The Oilers might want to try a new pre-game routine, or get a new alarm clock because they have been snoozing through most of the first periods so far this season.
The Oilers have only scored the first goal twice, both off the stick of Shawn Horcoff in their first two games of the season. Andrew Cogliano did light the lamp in the first period of game three in Calgary, but since then, the Oilers haven’t had a sniff in the first 20 minutes.
Last night against Boston, the shots at one point in the first were 12–3 in favour of the Bruins, before the Oilers managed to finish the frame down 15–10. Bad starts are plaguing this team, and they are a direct result of not working hard enough.
The Oilers might lead the league in botched three-on-twos. Last night they had five odd-man rushes that didn’t result in a shot on goal, never mind even a decent attempt at a shot. Four out of five times the puck carrier came down the wing, only to cross into the middle of the ice at the blueline and either turn the puck over or miss on a pass.
We all learned the basic 3-on-2 drill in mighty-mites (now it’s novice) for goodness sakes. Puck carrier takes the puck wide, far guy busts to the net and the trailer is the high guy. Pretty basic stuff, yet the Oilers are looking more like the Ice Capades than a hockey team when they penetrate the zone. They might as well cross the line, and try a double axle with the fancy crap they keep using.
“The issues I have right now with our team are that we are a soft, high-risk offence. We got to get harder, we need to simplify our attack, and we need to penetrate the tough areas, rather than saucer passes through those areas,” said a noticeably frustrated Craig MacTavish. “I have been patient, very patient to this point, but now I need to see results.”
Right now the Oilers aren’t paying the necessary price to win. They won’t go to the tough areas, and they seem more interested in the pretty goal rather than the garbage goal. Heck, they should take any type of goal from most of their skilled players.
- Ales Hemsky: 0 goals in 8 games.
- Sam Gagner: 0 goals in 8 games, and one measly point.
- Dustin Penner: 0 goals in last 7 games.
- Erik Cole: 1 goal in 8 games.
- Tom Gilbert: 1 goal in 8 games.
Hemsky, Cole and Gagner have combined to score ONE goal on 61 shots. That is a gross 0.016 shooting percentage. Even Wanye has better success scoring with the ladies than those three do with putting the puck in the net.
The two worst culprits have been Gagner and Hemsky. It’s a good thing they aren’t using wood sticks, or there would be sawdust all over the ice the way those two are gripping the stick. Gagner, whose turnover in OT last night was as bad as you will see in the NHL, is clearly struggling, and it sounds like his leash will be shortened by the coach.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are. There is a right way and a wrong way to play the game, and you have to start playing the right way. Having gone through many goal-scoring slumps, when you get desperate you start to get some desperation in your game and go to those tough areas, then you give yourself a chance to get a break,” said MacTavish. “You can’t ever cheat the game and expect results. That’s what makes the game great, you get what you deserve. If you are executing you will eventually get rewarded for it. If you cut corners you see the overall reflection in your game too.”
It’s obvious that MacTavish’s patience is running thin, and rightfully so. Sheldon Souray summed up the Oilers effort lately perfectly, “We need to become more predictable. You try to be unpredictable to the other team, but right now we are unpredictable to ourselves.”
The next seven games will go a long way in deciding if the Oilers are legitimate division contenders, or that once again they are just middle-of-the-road, battle-for-your-life playoff hopefuls.
—Listen to Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on the TEAM 1260 or online at justagame.ca.