After talking all about cutting down on chances against and goals against, the Edmonton Oilers committed a plethora of errors on Wednesday night. They gave up countless ‘Grade A’ scoring chances, and five goals at five-on-five in a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Tonight, they’ll get a chance to remedy that. The Oilers and Canucks conclude their season opening back-to-back set at Rogers Place in the second of ten meetings between the sides this season. It’s the second game of a four game homestand for the Oilers, which continues Saturday against Montreal.
Thatcher Demko is expected to start for the Canucks, while Mike Smith will make his first start of the season for the Oilers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Greater attention to detail. The Oilers were far too lackadaisical on Wednesday night. They left far too many players open in the slot area, and were too often slow to get to their man in the defensive zone. The attention to detail while defending is key. The Canucks are far too skilled and will make you pay when you give them good chance after good chance. The Oilers simply need to be better in this area tonight.
Vancouver: Continue to attack the blueline with speed. The Canucks gave the Oilers all kinds of problems on Wednesday with their speed and skill. The Oilers defense, specifically the pairing of Adam Larsson and Caleb Jones, was turned inside out by the Canucks’ skill. Vancouver, to my eye, had their most success when they attacked Edmonton with their speed through the neutral zone.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Jesse Puljujarvi looked like a new player in the season opener. He used his size, appeared more confident, and made some smart plays with the puck. His penalty late in the game wasn’t good, but overall he did a lot of good things in his first game back. Puljujarvi will get rewarded if he plays that way. It also wouldn’t be a shock to see him work his way up the lineup a bit either.
Vancouver: How can you not want to see more of Nile Hoglander? With JT Miller out, Hoglander got a chance to show his worth in the top-six in his NHL debut. He not only scored his first career goal, but was one of Vancouver’s best players to my eye. He’s someone to look out for in the rematch.
The Oilers, outside of the goaltending change, could make one change to their lineup from last night. Coach Dave Tippett said the team has “a couple of bumps and bruises” that are being monitored and could lead to a change.
Lines were not made apparent during Thursday’s morning skate. Kris Russell, Evan Bouchard and William Lagesson are expected to be the scratches again tonight should the lineup remain the same.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Dominik Kahun – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Josh Archibald – Kyle Turris – Jesse Puljujarvi
Tyler Ennis – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Caleb Jones – Adam Larsson
Slater Koekkoek – Tyson Barrie
The Canucks will again be without veteran F JT Miller and D Jordie Benn. They are both back in Vancouver and in isolation, unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions. Vancouver is expected to stick with the same lineup tonight. They held a small skate on Thursday morning.
Vancouver Canucks Lines:
Brock Boeser – Elias Pettersson – Jake Virtanen
Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – Nils Hoglander
Antoine Roussel – Adam Gaudette – Zack MacEwen
Tyler Motte – Jay Beagle – Brandon Sutter
Alexander Edler – Nate Schmidt
Quinn Hughes – Travis Hamonic
Olli Juolevi – Tyler Myers
“They keep their penalty kill tight in the middle, so it’s going to be tough to get those shots through but we got to find a way to do that,” Nugent-Hopkins said when asked about the club’s 0-for-4 powerplay. “Even if they don’t hit the net, we’re creating chances off the rebounds and we’re picking pucks off and playing off of chaos.”
The Oilers were strong in back-to-back situations last season. In eight overall back-to-backs, the club was 7-1-0 in the second half. They’ll need some of that magic tonight if they hope to get back to .500 early in the season. Tippett, for his money, was happy with how the team played in this spot a season ago, but understands it’s a different beast in 2020-21.
“In the situation we’re in now when you’re playing the same team back-to-back, there’s no advantage or disadvantage,” Tippett said. “You got to make sure that your mind is in the right place coming in. It’s one of those things where you need everybody in your lineup to contribute. Everybody’s got to do their job.”