The seats were mostly empty and the fans were as dull and lack-luster as the Vancouver sun in mid-November. More bodies wouldn’t have made much of a difference, because only Nucks Misconduct actually cares about Gastown pre-season hockey. Even the Sedin twins barely let their little lights shine, although during the end of the third and during overtime they "Hid it under a bushel, No!" and shone all the way to victory.
The Oilers mostly cared about this game. They played disciplined hockey. They earned their keep, they worked hard for their money. They were not content to build their house on the sandy land, they built it on the rock of Corsi out-chancing and out-shooting the tepid lads from The Big Smoke for most of the game. Like a journeyman roughneck walking a busy highway in the fog, the Oilers barely saw the unlit Peterbilt before hit them, spreading their guts all over the highway.
In the opening minutes the Canucks established themselves in the Oilers' end, as if to say, "Edmonton we still have you." At 18:51 a slapshot from Sbisa hit Draisaitl in the ankle and he went limping about. I was pretty nervous about the possibility of starting the season without Draisaitl and Eberle, but the tough German kid shook it off. At 16:03 Anton Lander missed his man, Horvat, who went streaking to the crease and shovelled a pass from Baertschi past Talbot. The Oilers got a powerplay at 14:51 of the first, but it was quite uneventful with only one shot on net. I noticed some good defensive play during the first: Gryba and Schultz both did their parts to break up some plays Draisaitl and Yakupov were visible too, putting in the effort to play two-way hockey. The first period ended with the Oil down by 1 and the shots tied at five. McDavid went 3/4 and Hopkins 4/7, as the Oilers totalled 11/21 on faceoffs.
This period was dominated by the Oilers. The first minute and half of play with Schultz, Davidson, McDavid, Hall, and Slepyshev was great. Slepyshev showed his ability to pass, shoot, and dig along the boards. The Oilers had seven shots in the first 4:30 seconds of play. At 10:23 RNH stole the puck in the neutral zone and passed it to a breaking Pouliot who spilt the D and sent a wrister off of the crossbar from 27 feet out. It was the first of a few break-outs for Pouliot, and his line with RNH and Purcell looked good throughout the rest of the game, with McLellan playing them in key situations. At 16:31 Hall sent a pass to Slepyshev who took a snap shot within 9 feet; it looked like it was in but Miller made a great stop. For the final minutes of the second Edmonton continued to pressure Vancouver looking to tie the game, alas the hockey gods were not with them, and one started to get the feeling that this was Vancouver, being Vancouver, playing lazy tepid Vancouver hockey. At the end of the second the Oilers had out-shot Vancouver 19 to 12.
Another good period from the Oilers, mostly. The roughnecks kept their focus and did a lot of heavy lifting. McDavid and Slepyshev combined for some great chances, as did the third line. At 16:52 Pouliot snapped one from seven feet past Miller, making-good on passes from RNH and Purcell. The Oilers continued playing disciplined hockey, and didn’t open up too much despite the score being tied. At 12:35 the shots were still 25 to 20 in Edmonton’s favour. The Oilers caught a break 17 minutes into the third, a puck hit one of the linesmen and Purcell crossed the puck over to RNH who made no mistake in making Miller pay. Less than a minute later Davidson lost a puck battle behind Talbot, and Hansen made no mistake of tipping it in. The Sedins were content to head into overtime and the third period ended with as much hub-hub as a clown juggling White Spot hamburgers on Granville Island.
For 3v3 "for reals" overtime the Canucks started Edler and the Sedins, the Oilers played RNH, Pouliot, and Schultz. With 29 seconds elapsed, Daniel snapped a shot past Talbot on a set-up from the other twin and Edler. The Peterbilt hit hard. RNH and the boys looked excited to start OT, but he just wasn’t focused and missed his man Daniel. "Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield."
The Oilers won the possession battle, they built their house on the rock of Corsi. Several Oilers who have traditionally looked like pylons in their own zone played pretty well, including Schultz and Yakupov. It hurts me to say it, but Schultz looked like a defender, maybe not first-pairing, maybe not tough, but a defender.
The first three lines are playing offense and defense. All of the wingers were coming back and doing their part. It was great!
Talbot felt like a real number one. He made some key stops and was in the right place at the right time. He had good communication with Sekera, who played more than 20 minutes for the Oilers.
Davidson and Gryba did an OK job tonight, although Davidson’s error in the third cost them a victory. The fourth line was missing something, Hendricks for one, Kilnkhammer for another. Gazdic actually played a bit of real hockey but looked shaky.
Most of our defenders are playing over their head, except for Sekera. Between Davidson and Ference, I’m not certain who to "prefer."
Nilsson was dressed as the backup tonight. I don’t think that paints a rosy picture for Scrivens. Is he headed to Bakersfield?