Coming into Wednesday, the Edmonton Oilers had 14 wins on the season.
Either because of slow starts or sketchy finishes or whatever in between, very few, if any, of those wins felt like they were stress-free.
The 7-4 win over Nashville comes to mind, but that game saw the Predators cut the score to 5-3 early in the third period. Both of the wins over Chicago looked like they were going to be laughers but the Blackhawks wound up losing both by only one. Even the 6-3 win over Pittsburgh started off with a 2-0 Penguins lead.
It’s been a long grind for the Oilers, who have played among the NHL’s toughest schedules through the first two months of play.
That’s why it felt so nice to see the team finally tee off against a weak opponent like the Arizona Coyotes, who rolled into town at the very end of a miserable 14-game road trip. The Oilers scored early and continued to score. When the Coyotes showed a sign of life, the Oilers answered back with another goal under a minute later.
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They wound up with an 8-2 win. The eight goals were a season-high and it was only the sixth time the team has allowed two or fewer goals in a game this season. Top to bottom, start to finish, that was an easy, never-in-doubt win.
There aren’t too many conclusions to draw from beating an opponent like this, but hopefully the easy win can get some players to stop gripping the stick so tight.

THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY


Thoughts…

  • It was a little surprising to see Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl playing in the latter half of the third period as much as they did but Jay Woodcroft had all four lines flowing in this game, which was a refreshing thing to see. The McDavid, Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman led the way with 10:16 at even strength but each of the other forward trios got at least nine minutes of five-on-five play.
  • The third line of Jesse Puljujarvi, Dylan Holloway, and James Hamblin played incredibly well together. Again, take the quality of competition into consideration here, but this was a forward line with three players who skate fast and who can forecheck relentlessly. They had six scoring chances and limited their opponents to just two. This is a trio I’d try again in an actual NHL game.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has put together a very good start to his season, and a rebound one at that. Nugent-Hopkins only scored 11 goals in 63 games in 2021-22, his lowest total in a season since his sophomore year when he scored four goals in 40 games. This year, Nugent-Hopkins already has 13 goals through just 27 games, putting him on pace to possibly pass his career-high of 28 goals set in 2018-19.
  • The one perplexing thing about this game is that the coaching staff didn’t feel comfortable starting Jack Campbell. He’s struggled, but the Coyotes were as close to a sure thing as you’ll ever see in the NHL on Wednesday, and Stuart Skinner was coming off a game in which he faced 50 shots.