First and foremost - apologies for the delay. There is nothing worse than having to wait a full night’s sleep to rehash a victory. Now, on to it.
The Edmonton Oilers (2-2-0) welcomed the visiting Boston Bruins (3-2-0) to town to celebrate the opening of their 2018-19 home schedule - two weeks into the season. It goes without saying that whoever’s bright idea that was should be fired immediately, but we’ll say it anyway. The Oilers met the ice by skating through the way-too-on-the-nose-metaphorically-speaking Walterdale bridge to a chorus of half-hearted cheers and empty club seats. Would that deter a home side looking to win their third on the spin? Or would the visitors, in their second hockey match in two nights, spoil the fun?
As per a new tradition that will feature in some post-games but not others, here is the live-tweet thread of last night’s contest:
The first period started, unfortunately, like many first periods have before it this season. The Oilers came out entirely flat-footed and were thoroughly outclassed for the first fifteen or so minutes. Highlights included: Larsson with a rare exhibition of taking his time, to double back and throw a two-line pass toward Connor McDavid, who then flew in and fired just wide. During the same shift, the captain hustled back almost a full 200 feet (so close!) to disrupt a Bruins counter attack.
Shortly after that shift, the new-look Leon Draisaitl trio, featuring Tobias Rieder and Jesse Puljujarvi, took their first shift. Unfortunately, this would be poor, and was a sign of things to come for that unit. They struggled mightily for the entirety, with Leon in particular boasting a CF% of 26.47%, being on-ice for 9 attempts for and 25 (!!) against.
This shift set the tone for the rest of the period, with the Oilers getting pumped by virtually every measure. Cam Talbot had to be stellar to keep a languishing Oilers side in this contest early.
Thankfully, he did. The Oilers did manage to generate some pushback over the final five minutes, but it felt inconsequential given how completely the Bruins dominated for the first fifteen. All five minutes of that good work was almost undone, too, with some carelessness by Darnell Nurse that saw him play the wrong man. A goal mouth scramble ensued, that eventually saw Brad Marchand deke around Cam Talbot only for his effort to deflect up - and slow down - such that Nurse could atone and swat it away with his left hand. A game saver, perhaps?!
After all the hubbub, the two teams went into the first intermission all square at 0-0, though Boston was clearly superior, dominating the CF%, FF%, SCF%, and HDSF% by a significant margin, and outshooting the Oilers 12-5.
The second period was like the first period, but in the upside-down. From the hop, the Oilers were the team on the front foot. The Bruins, perhaps resting on their laurels from a positive first period, or perhaps feeling the effects from their game in Calgary the night before, were sluggish. And the home side took advantage.
McDavid went close-ish after deflecting a Klefbom pass toward Jaroslav Halak. McDavid’s Oilers continued to grow into the game as the Bruins top line caught them against the run of play and drew a penalty via Kris Russell.
The much-maligned Oilers PK, however, were stifling tonight. After the kill was successful, the crowd - who were, perhaps, understandably quiet after an underwhelming first - began to find some energy.
A couple of positive shifts by a slightly blended forward group (around this time Ty Rattie left the game after taking a shot inside the Bruins blue line) continued the Oilers momentum, until the Bruins capitalized on an obvious, inexcusable mismatch at home, with David Krejci and company victimizing Kyle Brodziak’s group for the first goal.
This goal was kind of out of nowehere, and luckily, the home side didn’t wilt, and it didn’t take them long to respond.
Kailer Yamamoto, playing in his 14th career NHL game, did very well to gather another excellent Adam Larsson two-line special with speed. From there, he barrelled in from the left wing and beat Jaroslav Halak with a peach of a shot above his left shoulder. It appeared to surprise even Yamamoto, whose reaction seemed equal parts relief and disbelief. Great individual effort by the young man.
Somewhat surprisingly, Yamamoto’s tally seemed to spur the Oilers on toward further goodness. The home side continued to carve out chances and out-attempt the weary Bruins until the buzzer gave them a brief respite and shelter from the storm.
It must be said that the bulk of this storming was at the hands of a McDavid-driven top line (with a rotating cast of wingers including Leon, Jesse for a spell, and newly-minted NHL goalscorer Young Kailer) and an excellent third unit of Milan Lucic, Ryan Strome, and Yamamoto. These units were attacking more than defending and were rock solid for most of the night.
The Oilers carried this momentum forward until the end of the period, one that eventually saw them earn the edge in CF%, FF%, and SCF% overall and nudge the shot totals back to a more reasonable 19-15. Most importantly, they brought the score back to level at 1-1.
The third period began with some end-to-end action, with both sides seeing spells of joy in their respective offensive zones. One bright spot for the Oilers saw Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wiggle free and pounce on a loose puck right in front of Halak, who had to be sharp to save. Shortly after, Marchand got free at the other end and was found by David Pastrnak, but Talbot was equal to it.
The Oilers had lost Matt Benning earlier in this game and were rotating five defensemen. In one instance early in the third, Bouchard got a look with Klefbom and his poise with the puck was obvious. There is probably a real player there and we should look forward to his maturation.
The Oilers efforts were further rewarded when the Bruins took an unnecessary holding the stick penalty as the play moved up ice.
The Oilers PP, likely inefficient due to its reliance on left-handers, but still scoring in spite of itself thanks to Connor McDavid, did exactly that once again. After a bit of zone time, the puck found the captain, who rifled a pass through Milan Lucic that ricocheted into Nugent-Hopkins’ wheelhouse. The former first overall made no mistake and the Oilers were in front.
This is where things got interesting. Through some likely combination of the Oilers sitting back and the Bruins pushing, Boston took over. Wholly and completely. They were as dominant as they were in the first period and the Oilers had to hold on tight to limp into overtime.
Fortunately - and I do sincerely mean that - the Oilers managed to surrender just one to their rampaging guests in the remaining minutes, thanks to some timely saves from Talbot and just enough desperation to will this game into extra time.
The third period saw both sides add one, and the Bruins take over through the back half of the frame. Shots ended 29-21 in favor of Boston after three periods.
The Oilers have the best overtime setup in hockey because overtime will always include Connor McDavid, time, and space. He cannot be stopped in open ice and there is entirely too much of it for the average human being to defend - and Brad Marchand found that out the hard way this evening.
After seeing possession change behind the Bruins net, Patrice Bergeron begins to fly the zone. The Bruins gained possession and attempted to find him. But the captain was wise and lurked behind Bergeron. Just far back enough that he could catch Bergeron if he missed the puck. Just far back enough that Bergeron would be out of the play if he didn’t. Just far back enough when he did pick it off, he could wind up with such speed that a flailing Brad Marchand couldn’t even trip him in time to stop him after getting embarrassed.
From there, it was academic. Expecting anything other than the end result would have been indefensible. Connor McDavid bearing down on goal, with Leon Draisaitl to his left and one, single, solitary, hopeless defender between them. The captain found the doctor, and the Oilers went streaking.
Hopefully this ‘Puljujarvi in a position to succeed’ thing can survive a pretty horrible performance by his line.
The Oilers need to figure out a way to get something going with Draisaitl, who, despite his production, is pretty routinely getting hammered at 5v5. Getting JP there is a start. Maybe throwing KY on the opposite side is the next step?
Kyle Brodziak has not yet acquainted himself in a positive way. He looks a step off the pace to me, and his line had another rough ride this evening.
Cam Talbot has played 5 straight periods of pretty great hockey in a row, and the Oilers have capitalized. Hopefully both of those trends continue.
McLellan has to do a better job of finding his guys positions to succeed in at home. In no worlds should Kyle Brodziak be having to fend off the David Krejci’s of the league on home ice.
Further to this, McLellan either refuses to, or cannot, get McDavid’s line away from the other team’s best. McDavid still tends to win those matchups and that obviously has value, but when the Oilers are struggling for offense it would be nice to see McLellan be proactive in trying to get his superstar a softer landing for even a couple of shifts. That he won’t, or can’t, ultimately comes down to Pete - but that’s for another day. Let’s enjoy this one. Nashville’s gonna be tough.
The Oilers (3-2-0, W3, 5th Pacific) host the aforementioned Nashville Predators (5-1-0, W3, 1st Central) for the late game on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night. Puck drop a shade after 8pm local. We’ll have you covered all day on the website.