Today is Game 1 of the NHL season for the Oilers and Game 2 for the Vancouver Canucks. Oilers fans have waited a long time for this day to come.
This is a different year for the Oilers. For the first time in a long time there are expectations for them to actually push for a playoff spot. Most of the time Oilers fans themselves can be found convincing each other that it will happen, but now the hype is coming from outside the 780 area code. The kids are getting both Older and more numerous. There are simply too many game breaking players to stay horrible forever.
Meanwhile the Canucks are starting the year missing a few key players, with only a couple of roster players having played during the lockout, and in the midst of the Luongo media circus. Kesler is out after a diving related injury forced off season surgery and David Booth hurt himself during a Pilates class or some shit, so the Canucks 2nd line is a Gong Show. Last night on the HNIC late game Schneider embarrassed himself on National TV. As of the time this post was being written Vigneault had yet to name his starter against the Oil. Naturally this makes Oilers fans happy because 1 game into the Schneider era the Coach is looking at the other goalie and wondering if he made a horrible mistake. Dont think for a second that Nucks fans arent shitting bricks in the lower mainland. This morning the Luongo media circus just added its 3rd ring.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Expose the Rust
The Canucks looked like a team that hadnt played Hockey in a long time last night against the Ducks. That may have woken a sleeping Giant, but the fact is the Oilers should be a much tougher test. Vancouver will be playing their 2nd game in as many nights after playing 0 in 8 months or so. If the Oilers can come at them with the speed, skill, and game tested play they are capable of this could be a great debut night for them.
2) Strike Oil Early
The Canucks are Pros. Many of them have already forgotten about last night’s shit show in net. The Oil have to remind them early (and hopefully often) about this goaltender situation they have. The Canucks will be pumped if Schneider or Luongo can thwart Oiler opportunities early. Conversely the cloud that surrounds the goaltending position looms heavy over every player. An early goal will have the Canucks dreading the inevitable questions and controversy that await them post game.
3) Are the Kids Ready?
Are the Oilers’ young guns ready for showtime? They dominated in the AHL, were putting up great numbers in Europe, and starring for their countries in international tournaments, but are they ready to take the NHL by storm? The Oilers top line is Hall-Nuge-Eberle. Even last year Tom Renney was protecting these guys as much as possible by putting them in favourable conditions against lesser opponents in positive zone starts. This year there you cant hide them. Can they get the job done at even strength? Can they dominate NHL defenses the way they dominated other leagues this season.
Additionally, can Yakupov and Schultz transition seamlessly into the NHL? These arent your Average Joe rookies. Yak is a 1st Overall talent. This might be lost on the Edmonton fanbase that may have gotten used to selecting 1st in the Tambellini and friends entry draft. He is an elite talent with proven skills. His laser beam one-timer is already legendary. I’m not sure I’ve seen one like it since Brett Hull played in this league. We were all told that Schultz was special but a transition to the pro game was expected. Expectations were tempered and then cranked back up after his hojillion points in a handful of AHL games. We are being told another transition to the NHL is expected. Ok. I will temper my expectations a little bit, but this kid just might have some magic.
Game time is 7PM Mountain time on Sportsnet West.
Welcome home, NHL.