Hurricanes 5 – Oilers 3
McDavid isn’t dominating like he can. Klefbom is absent. Larsson can’t shut down. Shooting percentages in the dumps. Goaltending non-existent. Special teams tire fire. Puck fumbles frequent. Breaking out of zone a foreign concept. Consecutive passes a mind-boggling suggestion Brain cramps galore.
Surely, that doesn’t cover it all, but it at least is an attempt to grasp the current ailments of this Oilers squad. To summarize? Errors. More errors, complete discombobulation, and an overall effort by this quad over the past 4 games that leaves a mountain to be desired.
When I covered the postgame last week, I wrote that this team was in a Jekyll and Hyde phase. They had started the season brilliantly, but proceeded to follow it up with 2 poor showings that were high on apathetic effort, and low on proper execution of fundamentals. After 2 more games of the same (if not worse) performance, not much has changed, other than the fact that the season opener creeps further behind in the rear view mirror.
Poor starts have killed this team so far, and tonight was the same. Before most people could crack open their first bubbly beverage, the Hurricanes had already jumped out to a 2-0 lead, 5 minutes in. Why? Errors. Simple, unforced, errors. An extremely poor pinch by Oscar Klefbom, followed up by a ridiculously short-sighted Patrick Maroon penalty, ensured that for the 4th straight evening, Edmonton would be soundly in the hole early. Yet another error, this time in the form of an undisciplined penalty by Zack Kassian, would take this even further, driving the Oilers down by 3, after the first 20.
The thing about these types of errors, and their fatal nature, is that they absolutely gut a team. Heck, close to 30 minutes into the game, the Oilers were leading on the shot clock 25-10, and it mattered not… the score clock still read 3-0. Even when the Oilers would attempt to rally back from their deficit, with a late Letestu power play goal in the 2nd, and a pair from Strome and Lucic in the 3rd, it would be meaningless, because for every Oilers punch landed on Carolina, came an even fiercer self inflicted punch to their own groin. Errors galore.
Perhaps this is best exemplified in the 3rd period, when after driving to make the game 4-3 and really putting the tilt in the balance, the basic fundamentals of defence and covering a man were forgotten, and a 5th Carolina goal was surrendered.
Of course, one only needed to look just a few minutes prior, at the start of the 3rd, when the Oilers surrendered a truly ugly shorthanded goal (puck bobbles, again), to see the full extent of their self-inflicted mistakes.
The bottom line is this. Right now, the Oilers are being completely undone by themselves. Games are being started with an apathetic, leisurely pace, that is ensuring no momentum at all is gained early. What follows is a disjointed, broken, and disingenuous effort by almost every member of this roster. Broken plays, passes into the skates, individualism, poor forechecking/backchecking, missed coverage, and awful decision making define much of how this team is playing. Pick an aspect of poor hockey, and it applies.
And because of that, it simply doesn’t matter if they do manage to scrape together 5-10 straight minutes of effective hockey, because every other minute of the game is spent ensuring that it is all moot anyways. That is how, despite outshooting the opposition 51-21, the Oilers still found a way to lose 5-3. Woof.
What Does it Mean?
Now, in saying this, I still do remain insistent that this isn’t a roster issue, in terms of the players that currently make up this squad. Why? Because we have seen better from these guys. Much better. We know that Klefbom is a much better defender than this. Same goes for Larsson. Those two were rock-solid last year, yet this year, they are arguably the biggest culprits in terms of defensive liability. They can improve.
On the front end, we know that McDavid has more in him. We know that Maroon can a) not take so many stupid penalties, and b) put the puck in the net. We know that between Lucic, Strome, Nuge, Kassian, and Slepyshev, that there has to be more jump there in terms of offence and overall hustle (hopefully tonight was a start for #18 & #27).
Ultimately, until the majority of this roster is putting out an effort that can be classified anywhere near acceptable in terms of overall effort and execution, and in the ballpark of what we have come to expect from these players, this is just a severely underperforming team, not a broken one. I’m not sure what the recipe is to fix this, other than maybe a cattle prod or the occasional save, but hopefully McLellan finds it soon. The Oilers play Chicago in 2 days, and currently, are in serious danger of dropping to 1-5.
The alarm may not be wailing in the air yet, but that red light sure is flashing.
- There were a coupe players tonight who stood out with a sustained, solid effort, from the very first whistle, to the last:
- Kailer Yamamoto looked great tonight. No one can accuse him of putting in an effort tonight, and he was awarded with an assist. He hit the post in the 3rd period, which would have been his first NHL goal. I still think he gets sent back to junior, but there is a lot to like here. He played the second most of any Oilers forward with over 22 minutes. Well done.
- Brad Malone also impressed on the 4th line. He didn’t play a lot, but he drew penalties, made hits, and was generally effective when he was out on the ice. Great way to play in his first game as a call-up.
- This penalty kill is a disaster, to say the least. I am not sure why the Oilers are abandoning their structure mid-kill, and opting to chase the puck, but it is opening up big opportunities for their opponents, as we seen tonight on the cross-crease Carolina goal.
- After Strome scored, he looked like a much more determined, confident player. Hopefully that continues into next game, because the Oilers could use some more offense. A 2 point night wo’t be a negative for the player.
- Zack Kassian only played 4:44 tonight. Riding the pine for undisciplined play is my hunch, but perhaps there is an injury angle here.
- Yohann Auvitu and Eric Gryba both ended the night +1. So no one gets to complain about their efforts, because this loss was not on them.
- Laurent Brossoit had 16 saves on 21 shots, for a .762 save %. Can’t blame him for a few of them, but this team could have desperately used a lights out performance from one of their netminders on this losing streak.
Up Next: Chicago Blackhawks
The Oilers head into Chicago in a couple nights to take on the Blackhawks. Edmonton will need to channel the positives of their 3rd period tonight (minus the errors), into a complete game effort, in order to come out victorious. Otherwise, it is 1-5 for them, and it wont be pretty (it already isn’t).