The Edmonton Oilers officially go 1-2 and pick up two of a possible six points on their Eastern Conference road trip against three of the best teams in the NHL. Their final game against the Carolina Hurricanes might have been their best of three, even though they didn’t come out on the winning end of things.
Severely undermanned and tired in a back-to-back situation, Edmonton battled hard and came up just short of stealing a point from that contest, which, by most accounts, would have made the road trip a success.
Oilers Entered the Game Beat Up, And It Only Got Worse
Without the services of Jesse Puljujarvi and Duncan Keith, the Oilers lost Ryan Nugent-Hopkins against the Florida Panthers — a shoulder injury that will require more imaging to determine the severity — and then learned they wouldn’t have the services of Kailer Yamamoto who blocked a shot in the third period of Saturday’s game and wouldn’t dress. That meant Colton Sceviour and Brendan Perlini would slot in, the roster would be shuffled around a bit and the Oilers would try to battle through with a less-than-ideal lineup.
To make matters worse, Connor McDavid was knocked out of the game after a high stick from Brady Skjei and had to leave for repairs — not long after McDavid had scored the first goal of the game to open the scoring but the goal was called back as a result of an offside.
It was clear the Oilers struggled without a number of their top guys and when McDavid missed about 10 minutes, the Oilers were abysmal on zone entries on the ensuing four-minute power play and couldn’t make anything of the opportunity. McDavid did return for the second period and was buzzing. Had he not missed so much time, who knows what the outcome would have been.
Mike Smith Played Well
Mikko Koskinen stole the game for the Oilers against the Panthers. But, because of a back-to-back situation, Mike Smith was going to get the call on Sunday — a move that would be worrisome for Oilers’ fans who watched how Smith played against the Tampa Bay Lightning in road game No. 1. The good news is, Smith was excellent.
He did his job with a .931 SV% on the afternoon and while he got a little too brave in the third period playing the puck, he was stable throughout. He gave the Oilers a chance to climb back in.
Derek Ryan Stays Hot
With a hat trick on Saturday, Derek Ryan scored again on Sunday making that four goals in two games and 5-3-8, +7 in his last nine games played. This is a welcome sight for fans who are looking for anyone to step up in the absence of some of the Oilers’ key contributors to their top six.
Ryan was buzzing most of the night and he was one of the most effective forwards for the Oilers on this road trip. Moving him to the wing has certainly opened up an opportunity for him to utilize his speed and the skill few fans might have known he had. He got some ice time in the dying moments of the game.
Bouchard Was a Bit Better
Throughout this trip and even before it, defenseman Evan Bouchard was struggling. He was forcing plays, particularly at the opposition’s blue line that were leading to turnovers and odd-man rushes. He was better against the Hurricanes but there’s still something not quite right about what’s going on in his game. Perhaps it’s an adjustment period to the new coach but he’s not looked like himself.
On Sunday, he fired the puck a lot more often but it took Bouchard a full period and a half just to get the puck on net. He missed a number of times before settling in and creating some chances. His turnovers are an issue though and he’s going to need to get settled in or he risks losing some key minutes.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”