The Edmonton Oilers, in the grand scheme of things, should be happy with a split in Toronto. At five-on-five, they were the better of the two teams in both games, and easily could have come out 2-0-0 had their special teams units been better and they cutdown on a few mistakes. Splitting a series on the road against the best team in the Division should be a good thing.
The only issue? The Oilers are 2-4-0, and don’t have a ton of leeway in terms of making mistakes in this 56-game season. Perhaps Edmonton would have come out with a sweep had it not been for those aforementioned mistakes.
Two of them directly led to goals against on Friday. First, Adam Larsson was weak on a puck in his own zone, turned it over and Toronto took a 2-1 lead. While Larsson committed the turnover, the entire five-man unit was at fault for the goal. No Oilers were defending the middle of the defensive zone.
In the third period, a missed assignment combined with the inability to clear the puck led to a turnover and a penalty in a tied game. Toronto would convert on a John Tavares deflection and that would be the game.
“It was a faced-paced game, both teams played hard, played fast,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said postgame. “First period, we had some chances we didn’t capitalize. I thought we got a little ragged in the second period. In the end we made two…they got a little lucky on their first goal, the next two were mistakes by us. Poor giveaways in our own end and then we didn’t get in a lane and took a penalty in the third and it cost us the game.”
Defensive mistakes have been far too common for the Oilers this season. In six games, they have surrendered at least three goals four times. In those contests, the Oilers are 0-4-0. In games where they allow two or less goals? 2-0-0.
Edmonton allowed just one goal on Wednesday night, knocking off the Leafs 3-1. On Friday night? They were fine at five-on-five, but surrendered two powerplay goals and an empty netter on their way to a 4-2 loss. The lone five-on-five goal against? You guessed it, a mistake.
Yes, the defensive play has been better, but Tippett believes there is still room for improvement.
“Last game (Wednesday) was better, but both teams competed hard,” Tippett added. “They created chances tonight, last game we didn’t make as many mistakes to put us behind the eight-ball. Tonight (Friday) I thought we still, we made some mistakes that they capitalized on, but it’s a step in the right direction. We’re trying to compete at a level that gives us a chance to win every night and these two games we’ve done that.”
The Oilers, 2-4-0, will need to take the next step soon. If they don’t, then this 56-game season with the expectation of making the playoffs could turnout to be a disaster.