What I love most about the 2021 schedule for the North Division is how often we will see teams playing two, three and four-game mini-series. It adds an extra layer of angst, excitement and opportunity to the regular season.
It is only the second game of the season, but the Oilers don’t want to start their season with consecutive losses to a divisional rival. Meanwhile, Vancouver enters tonight excited for the chance to sweep these two games and head home potentially four points up on the Oilers.
Losing the first two games of the season won’t ruin your chances of making the playoffs, but it might feel that way for a few days for Oilers fans. And if you feel that way it wouldn’t it be unreasonable, it just means you care. Oilers fans are extremely passionate, and with only two winning seasons in 14 years, a two-game losing streak to start the season could cause some consternation.
Last night the Oilers made some egregious defensive errors, a trend we’ve seen for many years, but they also were also unable to score on some of their best chances. The defensive miscues were noticeable. We outlined them in Game Notes.
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But the lack of finish also cost the Oilers. Chiasson missed some glorious chances, so did McDavid and Draisaitl. The good news for the Oilers is if McDavid gets that many chances again tonight, he will not be pointless. He is simply too good offensively. A rare pointless night isn’t a concern.
But the commitment to making the right plays defensively is a concern.
“Poor puck play and poor reads led to some grade-A chances, and if you give them enough of them they will capitalize,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett.
“I want to see improved puck play getting out of our own zone. Too many times, we gave up two goals on pucks we played on the wall and we didn’t get it out. Some poor puck play led to a lot of chances against,” said Tippett
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“The quality of the ones they scored on, those are plays we have to find ways to defend better. Larsson made a poor read on the first one. Kass (Kassian) made a poor read on the fifth one. Caleb Jones made a poor read where Yamamoto and Draisaitl overskated the puck at the blueline. Those are puck play errors compounded by poor reads and mistakes by players that led to grade A chances against. If we want to be a better team, and a harder team to play against, those are the ones that have to come out of our game.”
This was talked about throughout training camp. The players have talked about it. They know it has been an issue, so the question is: will they put in the work to change it? Make no mistake, this is on the players. The coach can show them some video. He can point out the errors, but he can’t make the decisions on the ice. The players have to.
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Can they?
“I think we have a receptive team, but it is a matter of doing and getting the job done,” said Tippett with a solid emphasis on “get the job done.” Tippett went on to describe what the players need to do to become better defensively.
“It is execution, determination, decision making and making the right play. There are a lot of factors, but if you find enough in the game…it doesn’t allow you to get any kind of rhythm in the game and you end up chasing the game. You give up goals and chase the game that is not an ideal situation.”
It is a trend that needs to stop for the Oilers.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Kassian
Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
Archibald-Turris-Puljujarvi
Ennis-Khaira-Chiasson
Nurse-Bear
Jones-Larsson
Koekkoek-Barrie
Smith
There might be one lineup change. Tippett said they are monitoring a player who has some “bumps and bruises.”
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Canucks…

Virtanen-Pettersson-Boeser
Pearson-Horvat-Hoglander
Roussel-Gaudette-MacEwan
Motte-Beagle-Sutter
Edler-Schmidt
Hughes-Hamonic
Juolevi-Myers
Demko
As Struds says, don’t change a winning lineup. Well, except for the goalie in back-to-back nights. Although I do wonder if at some point this season we will see coaches playing a goalie both games of back-to-backs when facing the same team. Especially if they play great in the first game. I’d consider it.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

The Canucks weren’t perfect last night — far from it — but they played a pretty complete game and against an Oilers team that has buried them in the past. Travis Green had his boys ready to play.
You know who else was ready? Canucks Twitter, that’s who! Everyone had their A-game in tow, because within five minutes there were 100 tweets with the words “alt 0246”. We also had a few “on pace for 56 goals” and a handful of lazy “hoggie” tweets.
It all resets tonight as the two teams collide once more in the same building in front of multiple Rogers 5G digital glass ads.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers can’t lose two in a row on home ice, can they? Of course they can, but I don’t think they will. They respond with a 4-2 win. They were 7-1 in second half of back-to-back games last season.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid doesn’t go pointless often, and rarely in consecutive games. He will finish two of his chances tonight. He scores two goals.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton gets another 5×5 goal from a D-man as Caleb Jones scores.
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