It’s been more of the same from the Edmonton Oilers over the past two weeks; we’re only two games into the 2018/2019 NHL season, and already the sky is falling in YEG. There’s truly only one word to describe the first two games of the Oilers season – awful. An absolute stinker against the New Jersey Devils was followed up with a better-but-not-good game against the Boston Bruins.
Now, after two games, two losses, and many, many angry fans later, the Oilers were set to play their 2nd matinee game of the season, this time against the New York Rangers. The Rangers aren’t the powerhouse the league is used to seeing; the team is rebuilding, and for the Oilers, two points would go a long way in easing the tension that’s surrounded Oil country this early in the season. Could the team rebound for their first victory of the season?
I certainly hoped so.
Kyle Brodziak drew back into the lineup after sitting out last game, while Zack Kassian took a seat on the bench for this afternoon’s contest. Jason Garrison also made his official Oilers debut, replacing Matt Benning and taking a spot on the third pairing with rookie Evan Bouchard.
Congratulations to Darnell Nurse, who played his 200th career NHL game this afternoon.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) October 13, 2018
Thankfully, the Oilers were able to start the game with some jump in their step, a stark contrast to their previous two efforts. While they weren’t able to establish any consistent pressure in the Rangers zone, they were consistently able to break out of their own end and create a chance on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundquivst. However, there weren’t any real grade A scoring chances from the Edmonton squad.
The first real opportunity of the game came four minutes in, when Mika Zibanejad rang a shot off the post, keeping the game scoreless.
At the 4:55 mark, Evan Bouchard picked up his first two NHL penalty minutes, drawing a holding penalty and giving the Blueshirts their first powerplay of the game. It was a tense two minutes; the Oilers aren’t exactly known for their prowess on the penalty kill, and it’s been a poor start to the season for the special teams. However, the team was not only able to kill off the man-advantage but were able to create a few chances of their own, a stark contrast to the Oilers first two games.
However, while the man advantage didn’t produce for the Rangers, it seemed to give the squad a fair bit of momentum. At the 12:49 mark, Zibanejad picked up a goal on a beautiful cross-ice pass from Marc Staal to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 13, 2018
However, as with many Oilers games, you can’t keep Connor McDavid down for long. Shortly after the Rangers opening goal, McJesus entered the Rangers zone and stopped on a dime, sending a beautiful pass to Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse. A redirected shot from the point made it’s way to the stick of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and a quick tap-in later the Oilers had tied the game 1-1. In an interesting note, it was the fourth goal of the season for the Edmonton Oilers and the fourth which Connor McDavid found himself involved in.
The Rangers controlled possession for the majority of the rest of the period, in large part due to their ability to win face-offs.
Score at the end of the first period: 1-1
Outside of the Oilers first powerplay of the game, it was an uneventful second period for the team. However, it certainly seemed as though the Oilers got their legs under them through the 2nd stanza. While by no means a perfect period for Edmonton, they were able to hold down the fort for the majority of the 2nd.
As previously mentioned, the Oilers finally took to the man advantage with just under ten minutes left in the second period. Marc Staal took a hooking penalty against media darling Drake Caggulia to send Edmonton to their first opportunity with the extra man. While unable to score, the powerplay looked much better than it had in the previous two games.
With just under three minutes left in the period, Milan Lucic took a hooking penalty, sending the Rangers to their 2nd powerplay of the game. While the Oilers’ kill looked good, they just barely averted disaster on yet another post from Mika Zibanejad.
With ten seconds left, Captain Connor was able to utilize his speed to draw a holding penalty on Rangers defenseman Adam McQuaid, sending the Oilers to the powerplay to close out the period.
At the end of the 2nd period, the score remained 1-1.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 13, 2018
Due to the aforementioned penalty to Adam McQuaid, the Oilers started the final period on the powerplay. While the Oilers were unable to muster a shot with the man advantage, it gave the organization considerable momentum to start the third. They were consistently able to establish pressure in the zone, resulting in a number of high-quality scoring chances for Edmonton.
Just after the 5-minute mark of the 2nd period, Namestikov took a questionable holding penalty while trying to neutralize Kailer Yamamoto; while the penalty may have been weak, it sent the Oilers to their second powerplay of the period where the team would finally capitalize.
At the onset, the Oilers looked lost with the man advantage; for the first minute, the team was trapped in their own zone. However, Leon Draisaitl was able to find – who else? – Connor McDavid on a cross-crease pass to give the Oilers their first powerplay goal of the season, and the Oilers a 2-1 lead.
Halfway through the period, Cam Talbot made an absolutely huge save to hold the Oilers’ lead after a bad bounce off the end boards.
At 13:33, Marc Staal took a penalty to send the Oilers to the powerplay, and hopefully to seal the deal for their first win of the season. While the team wasn’t able to generate any consistent pressure, the penalty seemed to take away any momentum the Rangers had mustered prior to that point. The final five minutes were largely controlled by the Oilers,
The third period was, simply put, an excellent hockey game. Both the Oilers and the Rangers kept a great pace-of-play, with both creating numerous opportunities to score.
Holy shit, guys – we did it.
Final score: Oilers 2, Rangers 1
Three Ups, Three Downs:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had his best game of the young season, in my opinion. He looked excellent at both ends of the ice and created a number of scoring opportunities both with and without McDavid.
- Cam Talbot, too, had a terrific game. His rebound control was terrific after a shaky start to the year, and he looked like the 2016/2017 Dadbot rather than last years’ mess. Talbot finished the game with 23 saves in the victory.
- Evan Bouchard is having a quiet start to the season, but that’s meant to be a compliment to the young defender. While he’s made a few rookie mistakes, he looks fully deserving of his selection at 10th overall. His defensive game is above-average for someone as young as he is, and he was able to demonstrate some of his offensive ability tonight as he jumped up in the play on a few opportunities.
- While the Oilers went 1/4 on the powerplay, they still looked sluggish at times and were unable to keep up any consistent pressure on the Rangers defense. On a number of instances, the Rangers were not only able to clear the puck, but maintain possession and drain time off the Oilers man advantage.
- Leon Draisaitl looked quiet again tonight, at least when not on the ice with Connor McDavid. While he collected an assist on the afternoon, he had another underwhelming game in what’s a slow start to the season.
- If the Oilers want to make any sort of push for the playoffs, these are the games they have to dominate. The Rangers are a rebuilding squad, and while no win in the NHL is a given the Oilers need to be better in games against weaker opponents. While they got the win today, it was much closer than it should have been.
Next up, the Oilers take on the Winnipeg Jets for the first time this regular season. Puck drops at 6:00 MST.
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