I’m not sure if there are ever really “must-win” games in November, but that felt like one.
Following a frustrating loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday and with another difficult road trip out east on the horizon, the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Vegas Golden Knights, the team running away with the Pacific Division.
We’ve seen the Oilers struggle with slow starts this season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, as Warren Foegele opened the scoring three minutes into the game. We’ve seen the Oilers plagued by weak defensive zone play this season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, as Edmonton’s blueline held Vegas to just four high-danger chances at even strength. We’ve seen the Oilers fade late and blow leads this season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, as Connor McDavid decided to turn on the jets in overtime and grab the two points that were available.
connor mcdavid are you kidding me!!!!! pic.twitter.com/J2tvE3C0Pc
— zach (@zjlaing) November 20, 2022
“That was a very determined and serious player who wanted to go out and find the two points for our team and make plays down the stretch,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said after the game. “I like that that he had that about him. He wasn’t sitting back.”
There might be some things to gripe about but that was the effort you’d like to see from the Oilers given the context. It’s a reminder after a month of ugly and frustrating losses that this team can hang with the best so long as they show up to play.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
- If you look at the shots on goal, it looks like this was a game in which the Golden Knights were dictating the play and the Oilers were chasing. That wasn’t really the case, the high-danger chances more accurately tell the story. The Oilers dominated in that category, 11-to-4 at even strength. They created chances in the offensive zone and did a good job at clamping down on the Golden Knights when the puck came back the other way.
- Stuart Skinner was again excellent in net for the Oilers, as he stopped 31 of 34 shots. Skinner has made three starts in a row and he’s given the Oilers a chance to win in all of them. He deserves the chance to take the net on Monday to try to end the New Jersey Devils’ 12-game losing streak. The game on Wednesday against the struggling New York Islanders would be the time to get Jack Campbell back in action.
- When Evander Kane was placed on the Long-Term Injured Reserve, they recalled Mattias Janmark and Klim Kostin from the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL. So far, so good for the reinforcements. Janmark was solid on McDavid’s wing, providing the line with a player who can handle himself in the offensive zone and who backchecks effectively. Kostin is giving the Oilers exactly what they need with Kane out. He’s a big, solid body who isn’t afraid to throw hits and muck things up. There’s a lot of skill there, and hopefully we see him score some goals, but Kostin is contributing right now with that physical play.
- If Jay Woodcroft is more comfortable giving veteran players like Janmark and Foegele the prime minutes alongside McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’s probably time to send Dylan Holloway down to the AHL so he can play more. Holloway played just 4:40 in the game against Vegas and didn’t see the ice in the third period.