Edmonton Oilers 6 Philadephia Flyers 3
There were 2 games played at Rogers Place Wednesday night.
The first one consisted of the opening 30 minutes during which the Oilers were mostly dominated. Mikko Koskinen had to be spectacular. The Flyers were down 2-1 at that point but deserved way better.
The second game started from the moment that Connor McDavid sprinted down the ice like a center fielder, corralling a Kris Russell pop-fly up the middle and beating an overwhelmed Flyers D-man before snapping the puck home for the 3-1
That took the wind out of a tired Flyers club who (despite a late push) never recovered from the subsequent Oilers onslaught that built up a 6-1 lead.
So yeah…a 6-1 start to the season is great and all. But there was a lot of ugly mixed in with the good tonight. You’ll see that reflected below.
Here’s the tale of the tape:
Edmonton Oilers Player Grades
MIKKO KOSKINEN. 9. Held his club in it during the 1st Period and again the first half of the 2nd Period as the Flyers flat out-played the Oilers. Among the many hi-lights was a 5-save performance on one 1st Period Flyers PP. A big save off of Kevin Hayes kept it 2-1 heading into the dressing room. Koskinen then opened the 2nd frame with 2 stellar stops, the best of which came off of Travis Sanheim’s stick in front. The club also iced the puck on 3 consecutive shifts as Koskinen held the fort. McDavid & Co. finally exploded into a 6-1 lead. Then the same team that Koskinen had bailed out earlier let up and took a couple dumb penalties. That combination led to the 2nd and 3rd Philadelphia goals of the night. In the end, Koskinen was named the game’s 2nd Star with a career-high 49 saves. With all due respect to Connor McDavid I’d have given Koskinen 1st Star. Couldn’t ask much more of your starter. He was tremendous. The reason they won.
CONNOR McDAVID. 9. Was really flying. Tied a career high with 5 points in a game. Fed Draisaitl for the 1-0. I recounted his amazing play against Justin Braun on the 3-1 in the opening paragraphs of this report and so won’t repeat it here. McDavid’s blazing zone entry on a 2nd Period Power Play ended in Nugent-Hopkins registering the 4-1. Then flew down the ice, puck in tow, for a good 125 feet before dropping a pass to Brandon Manning that turned into the 6-1. The Oilers top-6 was good and McDavid was one of the poster children of that fact.
LEON DRAISAITL. 8. Drilled home his 5th of the year with a laser wrist shot from the top of the circle. A sharp 1st Period take-away. Draisaitl’s area pass led directly to Nugent-Hopkins’ 4-1 marker. Then notched his 6th of the campaign with a pretty fore-hand/back-hand shot after McDavid fed him from behind the net after a goal-mouth scramble. A last-second neutral zone stick helped thwart a Flyers’ sortie. 2 more high quality plays helped kill an early 3rd Period Flyers PP. 50% on face-offs. Continued high-end results from one of the NHL’s very best 2-way players.
ZACK KASSIAN. 5. Pressure applied by Zack Kassian in the O-zone helped create the sequence that resulted in the 1-0. Delivered the hit of the game when he pasted Justin Braun to the end boards on another aggressive fore-check. Drew an interference minor which was converted into the 4-1. A late 2nd Period take-away. Finished the night +3. Solid enough performance.
DARNELL NURSE. 4. An unforced icing in the 2nd half of the 1st Period gave the Flyers all kinds of zone time and shot opportunities. Did take his man in front on the sequence to prevent what may have been the best of the Flyers chance from that series of attempts. Failed to take the stick of the goal scorer on the 6-2 goal (PK). A give-away at his ow blue line followed a shift later. A shot, 2 hits, 2 blocks in 23:19 of TOI. But ended the night even in a 6-3 game and trailed all Oilers D in All Events CF (11-24, 31.4%).
ETHAN BEAR. 6. Scored his 1st goal of the season (second career) after darting in from the point and scooping home a James Neal feed sharply through a screen to make it 2-1. Important 2nd Period shot block on Jakub Voracek. His head-man pass led to a ringing 2nd Period post from James Neal. One of his few miscues on the night was when he allowed his man to out-position him, leading Bear to take a hooking minor. But 2 shots, a hit and 2 blocks in 22:58. Did anyone envision him playing this much or this well?
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 7. Nugent-Hopkins scored his 1st of the season on the power play with a slick wrist shot that went shelf. Might have scored his 2nd on the next power play as I thought the replay showed his original shot breaking the plane. It ended up a McDavid-to-Draisaitlt goal for the 5-1 seconds later. Led all forwards with 4 shots and was 56% in the face-off circle in 16:31. Has hit his stride the last couple games.
JAMES NEAL. 6. The puck was only on his stick for a split-second but James Neal made it count, dishing it off beautifully to Ethan Bear for the 2-1. Rang a 2nd Period post off a set-up from Nugent-Hopkins and Bear. Also had a couple give-away’s. On balance, this line was far from a problem, though.
ALEX CHIASSON. 5. A good play along the wall on the 2-1 goal that he didn’t get an assist on but deserves credit for nonetheless. Solid enough play. No glaring errors. But no shots or hits on the stat sheet either after being promoted to the 2nd Line.
OSCAR KLEFBOM. 6. Made a very nice play on the wall at the blue-line led to the 1-0, for which Klefbom was eventually awarded a deserved assist. Earned a 2nd one later in the game in the Russell-to-Connor long bomb. Led the D-core in TOI with 24:01. 2 shots, a hit, 3 blocks but also 3 give-away’s. However over this 6-1 start to the season Klefbom has unquestionably been the club’s best defenceman…and probably was again tonight.
BRANDON MANNING. 5. Played 11:22 and led the team’s D-core in All Events CF (7-6, 54%) in his first game of the season. Manning had been a healthy scratch the previous 6 games. Also scored on a hard blast from the point after a set-up by Connor McDavid. And no, the irony of that sentence is not lost on me and probably not on anyone else either. No matter how you feel about the player and his past, surely it’s good to see a guy fighting for his career to have a decent outing.
RILEY SHEAHAN. 5. Led a fantastic first shift of the game as Sheahan, Khaira and Russell kept the puck in the Flyers zone for the first 50 seconds of this game. Then, on the Bear PK Sheahan and Co. was on the ice for the entire 2:00 and bent but didn’t break. 55% in the circle. The best of the Bottom-6 by far.
JUJHAR KHAIRA. 4. Part of an excellent opening sequence in the O-zone. Smart 1st Period back-check. 3 hits. But then faded significantly as the game went on. Consistency is JJ’s biggest issue.
PATRICK RUSSELL. 5. Took a 2nd Period holding call. Good steal on a 3rd Period PK. His best sequence was a 3rd Period chance on a set-up by Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear. 2 shots, 2 hits and a block in 13:48. Good, not great.
KRIS RUSSELL. 5. Good block on a 1st Period PK. Was slow to his man on a second Flyers PP which (in part) led to the 1-1. Skied a 50-yard punt that Connor McDavid gathered in for the 3-1 which absolutely turned the tide in this one. Good chance from the high-slot after a set-up by McDavid & Draisaitl. A key steal and clear on an early 3rd Period PK. In considering his performance remember the context with which he played, which was on his weak side for the first time since last Spring.
MATT BENNING. 5. A nasty give-away in front of his own net when Benning heeled the puck right to an opponent but Mikko Koskinen was equal to the task. Boxed out the trigger man on a dangerous 3rd Period Flyers chance on the PP. Led the D-core with 3 hits in 13:42 on a 3rd pairing with Manning.
MARKUS GRANLUND. 3. Took a lazy hooking penalty in the neutral zone which eventually resulted in the 1-1. Took a needless hitting from behind penalty in the 3rd but his teammates killed that one-off.
TOMAS JURCO. 3. Had precious little impact on the game in a positive way. The coaches must have agreed as the 4th line winger played just 7:54 in a blowout.
JOSH ARCHIBALD. 4. Way too quiet. 2 hits and a shot in 13:18. Not having the impact that the club surely envisioned when the acquired him.
A few additional notes:
-Players and coaches wore a “TG” patch in tribute to the recently passed-away Ted Green who coached the Oilers in several capacities and had a well-earned reputation as a tough-as-nails NHL/WHA player.
-The Oilers offence outburst spoiled the homecoming for young Flyers goalie Carter Hart, who was pulled after the 4-1.
-Joel Persson is in concussion protocol and probably out 7-10 days.
The Red Wing are at Rogers Place Friday.
Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins
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