NHL Game Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs. Colorado Avalanche | 03/16/2024

Connor Brown celebrates his first goal of the season
Photo: Kevin Neufeld | Inside The Rink

Hell froze over, and pigs were flying. On Wednesday night, Connor Brown finally scored a goal for the Edmonton Oilers. In his 55th game of the season, he got the monkey off his back, or as he put it, full-blown gorilla. His last goal before that was scored on March 24th, 2022, almost exactly two calendar years ago. We thought he’d actually scored his first goal on December 10th against the New Jersey Devils until it was called back, then we needed to wait another three months.

Related Post: Stuart Skinner Plays Pivotal Role In Oilers’ Stanley Cup Playoff Hopes

I wrote an article about Brown’s scoring struggles back in January. I defended him by saying that he only played the first four games of the 2022/2023 season due to a knee injury. After going nearly a whole season without playing before signing in Edmonton, it was only fair to be patient with him and let him adjust to the game again. There were still other strong aspects of his game that didn’t always appear on the scoresheet. However, patience understandably grew thin after the first three months or so of the season, and being reminded of his performance bonus counting against the salary cap next season didn’t help. I wouldn’t blame Capitals fans either in the building or in front of their TV screens for not understanding what the big deal was in a 7-2 game. The 7th goal would normally mean nothing. Maybe a hat-trick goal, but whatever. The smile on Brown’s face after the puck when in, the reaction from his teammates on the ice and the bench, as well as the long-standing ovation from the fans, it’s just another special part of cheering for this team. We all joked about him and were then collectively the happiest for him, even replacing the “Let’s Go Oilers” chant with a “Connor Brown” chant. We’ve all been part of his grueling Oilers journey. Those are the moments you look for when a player needs to turn their season around and build momentum.

The Oilers enter the second game of a four game homestand against a possible future Playoff opponent, depending on how far both of these teams go. The keys to the game are…

Raging Bull: Not the movie about the famous boxer, but Nathan MacKinnon actually plays the game of hockey as if he himself were a raging bull. He shoots angrily, he skates angrily, he’s probably the most intense superstar in the NHL. When he’s on the ice, you’ll know it because you can hear his skates specifically. When Connor McDavid uses his speed, he’s more graceful. When MacKinnon uses his speed, he charges at opposing players. He’s the league leader in points with 115. McDavid keeps saying it’s no longer about the points, but with 106, he may be extra motivated to play catch-up in the Art Ross trophy race tonight.

Stuart Skinner taking a water break mid-game
Photo: Kevin Neufeld | Inside The Rink

It’s A Long Game: After the Oilers took a 2-0 lead in the first period on Wednesday, Stuart Skinner allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced. He was unbeatable the rest of the night, even robbing Alex Ovechkin three times. That’s been a common theme for Skinner. It’s frustrating in the moment, but after the game’s finished, you start to appreciate his mental toughness in bouncing back from a tough start. He’s like Mike Smith that way but without the fiery personality. I still wouldn’t make tough starts a game plan against this opponent.

Stats Aren’t Everything: After posting a .918 SV% last season, Alexandar Georgiev has just a modest .901 SV%. His save percentage has been below .900 for most of this season, but you’re doing something right when you still have 34 wins. This sort of correlates with my second key to the game, what you do in the moment matters more to a player than past instances. Mid-game or mid-season, the ability to move on and put all else behind you is an underrated skill. Let’s just call it the Grant Fuhr School Of Goaltending.

Stephen Vani

Oilers fan in Toronto. Staying up past my bedtime for Western games since the mid 2000s.

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