Edmonton – There are floor-to-ceiling windows in the room where the Edmonton Oilers conduct their post-game interviews. Inside, the players are quiet and quotable, just two games into a good start to the NHL season.
Outside on the street, the venue was a hoopla, with 300-400 fans banging on windows and cheering for Jesse Bolgoarvi as he sat on the podium next to Leon Drystel, chanting “MVP! Best player! MVP” when Connor McDavid’s turn came, generally acting As if it was June and not October.
The Oilers beat Calgary 5-2 on Saturday’s sandy night at The Big E, and the local star had a hat-trick. McDavid even scored one goal over that time he’s been working on in practice. You remember, what Draisaitl said was “gentle” when asked about McDavid’s shot a few days ago.
Draisaitl was ready when he took the podium after the match.
“If you watched the replay, it was a bit fluffy,” he said. “She came in nice, but she was annoying. It was a nice shot, I’ll give him that. A very nice shot. Good for him.”
good for him.
It was a metaphorical head-kick from 50 goals with one of the best timers in the game, to a player scoring in every direction but like that – until Saturday night. Like Rory McIlroy says, “Good engine,” when you “spray” 225 yards down the middle.
“It’s funny,” said coach Dave Tibbett. “I knew that once he got in, the guys were really happy for him. They’re laughing and because you (the media) mentioned it last week or something – so the kind we’re looking for now – and he got results. It’s a light moment, put it that way. “.
Fans crowded the streets to celebrate the 2-0 result. Laughs at the expense of McDavid, who set a team record with his third regular-season hat-trick in his career against the Flames. An emerging star in Puljujarvi, he has a 2-2-4 in two games and could be destined for 30 goals, playing alongside McDavid all year, and Draisaitl for much of that.
What’s new in Edmonton?
We’re not quite sure, but this is somehow different than just a couple of superstars on their way to the Hart Cup and Art Ross, as is typical of these parts. There’s a lot of talent under the big streak in Edmonton these days, and when Tippett went three lines 4-2 in the third period, it was a workflow we haven’t seen here in a long time.
“There was flow and rhythm in our game,” Tibbett said. “Everyone was on the same page and… we have three lines that work hard and play in a similar style. It doesn’t matter who the players are, you can do it and look like a good team.”
For years, Edmonton froze the first line, with two third and fourth line. Then they split McDavid and Draisaitl last year, and they had a first line, a second line, and two fourth lines.
With smart quarterback Derek Ryan (who scored on Saturday) between two big and fast wingers Warren Voegel and Zach Cassian, Edmonton now has a legitimate third streak as we haven’t seen in a long time.
Is this what a real hockey team looks like? Is this how a proper set of frontlines is supposed to look?
Forgive us, but it’s been a while.
The fourth line that doesn’t explode in five over five? “What is that?” asked every Oilers observer of the past decade.
See, it’s early. The Oilers still take a lot of penalties, but for a few breaks, Calgary could have found a better fate on Saturday.
But watching Edmonton closely now through a couple of games, you see the plan. Obviously, the roster structure that has been beefed up with the right kinds of players this summer, and now it’s coming up on top of the boards in a way that a well-built roster does.
There’s prolific skill at the top with McDavid and Draisaitl, Hazard on streak 2 with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman, volume and speed on streak 3 and a fourth streak filling in the blanks with penalty kicks.
In terms of defense, Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie are a pair with two top players – an Olympian and the Secretary who plays the quarterback. The way a highly skilled pairing is supposed to be.
Below them, Duncan Keith and Cody Cisse were flawless on Saturday, a duo that appears aimed at silencing critics who want to write off players before they play a game for their team. It was excellent on a Saturday.
Evan Bouchard’s third mating is underway, as is a young defensive man supposedly doing. He’s been tasked with as much responsibility as possible, with the veterans needed to seize this icy time on a night not on Bouchard’s Road.
And in goal, Mike Smith was the best goalkeeper in each of his first two games, making 45 stops on Saturday. We’re not saying he’s the best goalkeeper in the Pacific, but he was a shade better than Thatcher Demko in the first game, and he beat Jacob Markstrom in the second.
“It was amazing,” MacDavid said. “He’s back and picked up where he left off. It’s an ageless wonder. It was incredible again tonight.”
It’s only two games, but at this point, there’s no reason not to believe it.