The Edmonton Oilers continued their winning ways after taking down a lowly Chicago Blackhawks team that is struggling to find wins this season. Stuart Skinner drew his second consecutive start for the first time this season, after his stellar performance in a 2-1 shootout victory against the Winnipeg Jets in the team’s previous outing. The Oilers went against their common theme of playing from behind and starting games off slow by jumping on the Blackhawks early with four goals in the first period.
This game also marked Duncan Keith’s first time playing against his old teammates after spending his entire career in the Blackhawks organization, before being acquired by Edmonton for Caleb Jones in the offseason. Despite some new faces in the lineup, the Oilers were able to ride their red hot powerplay and get contributions from up and down their lineup for a very convincing team win.
Skinner Continues Solid Play
Stuart Skinner improved his record to 2-2-0 this season with this victory in the first consecutive start of his NHL career. The 23-year-old goaltender looked poised and calm in the crease yet again, despite it being only his fifth career start in the NHL. The Oilers also relied on Skinner early in the game after Chicago came out flying in the first few minutes of the first period and allowed the Oilers to get their legs.
The netminder stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced against Chicago after stopping 46 of 47 shots against the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 18. Skinners only two blemishes both came off the stick of Alex DeBrincat on plays that did not offer much of a chance to make a save. The first Chicago goal came off a double deflection in front of the goal and the second on a 2-on-0 odd-man rush, neither of which Skinner can be blamed for.
With Mike Smith suffering a setback in his rehab from injury and Mikko Koskinen struggling with his consistency yet again, the Oilers are looking for someone to take the reigns in the crease. This second strong outing certainly bodes well for both the team and Skinner’s chances of starting the team’s next game to continue to cement himself at the NHL level and potentially the answer to the Oilers’ ongoing goaltending struggles.
Oilers Blue Line Unfazed After Recent Injuries
Perhaps the biggest storyline going into the game was the question marks surrounding the team’s blueline after injuries to Darnell Nurse and Slater Koekkoek. To many Oilers, fans delight the defense corps looked solid throughout most of the game despite some new faces entering the mix and others adjusting to larger roles.
Keith assumed the role vacated by Nurse’s injury as the number one defenseman logging a game-high 25:06 of ice time with a plus-1 rating in the win. Keith’s transition to the larger role is as seamless as it gets after playing that role for the Blackhawks for several seasons as the horse on the backend.
Evan Bouchard remained on the top pair alongside Keith and although his ice time did not vary much from his previous games he did see elevated opportunity on the penalty kill and powerplay. He also added two assists including one on Leon Draisaitl’s shorthanded marker and should continue to be a key contributor as long as Nurse is on the shelf.
Kris Russell also drew into the lineup with Koekkoek absent and played his usual steady defensive game. He has not had much of a role thanks to Koekkoek’s arrival and Bouchard’s breakout but has been reliable when called upon. He picked up two hits and two blocked shots while also shouldering much of the penalty kill responsibilities without Nurse and Koekkoek.
Broberg Impresses in NHL Debut
Philip Broberg also made his NHL debut in this game as a result of the absences on the second defensive pair with Cody Ceci. The former first-round pick earned the recall after his hot start in the American Hockey League for Bakersfield, with 10 assists through his first 13 games at the professional level in North America. He logged 14:24 of ice time in his NHL debut and also tallied his first NHL point with an assist on the Oilers’ fourth goal scored by Ryan McLeod.
This is a long-awaited arrival for Broberg after having gone through some injury issues early on in his career. While it is only one game for the 20-year-old Swede the experience he has gained playing in the Swedish Hockey League prior to coming to North America bodes well for his transition to the NHL level.
“It was impressive. He’s got a lot of poise, is a big, strong guy and was able to break up plays on the blueline.”Duncan Keith
Although he played sheltered minutes and the least amount of minutes on the Oilers blueline, the early eye-test of his game is a promising one. There is still a learning curve for Broberg but it is a positive sign to see him come into the lineup and be able to contribute at a high level without any glaring concerns.
Oilers Get Contributions Throughout Lineup
While Connor McDavid and Draisaitl still got their cookies in this game, the team also got contributions from all areas of their lineup. The defense come together collectively and overcame key injuries on the backend to make life easier for Skinner. The Oilers bottom-six forward group also lent a helping hand, providing physical play, periods of sustained pressure, and also scoring timely goals.
The third line consisting of McLeod, Warren Foegele, and Zack Kassian created lots of problems for the Blackhawks early in this game using their speed and relentless forechecking to create turnovers and provide momentum. They provided energy to the team and were rewarded for their hard work when McLeod potted the teams’ fourth goal that was assisted by Foegele.
This line combined for nine of the Oilers 33 shots in the game and six hits, with Foegele finishing with the lowest time on ice of the trio at 13:08. Fourth liner Colton Sceviour also added an assist on Kailer Yamamoto’s shorthanded tally that proved to be the game-winner. For a team that often relies on two of the NHL’s best players to win games, it is nice to see contributions from all areas of the roster to provide a more balanced attack and lessen the load that the team’s top players need to shoulder.
Home Sweet Home
With this win, the Oilers improve to 8-1-0 at Rogers Place. The effect of having the Edmonton faithful back in the arena is not going unnoticed and making it a tough place for any opponent to come in and leave with two points. The Oilers will look to continue stringing together another win streak as they head out on a mini three-game road trip against the Dallas Stars, Arizona Coyotes, and Pacific Division foe Vegas Golden Knights.
I am a graduate of Seneca Colleges Civil Engineering Technology Program and have turned my obsession for sports into a lifestyle. I cover the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings here on The Hockey Writers but have been a diehard Maple Leafs fan since birth. I love fantasy sports, collecting sports memorabilia and when I’m not watching the Toronto Raptors, Blue Jays, or Pittsburgh Steelers; you can find me playing for my ball hockey team, playing video games, or listening to classic rock with a cold one or a coffee in my hand.