Oilers Have to Reverse Last Season’s Trend of Allowing First Goal

The Edmonton Oilers opened up their season at home against the Vancouver Canucks and the start wasn’t what they were hoping for. In a highly anticipated season where the Oilers’ goal is to push further and make it to the Stanley Cup Final, they didn’t look like a team ready to start the long journey.

We saw shades of what happened for the majority of last season to kick off the 2022-23 season for the Oilers. They were scored against early and on one of the first shots. Elias Pettersson scored on the third shot of the game just 1:49 into the first, while the second goal came on the next shot for Vancouver as J.T. Miller scored 51 seconds later. It was an uphill battle from there.

There were likely a number of factors playing into why the Oilers got off to a shaky start, some of which were probably nerves from a rookie (Dylan Holloway) and a new starting goaltender (Jack Campbell). The blame can’t be put on any one player to start the 2022-23 season, as the first sign of life was at the end of the first period when Darnell Nurse turned up the intensity.

Though Nurse’s penalty wasn’t a great one, it got the Oilers going, as they stormed back from 3-0 down to win their opener 5-3 and start 2022-23 on the right foot.

Allowing the First Goal Wasn’t a Sign of Success Last Season

In the midst of last season’s horrible stretch where the Oilers went 2-11-2, they had scored first in only 10 games and allowed the first goal in 22 of those. Scoring the first goal of the game 10 times ranked last in the league while allowing the first goal 22 times was tied for last in the league with the Montreal Canadiens who were horrible at that time.

Somehow the Oilers had gone 8-12-2 in those games they fell behind early, which was impressive, but can’t be counted on to continue. In a few of those games, the Oilers pulled off some stellar comeback victories like the one against the Canucks to open this season. The couple that stood out came earlier in the 2021-22 season when the offence was clicking. The first came fairly early in the season on Nov. 5, 2021, when they trailed 1:53 into the game against the New York Rangers. They were down 4-1 at that point only to storm back and win 6-5 in overtime. This is a game not many fans will forget since it’s the one Connor McDavid walked through the entire team to score one of, if not the best goal of the season.

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The other memorable game last season where the Oilers had a great comeback was against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11, 2021. They were scored on 4:45 into the game and were down in the third period only to score three and win 5-3. Those were just the instances where they pulled off great comebacks, but it doesn’t happen all the time. Many times they couldn’t recover from allowing the first goal and that was a primary reason why they had a negative record in that regard.

Related: Canucks Broadcast Crew Have Poor Take on McDavid’s Eliteness

Take into account the Oilers were 10-0-0 to that point when scoring the first goal, and that trend continued deep into the season, ending just before the Canadiens’ all-time NHL record. In the full 2021 calendar year, the Oilers finished with a record of 32-3-1 when scoring the first goal and 19-23-1 when allowing the first goal. A huge difference, to be sure.

This season, the Oilers have a different look to start the season compared to how they looked under coach Dave Tippett. After Jay Woodcroft took over last season, the team went 26-9-3. They also improved their team defence and the number of times they allowed the first goal of the game as well. It’s a new season after the Oilers climbed out of the hole they dug themselves mid-last season. However, the same bad trends can’t resurface in 2022-23.

Oilers Showed Resilience & Fight of a Contender in Game 1

It’s not only that it kills to allow the first goal, the Oilers did so on a number of occasions very early in the game and on the first, or one of the first shots. This has something to do with goaltending since neither was able to start games on time. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen generally settled down and played well after that, but it put the Oilers at a disadvantage early on.

Jay Woodcroft Edmonton Oilers
Jay Woodcroft, Edmonton Oilers head coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There is more hope this season with Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner in net, but also because Woodcroft’s system has been in place for a while now and the Oilers are more defensively-capable as a team. The NHL is tough enough without having to play from behind from seemingly the very start of the game. It takes the wind out of any momentum the Oilers may have to enter the game and the team’s confidence takes a hit. They appear to have more confidence in themselves and their goaltender this season which is a good thing moving forward.

It is one game into a long 82-game regular season. The Oilers tightened up their game, didn’t allow penalties to further sink them, and fought back to win. They have a very fast team and a couple of the best players in the world. A lot is expected from them, and they can’t follow the same bad trend of allowing the first goal of the game early and often this season and expect the same success.

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