Penguins 3 – Oilers 2
November has arrived, and with it, so have the Oilers, along with the very same problems that plagued this team in October. Impotent Power Play? Check. Porous Penalty Kill? Check. Non-existent secondary scoring? Check, check, check.
The collective Oilers community had been hoping, wishing, and praying that with the flip of the calendar, the early season errors would slip away, and a better, winning, team would emerge through the snow. Sadly, the only thing that has come as a consequence of the renewed month, is any excuse involving the word “early”.
No, sadly, it is no longer acceptable to dismiss the problems on this team as being due to early season rust or adjustments. The major three issues mentioned above (PP, PK, secondary scoring), have had a long enough stay in Edmonton’s system, to be declared as very real, very serious issues.
It would be one thing if the Oilers were facing these issues and powering through and finding wins. It is an entirely separate situation when the issues are directly, and repeatedly, leading to losses. Tonight’s game against the Penguins is evidence enough.
This evening’s tilt almost felt like a rerun, considering how it played out so similar to some of the other disappointing games so far. Let’s see: Oilers down a goal early, fight back to tie it, get a lead, but give up the tying goal at an unfortunate time. To finish it all off, the 3rd period sinks them, with the final dagger being that of the special teams battle.
Even though we have been seeing this pattern play out so often, a fan could be forgiven if, during tonight’s proceedings, they had bought in to a potential change in this team’s early fate. After sawing off the first period to a 0-0 total, and despite giving up the first goal while shorthanded early in the 2nd, the Oilers did fight back in the middle frame, to present a legitimate belief that a victory was near.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would find the back of the net at the tail end of a 4 minute Power Play for his 5th of the year to tie the game, which was immediately followed up by a goal scored by Leon Draisaitl. The Draisaitl marker, which came at even strength, was highlighted with a brilliant assist by Connor McDavid, who continued his regular display of playing excellent against Crosby.
That play by #97 would get Rogers Place buzzing, and it would be a successful, near 2 minute kill of a 5 on 3 shortly after, that would send a real sense of electricity throughout the building. I am sure that many of the scribes covering the game had pencilled in that moment as a potential turning point in the game. Alas, that would not be the case. After a rush that seen the McDavid line come within inches of scoring, Sidney Crosby would find Conor Sheary, who scored with a mere 22 seconds left in the period.
That goal, as so many of these untimely goals this season have done, deflated the team. Despite a few legitimate chances in the 3rd, the Oilers would not be able to convert, opening the door for Evgeni Malkin to score his 6th of the season, this one on the Power Play, and bury the Oilers in the final 10 minutes of the game.
The Oilers have certainly dug themselves into a hole, passing up plenty of opportunities to at least register a point. No, the Oilers are not out of the playoffs yet, but holes like this are not easy to crawl out of, especially considering how well the Pacific Division has been playing. It is also becoming increasingly clear, that before this team can hope to go on a real run, the problems that plague it will need to be addressed. Secondary scoring is needed, a penalty killer has to be on the way, and the power play could start by showing a semblance of structure and purpose. Where are the days of working it over to Mark Letestu for the one timer?
Is it all over, but the crying? Not exactly. But after tonight, with the 11th game and 7th loss in the books, things certainly aren’t looking good.
Player of the Game
Connor McDavid gets the nod this evening, if not only for his assist on Draisaitl’s goal. Breathtaking move by a superb player, who has made it his goal to play at an incredible level, every time he faces Sidney Crosby. Despite outscoring Sid in these games, 7-1, the Oilers have yet to register a win against the Penguins with Connor in the lineup. Strange.
- Darnell Nurse, despite being the defensemen that pinched on the Penguins 2nd goal, looked more than fine on the top pairing with Larsson. it is a shame that his strong season is being lost under the noise of poor play by the team, but let the record show that Darnell is off to the best start in his career.
- Milan Lucic has to be a whole hell of a lot better than he was tonight. The stat sheet says 2 giveaways, but it sure seemed like more. Still believe he is trying to do way too much for the type of player he is.
- With 11 minutes played, and 0’s nearly all across the stat sheet, is it time to send Yamamoto down? I would say so. At the very least, despite his good habits, it is apparent that the goals won’t come until he is able to add legitimate strength to his shot. More time needed.
- Is it finally time for a Jesse Puljujarvi call-up? Why not?
- Caggiula was a rocket tonight, with 5 shots on net and a ton of ice time banked.
- Nugent-Hopkins continued his rebound year. If he had some more potent wingers, his 5 X 5 production would be even higher.
- How can we sum up this season so far? On the broadcast tonight they brought up a rather cringe-worthy fact: the Oilers have only lead going into the 3rd period once this year. That was the first game of the season. Woooof.
Up Next: Taylor Hall and the Devils
For the next little while, it will no longer be the case of “the Oilers HAVE to win this next game”. That much is a given. The Oilers HAVE to start winning multiple games in a row if they have any hope of keeping pace with the rest of the field.
Edmonton can maybe make a case for a better fortune with a win on Friday night against a good New Jersey Devils club, but if not, the light at the end of the tunnel will just dim a bit more.