hart Trophy finalist was held without a shot on net in Game 1, which also saw him fail to record a shot on net for the first time in 55 postseason games.
McDavid had a rare off-night on Wednesday and earned only a secondary assist; however, a recurring pattern is that when the captain has a subpar game, he usually bounces back with a strong showing in the next one — which is something to keep an eye on in Game 2. Moreover, in the two games he failed to record a shot on net this season, he followed those up with two and three-point nights in the subsequent games.
As for Stuart Skinner, he needed to be better in Game 1. He made a big breakaway stop early in the first period on Conor Garland, but then let in a soft one on the game-winning goal when the Canucks’ forward snuck one by him, five-hole. I must sound like a broken record at this point when I emphasize Skinner’s ability to bounce back after bad games, but it’s worth noting once more that he’s proven that he can.
Skinner let in five goals in Game 2 of the last round against the Los Angeles Kings; however, in Game 3, he was rock solid and posted a shutout. Also, as noted by Oilersnation’s Brett Holden, he posted a .951 save percentage and 1.34 GAA overall in the three games that followed after he allowed five goals.
Additionally, one thing I admire about Skinner is that in his postgame interviews after a bad outing, he doesn’t appear rattled and has an even-keel demeanour, which, ideally, is what you want out of your netminder.
More often than not, he acknowledges where he could’ve been better and moves on, saying after Game 1, “I definitely don’t like Garland scoring on me like that. But now I know, so, it’s all good.” He added, “He had a pretty good opening, he held onto it, I lost my patience and I got bit for that, so, lesson learned from me.”
Overall, the Oilers let Game 1 slip away from them and perhaps the Canucks’ faster pace than the Kings caught them off guard. That said, if you were on the verge of hitting the panic button after their defeat, hold off for now. The Oilers are aware of what they need to improve on in Game 2, as Desharnais said in an interview, “There’s no panic in here, we know what to adjust.”

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