GD1: Canucks @ Oilers - It's A Sprint Not A Marathon
It has been 308 days, 7392 hours, 443520 minutes, or 26611200 seconds since the Oilers played their last regular season game. However you want to phrase it, it's been a long time.
Last season was a roller coaster for Oilers fans. Edmonton finished second in their Division with a 37-25-9 record, or 83 points. Not only did that make them the 5th best team in the Western Conference but it also gave them the best record of any Canadian team. I don't understand why so many are ready to write Edmonton off this season when this is a team that has only improved it's roster from last year.
Things ended disappointingly for Edmonton last year in the play-in round against Chicago which certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of both the players and fans. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl read the same articles all of you read (hi guys). They have seen media and fans alike cast their doubts. This is a motivated group ready to prove the naysayers wrong. That starts tonight.
The 20/21 season is a sprint, not a marathon. In other years a great or terrible first month of the season won't propel or tank you. This season is different. Every game is against a divisional opponent and therefore each game is a 4 point spread. Should Edmonton be 2 points down on Calgary halfway through the season and then lose 3 games in a row to Calgary, that is suddenly a 8 point gap to overcome.
There is no pre-season, no time to work out the kinks or feel out game action. That is the case for every team this season so no one can use it as an excuse. Tonight whichever of the Canucks or the Oilers that can refocus faster and execute a game plan will likely come out as the winner.
Vancouver's misfortune is good news for the Oilers as the Canucks leading scorer from last season J.T.Miller and defenseman Jordie Benn are both out of the lineup due to COVID 19. Neither will be available for either the games in this first back to back.
OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS (Wow that feels good to write again)
- Same lines that we knew from yesterday, Koekkoek over Russell
CANUCKS LINE COMBINATIONS
4 THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1.) Home Opener Dominance: The Oilers, specifically McDavid and Draisaitl are always ready to show up on for their Home Opener. Last year the Oilers beat the Canucks 3-2; Draisaitl had a goal and two assists while McDavid had a goal. A year before that the Oilers beat the Bruins 3-2 in OT in their home opener; Draisaitl had a goal and McDavid had two assists. A year before that Edmonton wiped the Flames 3-0 with a hat trick from McDavid and 2 assists from Draisaitl. Look for the Dynamic Duo to show up early.
2.) Avoid A Goaltending Controversy: The biggest reason media and other fans don't have faith in the Oilers this season is because of their goaltending situation. Tonight Mikko Koskinen will get the start. He doesn't need to be perfect, but if he absolutely plummets the naysayers will only grow louder.
3.) Defensive Ice Time: While there is so much happening on opening night, I will be doing my best to keep track of the defensive pairings to get into the mindset of Dave Tippett. Will Barrie receive the bulk of the offensive zone starts while Larsson and Jones get the brunt of the defensive zone starts? If the Oilers are down by one who are the next players over the ice? Edmonton's team defense needs to be on the same page as their coach and I will be watching for that tonight.
4.) Bottom Six Matchups: For the first time in a long time, Edmonton actually has a bottom six that should be able to at least match up against any other team. No longer is Tippett forced to ice a grinding shutdown bottom six and instead has a healthy mix of size, skill, and speed on each line. Seeing how Turris and Puljujarvi in particular play together will be key to watch.
THE OILERS WIN IF...
They show up ready to play from the first minute and catch a semi depleted Canucks roster off-guard.
THE CANUCKS WIN IF...
They can put the Oilers on their heels early and their bottom six out matches Edmonton's.
Thanks for reading!