Oilers Game 2: Vancouver Canucks

redit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re an Oilers fan living in Vancouver or an Oilers fan who traveled to Vancouver and attended Wednesday night’s game, I am so terribly sorry. Every word I could use to describe Edmonton’s season opener would be an understatement. To put it politely, they just did not show up. Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner both allowed four goals in an 8-1 loss, but I don’t blame it solely on them. Not having Mattias Ekholm in the lineup would always be a tad noticeable, but I still would expect the team to remember what defense was. If Ekholm did play, and if they had Igor Shesterkin or Andrei Vasilevsky in net, they may’ve lost by only three goals instead of seven. Although the Oilers got a goal on the powerplay (because how could they not?), their third line of Dylan Holloway, Ryan McLeod, and Warren Foegele was their best line. Thankfully, Holloway should still be in the lineup Saturday night after a shot hit his wrist late in the game. Bless his heart for caring, but it’s hard to justify a shot block risking injury during a blowout loss. Thatcher Demko had to leave the game for the Canucks at one point because he was feeling ill. Word is he even threw up in his goalie mask. I hope he’s recovering and feeling better, but sitting through the whole game would’ve made you think it was Edmonton that had the flu.

Related Article: Keys To The Oilers Success In 2023-2024

This game very blatantly made me realize that I forgot to add one other point in my “Keys To The 2023-2024 Season” article. Sometimes, we see an Oilers team that’s like Wednesday night or is up and down like a toilet seat with long winning streaks and long losing streaks. Other times, we see an Oilers team that analysts have picked to win it all this year. But maybe that last sentence I wrote was part of the problem. Much has been made in hockey media about Edmonton being a strong Stanley Cup contender, as well as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl being much hungrier to win than in seasons prior. Cup Or Bust is their motto. But being hungry comes from having a strong work ethic on a game-by-game basis. It was only game 1 of an 82 game season, and every sports team has bad games once in a while. It’s just difficult to forgive this sports team for it because of a staunch mental flaw that they can never shake off. They go into games feeling overconfident and thinking they deserve a win instead of playing to earn a win. Having team success takes effort; it’s not just given away for free. I mostly feel bad for Campbell. Preseason games don’t matter in the standings, but I would imagine he was feeling a little bit better about his play during preseason. His teammates helped let him down. I just hope he doesn’t let that night get to his head for the rest of the year, a year where he’s trying to work on his mental game. Ekholm is expected to be in the lineup for Saturday, which should help to calm some of our defensemen down. Let’s see what their response to getting embarrassed on Hockey Night In Canada will look like. Rant over. The keys to the game are…

Home Opener/Rematch: The one positive to take out of Wednesday night is that it was a road game. I would not have looked forward to hearing “We Want 10” again if they played that game at Rogers Place. Feed off the energy of the home crowd, make it hard for the Canucks to repeat Wednesday night in your building. If you have a bad shift, don’t let it determine the rest of the game.

Matti-ing The Blue Line: As mentioned earlier, Mattias Ekholm should be good to go for this game. The Oilers started experimenting with Darnell Nurse with Evan Bouchard in the preseason because they’d like to pair Ekholm with fellow Swede Philip Broberg for veteran guidance. Maybe it needs more time, but the Nurse/Bouchard pairing doesn’t look right. I think, for now, just go back to Ekholm/Bouchard and Nurse/Ceci until later on in the year. If in early or mid-March, they feel safe with their record in the standings, then they can experiment with changes. Reuniting Nurse with Cody Ceci is not ideal, but that pairing might look slightly better, with Ceci being injury-free compared to last year.

Another Serving Of Soup?: Stuart Skinner is Edmonton’s future in net, but Jack Campbell is getting paid a lot more money. If Campbell’s goal is to get his confidence back, maybe playing him in the home opener can be seen as a positive sign of trust and team togetherness from the coaching staff. It could say, “We know you want to take that game back, but we still believe in you.” I also said the defensive play in front needed to be better, but the first few saves of the game will be important for him to gain momentum.

Stephen Vani

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

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