We delve into the Edmonton Oilers’ home opener on Saturday night, when they came up just short in a tough 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
There was plenty to be encouraged by on Saturday night, as the Oilers played their first home game of the 2023-24 regular season. Mattias Ekholm was back, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had three points and Leon Draisaitl extended his points streak versus the Canucks, to 20 games.
In general though, it was another tough evening for the Oilers. Looking for revenge after being embarrassed 8-1 in the season opener, they came up agonizingly short in the rematch.
It probably didn’t help, that the Canucks’ winner came courtesy of Sam Lafferty. That would be the same player who the Oilers had been interested in prioer to his trade to Vancouver, from the Leafs.
So what stood out most from the 4-3 loss? Here are three takeaways from Saturday night’s game at Rogers Place:
1) Don’t put this on Stuart Skinner
Stuart Skinner ended the night with the exact same stat line as in the season opener, i.e. four goals allowed on 16 shots. This time however, the stat line was over the course of (mostly) an entire game rather than effectively half a contest.
As a result, on the surface level Skinner’s 2023-24 campaign is off to a disastrous start. At the same stage last season, he had a .944 save percentage and had allowed three total goals through his first two appearances.
However, don’t think to put Saturday night’s loss on the 24-year-old. He was badly let down by the blue line, particularly the likes of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci.
Further, Skinner was just plain unlucky on the night, as the Canucks scored twice on deflections. Throw in another goal on a two-on-none situation, and he had no chance.
The Edmonton native did his best to keep the Oilers in the contest with some crucial saves. Overall though, there was little he could do to overcome what the hockey gods had pre-determined.
For his part, Skinner was defiant about his tough start to the season. Speaking to the media postgame, including Sportsnet‘s Mark Spector, he said:
"“That’s all other people’s opinions on goaltenders. Goalies know how to play, and numbers lie.”"
In fairness to the goaltender, Saturday night’s outing provided some evidence to back up his claim. Regardless, he still needs to be better moving forward, because as of right now there is plenty of concern about the defensive frailties of this team.