Is this the new Jack Campbell? Edmonton Oilers need it to be true

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There was never any real concern that the Edmonton Oilers were in trouble after that lacklustre 0-2 start.

Nobody was starting to wonder if the pre-season hype and post-season expectations were way off base.

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People were surprised, critical even, but nobody starts to worry after two losses to open the season.

Three? That might have been another story.

Trip on their skate laces in Nashville Tuesday night, bow to the pressure and become one of only three teams in the NHL without a win, and there would have been no stopping the storm clouds. Their next practice would have been cancelled on account of darkness.

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But the Oilers and Jack Campbell, back in the nets to make things right after his own opening night stumble, shrugged off the tension and delivered the sunshine like it was nothing.

The Oilers scored six goals, four of them at even strength, and Campbell stopped 42 of 43 shots, providing more evidence to back up his claim that this year’s Jack Campbell is not the same as last year’s Jack Campbell.

“No one scripted starting 0-2, but things happen,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft. “What you do is try and maintain a level head, you do your work and make sure you’re addressing the areas that you have to get better at.”

Being able to keep their cool and not wilting in the face of adversity is every bit as important as the two points, especially for Campbell. He and the Oilers needed to show a little resilience, an ability to ignore the distractions and outside noise in a season that is sure to be full of them, and take care of business.

“Sometimes not getting the result but forcing yourself to stick to a process is the best thing in the long run,” said Woodcroft. “Sometimes two points is a lagging indicator, meaning you’ve done a lot of good things (along the way) and eventually you get rewarded. I thought it was a good sign for our team.”

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And a great sign for Campbell. After getting the hook after four goals on 16 shots in his opening night coming-out party, Oilers fans were holding their breath, wondering if he was still the guy who struggled with himself every bit as much as he struggled with shooters.

Turns out he wasn’t just rock solid in goal, he was an on-ice leader who challenged the shooters and dared them to score.

“Opening night was not fun for anybody,” he told reporters afterward. “I learned a lot from last year and looked at the (opening night) game and honestly there were just a couple of little tweaks I thought I could make and I thought it paid off.

“I got a little more aggressive and the guys did a great job battling hard in front.”

If Campbell was wrestling with any kind of confidence issue, he had it pinned for the three-count before the game was six minutes old. His teammates are already noticing the difference in his game and his approach to it.

“It’s great to see, but he put in the work,” said Leon Draisaitl. “He’s laser-focused and he looks incredible in practices and games.”

In addition to the work he put in refining his mechanics, Campbell spent considerable time coming to grips with the fact that in a league featuring the best players in the world scoring more than 8,000 goals a year, it’s best not to take it too personally when they snipe one by you.

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“It’s a humbling league, guys are really good out there,” said Campbell. “It’s always tough when the result (opening night) goes that way. You’re never happy when it’s four on 16. But the difference between me this year and last year is understanding there are great players in the league.

“Having the mindset I’m going to be perfect and everything is going to go great every night is almost arrogant. Sometimes they’re going to make great plays and score on me. I’m not being OK with that, but it’s understanding that sometimes you’re not going to have a great night. That’s what happened and I didn’t let it get me down.”

Just like the Oilers didn’t let the 0-2 start pressure them into defeat in Nashville. In a season where mental toughness is going to be every bit as valuable as physical, it’s a good start.

“That’s the recipe for the league, having a short memory,” said Campbell. “The best guys in the game kind of chuck it out. After getting pulled they shut the door. That’s something I certainly worked hard on this summer, having the ability to process what happened and learn from it instead of dwell on it.”

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