*The part of Will Ferrell in the above clip, will be played by the Calgary Flames for the evening*
Wow, talk about an ass-kicking. That, undoubtedly, was a big one. After over 4 months of no hockey, the Edmonton Oilers kicked off their 38th season with a massive drubbing of their provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, winning 3-0.
Just as they did all year last year, the Oilers took it to their counter-parts in a big way, albeit with slightly different circumstances. Peter Chiarelli, confident in the team that fell one game short of the Western Conference final last season, opted to keep his team relatively intact, banking on internal development to propel things forward in 2017/2018.
The Flames, on the other hand, opted to re-tool parts of their roster, in an effort to better contend with the Pacific. In came Travis Hamonic, in came Mike Smith, and in came Jaromir Jagr didn’t suit up tonight).
Tonight marked the first of 82 tests for both squads. For the Flames, it was… not pretty.
For the Oilers, however, it was a rousing success. Structured, smart, dominating play ruled the night at Rogers Place, as did Connor McDavid (a hat trick, insane speed, breaking into a new dimension, etc.). All in all, the Oilers very much resembled the team that found so much success last season.
With only a few players that had genuinely quiet nights, with the rest at the very least contributing to the focused effort, it was a tilt that should make the team, McLellan, and Chiarelli excited.
Edmonton outshot, out-chanced, out-hit, and hell, even out-face-offed the Flames, on their way to a 1-0 start to the season. Simply beautiful, and thankfully, it is becoming the new norm around these parts. Damn, I missed this. Welcome back Oilers!
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
- Dominant. No other way to put it, other than dominant. It seemed like every time they stepped over the boards, something good was happening, and it wasn’t always a McDavid zoom.
- Connor McDavid is somehow faster this year, and that should spell even more horrific nightmares for his opponents this season. Mike Smith, Travis Hamonic, and TJ Brodie will lose sleep tonight thinking about #97.
- Draisaitl looks brilliant with his playmaking, once again. HIs pass for McDavid’s empty-netter was superb.
- Hard to doubt McLellan for putting these 3 back together, no?
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Kailer Yamamoto
- Lucic looked really good tonight. Resembled his late season self with his physicality dominating at times (how about the hit on the empty-netter). Great start for the big man.
- Nugent-Hopkins impressed me tonight, especially considering having to compensate for having a rookie on his wing. No show for offense, but hopefully it arrives as the early season settles into place.
- Yamamoto had a couple positive moments, with a smart takeaway in the 2nd to break up a Flames rush standing out; but, he also had many moments where he just didn’t look ready for the NHL. Played only 6.5 minutes on a night when he was physically outmatched for most of it. We will see if he gets another look on Saturday.
Drake Caggiula – Ryan Strome – Jussi Jokinen
- Ryan Strome looked much better at centre than wing, and his place on this team may very well reside as the pivot man for the 3rd line.
- Jussi Jokinen is sneaky good at hockey, with hockey smarts being his best aspect. Seemed like he was always in the right place. Great signing.
- Caggiula took an ugly hit early in the game, that took him out for a few shifts. Quiet night for the sophomore.
Jujhar Khaira – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
- Khaira was just a step behind more than a few times throughout the evening. Will need to up his tempo in order to stick in the lineup.
- 3 shots on goal, a takeaway, and all in under 10 minutes for Letestu. Quiet, but effective night for the veteran.
- Kassian played a ton, skated all over the ice, had a couple good looks on net, and bled in the Oilers first fight of the season. About what you expect for one of the shining stars in the bottom 6.
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
- 9 shots for Klefbom? 9? Massive night for the young blue-liner, who was all over Mike Smith with a litany of chances, one having caught the netminder square in the mask. He played over 20 minutes, with some PP & PK time, in what is becoming a normal, workhorse style of game for Oscar.
- Larsson lagged only behind Klefbom in terms of PP time, but other than that, showed exactly what has made him become such a vital part of the Oilers’ blue line. Put up 3 hits for good measure as well.
- Both men found themselves on the ice for all 3 goals.
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
- Russell is much better on the left-side, and impressed highly for his first showing as the lead on the second pairing, sans Andrej Sekera. Hell, Russell even showed a little offensive flair, working himself into the cycle on a couple of occasions. I would expect more offense from him this year.
- Benning played a lot, and didn’t stand out in a bad way. What else can you ask?
Darnell Nurse – Eric Gryba
- See the above Benning line, and apply it to both gentlemen here. For game #1, to allow no goals against, it was a good showing. Hoping this level of play continues.
- Continued exactly where he left off, with a superb outing. Had to make more than a couple tough saves, but was never under siege. 26 saves, a win, and a shutout. He is always in control.
Player of the Game
- Does it even need to be said? The Wonder Kid. 3 goals. Multiple breathtaking moments. He is everything.
- What happened to all the penalties called in the preseason? Looks like it may have been all show and no substance. Unfortunate.
- Mike Smith actually looked pretty darn good in net for the Flames tonight.
- That new jersey and colour scheme is A+.
Next Up: Off to Vancouver
The Oilers head to the West Coast for a game against the Canucks on Saturday. It’s Hockey Night in Canada and another perfect spotlight for the boys in blue and orange to shine. I bank on yet another big night for McDavid.