After almost 5 months, hockey is officially back. It’s wonderful. I was looking for the game at about 7PM before realizing that I didn’t have the right channel, luckily Shaw was able to immediately hook me up or I’d have missed an excellent season opener. Lets get to it.
The Oilers start with their 2nd line consisting of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic and rookie Kailer Yamamoto. Before the puck is dropped Kris Versteeg does his best to give our young rookie the business with some pushing and shoving in the circle.
The puck goes harmlessly into each teams zone before McDavid steps on the ice. “Connor McDavid with speed!!” happens less than a minute in. He grabs the puck by the benches and goes flying in on his first breakaway of the night. He takes in to the back hand but Mike Smith follows him all the way and makes the save. A goal may not have happened but it is an excellent start to the season for both McDavid and his shiny new contract.
Nine minutes later we get our first goal of the season. The Oilers top five of Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid get the puck into the Flames zone and sustain pressure. Draisaitl and McDavid are doing their best cycle game and as the Flames wingers come in to help out, Maroon gets the Puck to Klefbom for a blast. Smith saves that shot but kicks it to Maroon, he passes it to Draisaitl for a shot and McDavid buries the rebound. The building is pumped.
Klefbom doesn’t get an assist here but the play started with him. The Oilers luring opposing wingers in and feeding the point is something I’d really like to continue seeing.
Our first penalty goes to Kris Russell. He’s in the offensive zone and grabs a Flames player and gets called for a hold. It’s actually a pretty weak call but in the O-Zone this is what’s going to happen.
The first penalty killing unit looks like a disaster, the Flames get some shots, our second unit comes out and cleans up the mess. First PK of the season.
How about the first fight of the season? Tanner Glass vs Zack Kassian. It’s a spirited rumble but no major punches landed, Kassian is cut up a little and we get a good view of him with his helmet off. He doesn’t look a day over 40. I don’t think Kassian for Glass is a very good trade off but hell, the fans like it.
Matthew Tkachuk holds Larsson’s stick and we get our first Oiler powerplay. The Oilers look pretty good at this point and one can only imagine that they’ll put a puck in the net here. The first unit is McDavid, Draisaitl, Lucic, Klefbom and Mark Letestu. They look fantastic keeping it in the Flames end taking shot after shot. None go in but wow, what a powerplay unit. Unfortunately... we also have a 2nd powerplay unit. Nugent-Hopkins, Maroon, Matthew Benning, Drake Caggiula and Ryan Strome look completely out of place. They give up a three-on-one and make Talbot work while the Oilers are on the powerplay. This seems like a good spot for Yamamoto to be playing but instead we get this tire fire. No Goals.
The period ends with the Oilers up 1-0 and a large lead in the shot count. Overall a pretty good period.
We start with a really good shift by the 2nd line. They get the puck into the Flames end and have ongoing pressure for the better part of 2 minutes.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice: Kris Russell gets the puck at the blueline, winds up for a shot, waits for the defender to go down and then changes his angle and puts a good shot on net. If he can see how easy that is to do, why must he insist on always being on the other side of that transaction? Anyway no goal but I can’t imagine the shots look anywhere near even. Oilers are playing lights out hockey right now.
“McDavid with Speed!!” for the 2nd time this game, he blows by Travis Hamonic but unfortunately no goal. McDavid thought he saw a five-hole opening and put a weak shot on that Smith turned away easily. Still two breakaways in one game is pretty good. It’s encouraging and this game would be a runaway if not for Smith.
With another batch of sustained Oilers pressure, the puck eventually comes to Klefbom who takes a shot. This is his 100th shot of the night by my count. He steps into the one-timer and takes Mike Smith’s block off. Smith takes the puck right to the mask, the mask flies off and the whistle blows for his safety.
Smith looks fine and all here, but isn’t there concussion protocol for this? He took a 100+ mile per hour shot directly to the head and is allowed to play on. That seems odd to me.
A few minutes later Sean Monahan has a chance for the Flames. This is the first scoring chance I’ve seen them have in a very long time. He gets the puck in the slot, Talbot turns it away with what seemed like his only tough save of the game.
To end the period, Kris Russell tries to make a break out pass, it’s intercepted in the neutral zone, he chases a Flame down, trips in the corner and the Flames get a shot. It wasn’t a goal but I’m already sick of him for the year. Period ends, still 1-0.
The Oilers continue to drive possession and Kassian takes Yamamoto’s spot on the 2nd line that hasn’t looked all that good the first two periods. The Oilers get a bunch of shots but nothing serious until...
“McDavid with speed!!” comes in alone and shelfs it short side on Smith. His 2nd goal on his fourth breakaway of the game. He’s pretty good.
With two minutes left in the game, the Flames pull Mike Smith and McDavid completes the first opening night hat trick in Oilers history. I can’t seem to find a video of this one but Lucic chases down a Flames player, levels him with a hard check, makes a great pass to Draisaitl who then finds McDavid in front of the net. McDavid waits out out a sliding defender then puts it home. 3-0 Oilers.
Time for a few observations:
- The middle lines did not look good. They were fine I guess but rarely did they ever get anything going.
- The top line was even better than last year. If the Oilers insist on running a one line team, this is definitely the way to do it. Pair them with the top two defenders and play them frequently. I can’t remember any point in this game where those 5 were on the ice while the puck wasn’t in the Flames end.
- Lucic was the worst player for the Oilers tonight. He played a huge part in Connor’s empty netter but beyond that he was lost. The puck was bouncing off his stick, he was getting in the way of his linemates and he was completely useless off the rush.
- Whoever that ref was tonight, he got in the way of play a lot. Everytime the puck went to the corner, players had to change their path to avoid him. He’s definitely not yet in preseason form.
- It was nice to see that there weren’t 17 penalties this game. Either players have learned the new code of conduct or the league gave up on it. Either way I didn’t notice and there weren’t any of those faceoff delays that I hate.
- Kailer Yamamoto: Look bud, I’m pulling for you and I want you to make this team. You didn’t do much of anything to stand out tonight and as you can see, the Oilers won’t be doing you any favors. You didn’t get powerplay time, you got very limited ice-time and your linemates were really bad. There won’t be any free goals or points so you’ll have to give the team no choice by pushing through it. They’re still doing their best to justify sending you down. Tonight, you let them get away with it.
- Oscar Klefbom was outstanding. If he plays every game the way he did tonight, he’ll win the Norris trophy by a mile. He had loads of shots and didn’t make a bad play all night. I haven’t yet checked his possession metrics, but I can’t imagine them being anything short of otherworldly this game.
- Cam Talbot did everything he was asked. It wasn’t a lot but he made some good stops.
That’s my recap. Oilers win 3-0 and Connor McDavid is on pace for 246 goals this season. All is right in the world. Good night everyone.