Game 1: Canucks @ Oilers - Road To The Cup Begins
Tonight the Edmonton Oilers begin their journey towards the ultimate goal in the NHL; the Stanley Cup. I'm not making a grand statement that the Edmonton Oilers will win the Cup this season, but it should absolutely be what the fans are organization are expecting. We are well past the time for "playing meaningful games in March," or simply making the playoffs. The Edmonton Oilers need to compete and they need to be a team that is a legitimate Cup contender.
This is what Ken Holland signaled with the moves he made this off-season. Like them or not, they were moves that the Oilers general manager made to try and compete now. Younger players like Bear and Jones were moved out for veterans like Ceci and Keith. Europeans with potential were moved out for proven more complete players like Foegele and Hyman. For better or worse this is Ken Holland's team and we will see it in action tonight.
Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on for tonight's game:
1) Draisaitl/McDavid - The belief when Hyman was brought in was that Ken Holland had acquired McDavid's winger which would allow Draisaitl to push a still skilled second line. That does not appear to be Tippett's plan as he will start his top two players, alongside Jesse Puljujarvi. That line will be entertaining to watch and should bring results but that leaves us with questions about...
2) Second Line Production - Hyman is an excellent player who plays well in all areas of the ice and can create his own offense. He was expected to be a great linemate for Draisaitl or McDavid but instead it will be RNH centering him. RNH has struggled as of late to generate anything at 5 on 5 as has the other winger Kailer Yamamoto. If Tippett wants to keep his nuclear option together than this trio needs to at the very least create chances tonight.
3) Keith-Ceci - The new second pairing of Keith and Ceci was a mixed bag in pre-season and overall struggled to post positive numbers. This duo will likely play most of their minutes away from McDavid and Draisaitl and will need to still find ways to be effective. Seeing how the minutes are split between this pairing and the third pairing of Russell and Bouchard will be something to watch.
4) Bottom Six Scoring - One of the areas the 20/21 Oilers struggled the most in was offense from their bottom six. Tonight the Oilers will have 5 players in their bottom six who were not their at the start of last season. Foegele, Ryan, Sceviour (with a new $750,000 one year contract), McLeod, and Perlini are new additions while Turris embraces a new role as the fourth line right winger. It would be great to see at least one goal tonight from this group.
5) New Look Powerplay - In practice McDavid has been setting up in Draisaitl's wheelhouse on the powerplay practicing his own one-timers. The Oilers powerplay has been elite over the past couple of seasons but it's great seeing the team practice things to keep it fresh. McDavid continues to find ways to improve and adding a more accurate slapshot to his repertoire ain't a bad thing.
OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS
Draisaitl - McDavid - Puljujarvi
Hyman - RNH - Yamamoto
Foegele - Ryan - Sceviour
Perlini - McLeod - Turris
Nurse - Barrie
Keith - Ceci
Russell - Bouchard
CANUCKS LINE COMBINATIONS