Oilers Gameday: January 25th at Vancouver

Oilers Gameday: January 25th at Vancouver

 

Finally, a win. Even I, some random who writes about the team can feel a foreign sense of ease. It’s just one win, but every streak begins with one! It’s true the team has its issues, but in no way are they as bad as their record has been since December.

 

More good news for the Oilers as a key forward returns, RNH, as well as some early promise from Dylan Holloway’s first AHL action. At least up front things are trending up.

 

Tonight the chance for another lies in the city of Vancouver, against a Canucks team that has been continuing to build out their organization more aggressively in the face of their falling short of expectations. After a bad start the Canucks hit a reset, replacing their coach and GM lead to improved results but the soul searching hasn’t stopped there. The team has continued to bolster their front office with new Assistant GM Castonguay and analytics staff in Doerrie. There is an expanded scope as visions of the coming years are being discussed. Of course these are exactly the types of changes and questions fans are hoping the Oilers follow suit on.

 

For now the Oilers are ahead of their division rival and desperately focused on improving their playoff standing. The Canucks, like most of the inactive Canadian based franchises, have been sputtering of late, 4-4-2 in their past 10.

 

After COVID protocols and injuries left the Canucks scrambling for goalies it seems Spencer Martin will be in goal tonight, while the Oilers counter with Koskinen.

 

 

KEYS TO THE GAME

 

Edmonton:

  1. Stay scrappy. Whoever scores first or second or third the Oilers have no choice but to keep their foot on the gas. Stringing together games of dominating chances and possession will rebuild the confidence of the team.
  2. Don’t sleep. Things are looking a bit thin for the Canucks with so many key players out of the lineup, but the Oilers cannot afford to underestimate their opponents.

 

Vancouver:

  1. Penalty kill. Sitting last in the league at just 66.9% the Canucks have to be better in this area to have a chance. It doesn’t help that the team also takes a fair number of penalties.

 

EXPECTED LINEUPS

 

Edmonton:

 

McLeod — McDavid — Yamamoto

Foegele — Draisaitl — Puljujarvi

Perlini — Nugent-Hopkins — Kassian

Shore — Ryan — Sceviour

 

Nurse — Bouchard

Keith — Ceci

Russell — Koekkoek

 

Koskinen

Skinner

 

 

Vancouver:

 

Miller — Pettersson — Boeser

Highmore — Lammikko — Motte

Hoglander — Dickinson — Chiasson

Bailey — Dowling — Podkolzin

 

Ekman-Larsson — Myers

Hughes — Poolman

Burroughs — Schenn

 

Martin

DiPietro

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

 

Edmonton: The past several games has seen a lot of rotation on McDavid’s wings, tonight being no different as McLeod gets a chance. McLeod has been solid as a bottom 6 centre but coach Tippett mentioned playing on the wing might free him up a bit.

 

Perlini had a spectacular night, scoring a huge goal against Calgary and guesting on after hours Saturday. It’s hard not to cheer for him given his attitude and the unlikely beginnings of his game in England. Although it is a bit bittersweet to see him off of McDavid’s line, perhaps a spot on the third line with RNH can be a more permanent place for him.

 

Bouchard, unsurprisingly, was fantastic on PP1 in Barrie’s place. Sure, all players, especially young players, can be inconsistent but at this point there’s no reason to be taking minutes away from Bouchard.

 

I’ve mentioned it before, but Koskinen is a reasonable tandem-backup. Sure, he’s a bit overpaid for now, and has an unsettling and unorthodox style at times. Many would consider Jaroslav Halak, now with the Canucks (and not in the lineup tonight) the gold standard in such a role, if not a very favourable comparison for Koskinen. Although I understand that games have been spread out enough that it seems fine to start Koskinen again tonight he has been relied upon far too heavily, notably more than Halak has ever been started in a single season, which was behind a reputably defensive Blues team. With more and more games in a short span on the horizon, the Oilers need to ease this pace. I know Skinner’s last start against Ottawa wasn’t the strongest but it’s both unfair and counterproductive to Mikko to keep throwing him out there and then be disappointed in him when it doesn’t go well.

 

 

Vancouver: The Lotto line of Miller-Pettersson-Boeser is back together. Outside of those 3 Oilers fans might be squinting to recognize this forward lineup. Motte has had strong stretches in the past, and this line with Lammikko has been very effective recently.

 

Both Hoglander and Podkolzin look to be good players for years to come, but have seen their icetime decrease recently. Perhaps with so many out of the lineup with COVID it’s a way to keep some groups, like Pettersson and Lammikko’s, intact. Both Hoglander and Podkolzin are quite skilled, but are equally known for their strong work ethic.

 

On a bit more of a personal note, the first time I saw Justin Bailey play he was a force on the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. At the time I was convinced that he would be a regular NHLer and in a lot of ways he’s proved me right. Yes, I thought he would have a greater impact as a scorer, but it’s always nice to see him in the lineup.

 

One of the most notable changes under the new coach Bruce Boudreau has been playing Tyler Myers in bigger minutes. Many would see him and partner OEL as far too expensive and increasingly ineffective, so it’s definitely a positive to have the pair contributing solidly at least for now.

 

Sure he’s not Chris Tanev, but Tucker Poolman has some game, and I’ve often been impressed with his play, small, quiet things like positioning. Good for him to hold this job as Quinn Hughes’ partner for the time being.

 

GAME NOTES

 

It’s been an eventful week, or start to 2022, for hockey in both good and bad ways. On one hand there have been some long overdue strides in important areas, including the hirings of both Castonguay and Doerrie, the raising of O’Ree’s number to the rafters in Boston, the HDA’s continued presence and work to change hockey culture, Quinton Byfield’s early play as an NHLer, to name a few.

 

Unfortunately there have also been terrible incidents, including 2 in quick succession in the ECHL and AHL involving racial slurs and gestures. These extremes are quite jarring and only go to illustrate how far things have to change going forward. The world we live in is far from post-racial and hockey’s culture of silence has allowed racists and abusers to flourish free from repercussions, allowing their hate to grow in influence.

 

For many the truth of hockey’s toxic culture is actively experienced, as far as pushing them out of the game all together. It speaks volumes that a pro player, like LA Kings prospect and World Junior hero Akil Thomas, would tweet a rhetorical “is this the game I love?”.

 

For those that are privileged enough not to experience this first hand it will be difficult to understand how deep and lasting the impacts and prevalence these incidents can have. Attitudes like racism and sexism and ableism and homophobia are a constant to battle against, even just to be a casual fan. Yes at every level of hockey, yes in every country, yes to this very day. These are impossible battles for any of us, even the saintly Willie O’Ree, or any group of us to win alone. We all need to make conscious efforts to drag the game forward together.

 

The good news is it’s never too late to change, and even though progress has been slow we as a hockey community are better equipped to change than ever before. Yes these are complicated issues that exist outside the sport as well, but there are a number of things that can be done at all levels to start heading in the right direction.

 

Yes, apologies are might happen but the focus should not be on the perpetrator or defending them. Punishments need to be harsher, language needs to be added to rule books. It’s not my place to deal out forgiveness but it’s a road that can be walked upon with time and humility. Defending reputations is very far down the list of priorities, and one should understand that doing so only aligns you with the issue at hand.

 

Seeing more and more white players take a stand against these actions is very meaningful, and I would hope that all those with media access would take the time to ask players about it. Superstars like Crosby and McDavid can do a lot for so many simply by speaking against racism.

 

The NHL itself should be empowering the HDA. The fact that such an organization exists is a huge blessing and a testament to the strength and bravery of its members and those who paved the way for them. The idea that the NHL is opposing or resisting the HDA is actively making the sport a worse place. The HDA even made an actionable items list which essentially does a lot of the hardest work for the league. Working together to achieve those goals is a great place to start. For example certain trophies like the Conn Smythe have to be renamed. Certain high up individuals need to ride off into the sunset like USA Hockey’s John Vanbiesbrouk.

 

As much as there is work to be done by billion dollar organizations and famous individuals there is a lot more that we can all do as individuals as well. These include basics like listening to and believing those close to us when it comes to their experiences with racism, sexism, or other forms of bigotry. This means not challenging them when they express their interest or opinions in the sport in general, let alone when reporting hateful incidents. If you can find ways to be respectful and supportive, and most of all listen to those who are being open with you.

 

This means talking to your friends and families to educate them on these realities. No doubt many of them will have some questions, comments, or opinions that come from ignorance or privilege. Be the one to help them get through those. I recognize that although I have made it a priority to learn about and talk about these issues that I will make comments and have feelings that might come from these places as well, but that will not stop me from speaking my mind and trying to say what is right when I have the opportunity and the platform (like now).

 

Another thing is to celebrate joy and excellence. I’ve mentioned Byfield and Castonguay as examples but there are so many who break the mold or challenge the status quo of hockey and it’s “straight white rich English Canadian” association. It was not too long ago that even straight white male Europeans were belittled and discriminated against in hockey. It’s important we recognize Black excellence, Indigenous excellence, Female excellence, and whatever other kinds of hockey excellence we are fortunate enough to witness. For example Wayne Simmonds is coming up to his 1000th game. There are barriers being broken and amazing accomplishments being reached all around us.

 

Finally I’ll leave with directing any interested parties towards resources like Black Girl Hockey Club and The Soul on Ice Podcast, as well as my fellow Oilers Rig colleague Avry Lewis-McDougall (@Avry on twitter) who co-hosted a twitter space talking about a lot of these points and more. There are more and more voices to listen to in this arena if you chose to look for them. 

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About Charles 51664 Articles
Charles writes for the Headline column of the website. He has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism. He has worked for more than 1.5 years in a media house. Now, he joined our team as a contributor for covering the latest US headlines. He is smart both by him looks and nature. He is very good with everyone in the team.