Some habits are hard to break. The Oilers commitment to making the right play in the important areas of the ice was not where it needs to be last night. That must change if they want to win consistently.
It was their first regular season game in 44 weeks, without any preseason games, but considering defensive miscues have been a concern for a few seasons, it is understandable why some were angrily writing or yelling, “Here we go again.” I understand the concern.
—The Oilers had three obvious errors that led directly to goals. On Bo Horvat’s opening goal, Caleb Jones correctly pinched down, then @Zack Kassian properly supported him and had @Tanner Pearson angled off to the boards as he entered the zone. Pearson was not in a dangerous spot. But inexplicably, Adam Larsson decided to slide over to Pearson, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joined him, leaving Horvat wide open in the middle of the ice. Larsson, mainly, and to a lower degree of error, Nugent-Hopkins, can’t make that read. There is no reason to. Kassian had Pearson.
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— @Tyler Ennis has to get this puck out. He had control of the puck. He tried to flip it out, but he has to get it out. When you have control six to eight feet inside the blueline it is imperative you get it out. Often your teammates are starting up the ice at that point, and a turnover often leads to a scoring chance or a goal.
—This one is slightly less egregious as Yamamoto and Draisaitl never had complete possession. It was lost battle, which happens, but then @Caleb Jones made too aggressive of a read. I understand why he was thinking jumping up in the play, but you have to be 100% sure, as a D-man, before you exit the zone. He was almost at the blueline.
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—- The main difference between the Boeser goal and the Horvat and Hoglander goals is that Jones was playing his 61st NHL game. He’s in his second season. Ennis is in his 11th season. Nugent-Hopkins and Larsson are in their 10th. They have played over 1,750 NHL games combined. Those types of reads or plays can’t happen from veterans if you want to win. Granted, it was the first game with no preseason, but it is the same for all 31 teams. “I don’t think we expected the perfect game, but this was far from it,” said Adam Larsson. “There are certain areas where we have to get a lot better.“ The greasy areas, we have to do a lot better work. I don’t want to make any excuses.”
It is a tough reminder early in the season, but it is one this team needs to learn from and show they are willing to make the right play more often. It is only one game, and there were goals galore across the league, as expected with no preseason games, but the Oilers can’t afford to feel their way into this season. The commitment to make the right plays needs to happen tonight.
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— Last night was the perfect example of why you can’t simply look at a player’s goals for on ice as an accurate reflection of their contributions on a powerplay. Last season, some people suggested Chiasson was just as good as Neal on the powerplay.
Chiasson played 143 minutes on the PP. Edmonton scored 33 PP goals when he was on the ice.
Neal played 158 minutes. Edmonton scored 29 goals when he was on the ice.
And because of that, some suggested that Chiasson was just as impactful.
No. Nope. Never.
Here is why.
Neal is a better finisher. Always has been.
Neal in 158 minutes had 12 goals. Many from in close around the net. He had 30 shots on goal.
Chiasson in 143 minutes has six goals. He had 32 shots on goal. They played the same spot.
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The truth is the other four guys on the PP scored 27 goals when Chiasson was on. He scored six and they combined for 33 goals on 139 shots. So the others scored 27 goals on 107 shots when Chiasson was on the ice.
When Neal was on the ice, the other four players scored 17 goals and he scored 12. They combined for 29 goals on 156 shots. The other four players scored 17 goals on 126 goals.
Neal is a better goal scorer. End of story. If you think Chiasson was somehow a major contributor to ensure the other four improved their SH% from 13.5% when Neal was on the ice to 25.2% with Chiasson then knock your socks off. But you’d be mistaken.
— Neal has been a better finisher his entire career. You can dislike his salary. You can want him to do more at 5×5, but when put on this powerplay, he scores goals. He has excellent hands around the net. And the Oilers PP is better with him, because he will finish chances that Chiasson won’t.
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— Neal is 220th all-time in NHL goals. I truly enjoy analytics. They make me look for things I never did before, but the truth is being on the ice for goals, unless you show video of every one to see who contributed, does not count as much to me as a player who actually scores the goals. Neal scores goals. And he was a major part of the Oilers PP success last year. When he was on the ice he scored 41.3% of the Oilers powerplay goals. When Chiasson was on he scored 18.1%.
— Of course the powerplay can succeed without Neal, because the PP runs mainly through McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH. But Neal will finish more plays than Chiasson. I’m not taking a shot at Chiasson.He simply isn’t as good of a finisher as Neal. Chiasson should have scored at least one, possibly two, powerplay goals last night. The Oilers PP had some great looks, but they didn’t finish. It hurt them in a high-scoring game. Chiasson could easily score tonight, because he will get chances on this PP, but that won’t change that Neal is a better finisher.
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— I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game where Connor McDavid had that many quality chances but finished the night pointless. He line was outscored 2-1. Horvat’s line won the battle, but if McDavid has that many quality chances again he won’t be pointless. I credit Horvat/Hoglander/Pearson, but the Oilers top line should be able to win that matchup most nights. They need to be better tonight. While it is difficult, the job of scorers is to finish. The top line needs to finish.
— A big positive for the Oilers last night was getting two goals from defencemen at 5×5. Darnell Nurse and @Adam Larsson both scored. Both were shots that beat the goalie on the glove side and Nurse’s had a goal-scorers flair. We know the Oilers need to cut down on their GA at 5×5, but they also need some more offensive production from the blueline. Edmonton was 25th in the NHL last season with 18 goals at 5×5 from the blueline. Potting two on opening night is a good start if they hope to finish middle of the pack.
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— @Mike Smith will start in goal tonight, but I wonder if Dave Tippett makes any changes on his blueline or possibly inserts Devin Shore into the lineup. I could see Shore coming in for Ennis up front. Or Khaira. They would have to move Evan Bouchard to the taxi-squad and activate Shore. A simply paper transaction if Tippett wants a different look. He also might slot in Kris Russell, but Slater Koekkoek played well.

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