Hello fellow Oil fans. This is my first article on the Oil Rig. I’ve been writing about the Edmonton Oilers for close to a decade now. I am a massive Oil fan but I am also a pessimist! So my fandom doesn’t look like “Go Connor Go.” I like to look at the whole team and how the GM has built it. I’ve been saying for a decade that the Oil always need one more D and G. Amazingly, ten years later and I still feel that way. I see two Achilles heels that worry me.
What will goaltending look like in the next round?
Now we are in Round 2 after a great series against the Los Angeles Kings. Skinner was the only sub .900 goalie to win in Round 1 (note: Linus Ullmark was also sub .900 but he didn’t play Game 7).
Skinner’s “backup” is supposed to be our starter. In Jack Campbell’s only appearance there were two things to notice:
1. His stats were unbelievable and he got us the win.
2. He looked nothing like an NHL goalie in that game. He channeled his inner Dominik Hasek and was flopping everywhere. It worked but it was hard to watch and going back to Skinner was the right call. The combo of Skinner/Campbell is a weakness. Prior to this season, Skinner had played 13 games in the NHL. Now he is being asked to win 16 in spring. Stu has been great all year but he is a rookie and this is probably too soon. Plan B is Campbell. If we want the Cup, then Skinner needs to pull a Matt Murray, Jordan Binnington, or Cam Ward.
All season we have been a team that has outscored our problems. “Need four to win” is something I’ve typed so many times I’ve lost count. Last night we needed five. Our forwards are all world and can definitely score. We have great depth. Additions like Klim Kostin and Nick Bjugstad have paid dividends. I’d say our forward group is as good as any forward group in the NHL playoffs. I’d say no one has anything like a McDrai.
The team is improving defensively
Another great pickup was Mattias Ekholm. For as long as I can remember, the Oilers always have their defence playing one slot too high. With Ekholm we’re almost there! No longer do we have to see Darnell Nurse play 30 minutes a night and be exposed. The defensive minutes are much more even and everyone is contributing. Evan Bouchard has arrived. Ekholm has been amazing. Moving Brett Kulak out of top four to bottom pair has really paid off and our left side of Nurse–Ekholm–Kulak is a great left side!
It’s the right side that I’m concerned about. The Ekholm trade freed up Bouchard and he’s been light’s out! Top four RD and one of our best players in Round 1. Next we have Cody Ceci. He’s been an excellent player for us, a nice quiet game. However, is he a top 4D on a Stanley Cup winning team? Then we have Vincent Desharnais. It’s an amazing story of how he made the club and fought his way up. He seems to be loved by everyone. However, he’s been noticeably exposed and can be very emotional. He’s very raw and seems overwhelmed. Then there is Philip Broberg on his off wing. Broberg should be a much more established NHL player by now but he isn’t there yet (three of his games were under five minutes).
Reality suggests that injuries are a part of the playoffs. Every team has to deal with them or go home. If Ceci or Bouch sustain any kind of injury then our right defensive side is very weak! As an example, Kulak can step up into top four if needed on the left side. Who steps up on the right side? I’d suggest that Desharnais and Broberg can’t step into the top four and have us be successful. I also don’t know who replaces them if they get hurt. It’s times like these I miss a player like Adam Larsson. Imagine a right side of Bouchard, Larsson, Ceci with Desharnais and Broberg fighting for seven?
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire