It sure wasn’t pretty, and it sure wasn’t how they would’ve wanted it to go.
But the Edmonton Oilers are 1-0. We got to hear La Bamba debut as the clubs new win song helping keeping the legacy of the legendary Joey Moss alive.
It took a while for it to really feel like the first game of the season. The excitement was there, no doubt, but you could almost feel the early season jitters from both clubs.
That feeling out process, however, was shaken off with five minutes to play. Edmonton got some offensive zone time and started piling it on.
A Darnell Nurse shot created a rebound and none other than The Bison King Jesse Puljujarvi was there to bang in the rebound. It was a huge goal, and Edmonton was able to keep up the pressure.
Edmonton successfully killed off the instigator call Sceviour took, and it wasn’t long before the Oilers got another powerplay chance of their own. And that’s when none other than Zach Hyman found the back of the net in his first game.
“This powerplay has been together for a really long time and they have great chemistry,” said Hyman after the game. “I just wanted to try to fit in and find lanes. It was good to get the first one obviously.”
Well fit in he did. Taking the spot on the powerplay that former Oiler and now Canuck Alex Chiasson held, Hyman didn’t look out of place at all. Nor did he on the penalty kill. Or at five-on-five.
It’s that lunchpail attitude Hyman brings to the game that makes not only him so effective, but the Oilers second line that featured him alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto.
“That line was excellent. As a five-on-five group they were excellent,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett after the game. “He’s so tenacious. His energy is contagious. I told him before the game ‘Hyms we’re going to use you in a lot of situations’ and he just goes ‘ok.’ that’s what you do and he delivers.”
If that Oilers second line is able to keep this type of strong play up, it makes total sense for the club to keep Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together on the top line. Sure, you can make the argument that the Oilers may be better off spreading their wealth of talent around a little more, but an influx of depth and the addition of guys like Derek Ryan and Warren Foegele can help stop the bleeding down the lineup.
Hyman is a play-driver, plain and simple. He plays the type of game that complements a guy like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins even more so than McDavid, who in his own right has a tenacious, hardworking linemate in Puljujarvi.
It was far from a perfect night, however. The Oilers gave Vancouver five powerplay chances, two of which came in the third period. It led to Oliver Ekman-Larsson firing home a screened shot with just over seven minutes left in the frame which gave them enough momentum to tie the game at two with under three to go. Mike Smith undoubtedly wants the second goal, scored by Quinn Hughes, back.
Smith played solid for the majority of the night but at a time when the team needed a big save the most, he let in a soft floater from the half-wall that crept between he and the post.
The game-winner in the shootout came from the person we all expected it to be: Kyle Turris. He got a cruical shift in overtime, and wa looked to as the Oilers fifth shooter. He didn’t miss his mark.
For him, it’s a night that was a big confidence booster.
“It’s really big. I’ll be the first to admit I had a bad year last year, but coming back I wanted to prove myself and that’s what I’m working towards,” he said after the game. “To get the shift in overtime and the shootout, it definitely helps to build the confidence.”
Having his wife and kids in the stands surely didn’t hurt.
No matter how they got it, the Oilers got two points and that’s what matters most. Onto Calgary.
- Thankfully it appeared Duncan Keith was okay after being crushed by Meyers. He was bloodied but was able to return later in the game. He played alongside Cody Ceci on the second pair and at 5×5 they controlled 50 percent of the shot attempts and 74.7 percent of the expected goals. A good start.
- The Oilers as a whole had a strong grasp on the game almost the whole way. They did a great job controlling the pace of play all night and limited Vancouver to eight high-danger shot attempts at five-on-five. You’d like to see that number come down a little bit.
- With one assist tonight, Draisaitl extended his streak of points in season-opening games to six — one off the record held by Wayne Gretzky who scored in every opener from 1979-80 to 1985-86.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Nation Dan who has been campaigning on social media for La Bamba to be the Oilers goal song. Him tirelessly pounding the drum for the Oilers to honour Joey Moss with the song came true and as McDavid said after the game, there’s no one who loved a win more than Joey: “I think it’s pretty fitting with Joe and his legacy here in Edmonton. It’s a song that’s pretty close to our hearts and it’s something that means a lot to us. Nobody liked a win better than Joey Moss.”
What they’re saying…
When it looked like the first game of this season was going to be like most of their games from last season, the Vancouver Canucks did something to offer hope that things might be different: they came back.
Trying to relaunch themselves and escape the gloomy pall of their last-place finish last spring, the Canucks scored twice on the road in the final eight minutes of the third period against a good team to manufacture a point in what turned out to be a 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of the new season.
Sure, Edmonton goaltender Mike Smith botched the tying goal at 17:11 by Quinn Hughes, who smartly found room short-side from a sharp angle when the Oiler failed to seal his post behind traffic. And yes, Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s power-play goal that started the Canucks back from a 2-0 deficit at 12:28 caromed off the stick of Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before snaking through Tanner Pearson’s screen.
But the Canucks played their best period when they needed, too, putting the Oilers under enough pressure to draw a couple of penalties that fed Vancouver momentum. And the Canucks, back-stopped by goalie Thatcher Demko, did a solid job limiting the all-universe duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The Canucks played positively and came away with something, rather than nothing. –
Iain MacIntyre, Sportsnet
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]