January 18 2014 04:11PM
Today is Hockey Day in Canada for the rest of the country but it's Groundhog Day for fans of the Edmonton Oilers as they were treated to more of the same song and dance in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Familiar stuff.
After playing 30 decent minutes of road hockey and building a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes, the Oilers spent the final 20 minutes of regulation time and overtime on their heels and looking over their shoulders waiting for something bad to happen.
Sure enough, it did -- rookie Jacob Trouba notched the winner with his second of the game, sending the Oilers packing for home with a charity point from a four-game road trip that saw them go 0-3-1 and drop to 15-30-6 for 36 points through 51 games.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
How did this one get away? Let us count the ways.
. . . Up 1-0, the Oilers survived a Winnipeg power play early in the third period and then went on a man-advantage of their own with a chance to put the Jets away. Instead, they gave up their NHL-worst ninth shorthanded goal of the season as Trouba got his first of two to make it 1-1.
. . . . The Oilers spent most of the rest of the period on the ropes as the Jets picked up their fore-check and poured it on, outshooting them 13-2 at one point and 13-5 overall. Edmonton got to overtime when David Perron's deflection made it 2-2.
. . . In a game where Edmonton's defense again lost too many battles of the body and for the puck, Trouba, a rookie, outmuscled Belov for ice in front of the net – depositing him behind Ilya Bryagalov with a cross-check – on the winner. For his part, Jeff Petry couldn't get a handle on the puck or his man, Blake Wheeler. Belov and Petry both had forgettable games.
Coach Dallas Eakins, via the team Twitter feed, summed it up this way:
"Once we learn to enjoy the hard parts of the game, we're going to be much better." - Coach Eakins on committing to strength and grit— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 18, 2014
Previously, the team feed tweeted:
Coach Eakins says Winnipeg did an effective job "bullying" the #Oilers in front of the net, allowing them to score their goals.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 18, 2014
RINSE AND REPEAT
What we're seeing, and have seen since this season began, is an overmatched group on defense with players like Petry, who played 24:49, being pushed into minutes and roles they aren't capable of handling. That isn’t going to change until the personnel does.
Be it turnovers, slack play on gaps or the inability to withstand any kind of physical onslaught by opposing forwards, the options Eakins has on defense aren't getting it done – locking things down with a lead, handling pressure on the fore-check or withstanding, let alone initiating, physical play.
Bryzgalov stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced. Goaltending wasn't the problem against the Jets. The weakness of the defensive corps assembled by GM Craig MacTavish and utilized by Eakins was, and is.
As long as this group stays the same, the results won't change.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.