The Nuge, Yak and Ebs trio were taught a pretty stiff lesson last night by the Washington Capitals top line. Ovie and his two line mates outscored the Oilers top line and that was the difference in the game.
Nuge’s line was minus four on the night. That really hurt the Oilers. For the most part that line was pretty solid but if they are going to match up against the top lines of the league they must recognize how dangerous these lines can be. Let’s take a look at the goals they were on for.
The first goal was a defensive zone face off to the left of Dubnyk. Nuge wins the draw but the puck ends up going right back to Ovie who is set up for the one timer in the slot. As Yakupov goes out to his point man it is his job to make sure Ovie doesn’t get the puck. Yakupov goes behind Ovie and BOOM, one to nothing.
On the second goal I fault the pair of defencemen for the Oilers more than Nuge’s line. The pairing of Anton Belov and Justin Sschultz need to box out at the net so that Dubnyk can see the shot. I will give a pass to Nuge’s line.
On the third goal this line gets outmuscled by the Caps’ top line. It is a longer shift for the Oilers trio but those shifts happen and you need to be able to handle it. In the end Backstrom outmuscles Nuge for position in front of the net. He gets a perfect pass and it is an easy redirect for him with Nuge on the wrong side of his man. Nuge needs to battle to get better body position.
For their fourth minus of the night, Eberle takes a risk at the Caps blue line that doesn’t work, it becomes a turnover. It is a two on two that isn’t played well by the Oilers d pairing. It ends badly for the Oilers when Chimera gets a breakaway and scores.
Three of the four goals last night are a result of a direction action by each member of the Oilers top line. It takes only a split second for things to go badly and result in a goal.
Head coach Eakins can chalk this up to a rough night for this trio. Maybe it won’t happen again, maybe. But at this point in this teams development these three need to see how razor thin the margin for victory is every night in the NHL.
If you take away these four goals a case can be made that they played a pretty good game. For the most part when out against the Caps top line they were able to contain them and even generate some chances and good offensive zone time. But you can’t look at the game that way. If this trio is going to be playing against the top lines around the league they cannot be outscored. They need to win this battle within the game.
Each shift against top lines in the NHL is important. They can seemly be sleeping through a game and then explode for a quick goal out of nowhere. I remember playing against Brett Hull and thinking "wow this guy isn’t that hard to play against?" He never really hit or forechecked. He would just hang around and then just when you thought he was totally asleep he would get a pass in the slot and score. He would push the snooze button and go back to sleep knowing he had just scored the winning goal.
These are lessons that can only be learned by playing the game. Someday Oilers fan should hope these young players are the ones doing the teaching.
The Power Play
The Oilers PP hasn’t been clicking so far this season. I think they look to make one too many passes instead of just firing the puck at the net with traffic in front. There is no doubt that Eakins can put an extremely talented group on the ice for both PP groups but so can the Washington Capitals.
I was very impressed with the Caps PP last night. They are currently leading the league in percentage. Although they didn’t score last night with the man advantage it is obvious why they have been successful.
Their goal is to get pucks to the net. They spend very little time dusting the puck off on the side way or the corner. They move the puck quickly with the purpose of getting the puck to the point. Once the puck is moving high, the low players attack the front of the net.
This isn’t rocket science. The Caps have just as much skill as the Oilers do on their PP but they keep it much simpler.
I was part of the Oilers for his first camp and boy did he impress me. He has three things I like in forwards… size, a hard shot and good skating. I figured it would only be a matter of time until he was playing in the NHL.
So far his career path has gone slower than I expected. He is up with the team now and getting a chance to make an impression. In the games he has played he has been solid, doing what I expected from him. He is keeping the game simple by getting the puck out on the wall, dumping it in and getting in on the forecheck. These are all areas the Oilers need their bottom to lines to do.
Pitlick has been pretty good but I think he needs to add one more element to his game that could be the difference between his being a long term NHL’er and not. He needs to bring more edge and attitude to his game. Be a little cockier, chirpier and get underneath the other teams skin like a Brad Marchand or David Perron. If he can do this he NHL career path might be back on track.