The Oilers came out flat for their season opener against the Devils. They were heavily out shot including an abysmal second period where the team failed to manage even one HD scoring chance. Despite scoring a PP goal the PP unit as a whole failed to click. McDavid generated a chance on the rush and Milan Lucic tapped in a goal; it wasn't a result of the PP unit as a whole.
To start a season that way was unfortunate for the fan base but what made it even worse was having to stew on the loss for the last 5 days, dissecting every minutiae of the game. Looking around the NHL plenty of other teams fell flat in their first game.
The Bruins who the Oilers face tonight were crushed 7-0 by Washington. They won their second game 4-0 against the Sabres.
The Flames lost 5-2 against the Canucks before returning the favour their following game beating Vancouver 7-4.
The Sharks lost 5-2 to Anaheim and followed it up with a close 3-2 OT victory against the Kings.
Tonight the Oilers need to respond in kind. Luckily they've been away from most Edmonton media over the last week but you can bet they are itching to get back on the ice and redeem themselves. The first game is done and in the books. No mulligans in hockey but a strong game tonight will go a long way in proving the Oilers are a better team than what we saw.
Yesterday I posted a blog that called in to question Todd McLellan and his coaching style. Part of that was a result of him moving Puljujarvi to a fourth line and apart from Strome. Tonight we will see the two paired together. Here is what McLellan had to say about that as well as to his other players.
"There's a number of players that are on notice... Tonight would be a good night to establish yourself in the lineup as a consistent player." Coach McLellan on opportunities for redemption following the #Oilers opener
McLellan jumbled his bottom 6 as well as his 2nd and 3rd pairing D in practice meaning these are likely the players he is targeting. Personally I don't feel any player...including McDavid played their best game. McLellan has his own assessment of the team and we will see how long it takes for the blender to come out tonight.
*official lineups have not been fully released but McLellan has said Brodziak is a healthy scratch and Bouchard will play. I will update later if these change.
4 KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Don't Do That Again. The Oilers need to start reading my blog. I gave them simple rules for the first game; first and foremost to start strong. They did not and once again allowed the first goal on the first shot. Waiting for the third period to try and make a pushback is not a sustainable strategy.
2. Second Pairing Woes. I thought Evan Bouchard had an overall alright first game. It took him awhile to get his legs under him, he made some good plays and some less good plays. After one game I am much more worried about the Nurse-Benning pairing. Though I hate the stat as a whole the two both finished -3 on the night and deservedly so. The pair together held a 32.17 CF%. Especially on the road this pair is going to have to deal with some tough matchups and need to improve immediately or a different duo needs to be tried.
3. Don't Let Their Top Line Score...Too Much. The Bruins top line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak has been red hot to start the season. Marchand has 7 assists and no goals (a fact I'm certain will get brought up at least 6 times during the broadcast), Bergeron has 4 goals and Pastrnak has 3. The Devils played a strong game against Edmonton but aside from Hall lacked the elite skill. If the Oilers play the same way against this line it's going to get ugly fast.
4. Facing The Backup? Tukka Rask has been a notoriously slow starter over the past couple seasons. Last year Rask posted numbers below .910 for the first couple of months before being briliant from December on. Tonight the Oilers face Halak who came in for relief during the Caps stomping and posted a shutout win against the Sabres.
FILM OF THE DAY
I brought up Mulligans so of course we are going to the most classic of all golf movies. For your enjoyment...Caddyshack