I’m not sure if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is playing banged up, if he’s worn down mentally or if he’s simply in the middle of the kind of slump every player goes through from time to time, but it doesn’t take a vast intellect to figure out he’s struggling mightily.
Maybe it’s a combination of all the above – pure speculation on my point because we aren’t hearing anything concrete from media travelling with the Edmonton Oilers – but RNH clearly isn’t himself these days. That was abundantly clear in Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Held off the score sheet again in a game where the Blues got around to beating the Oilers for fun like they always do with four goals in the third period, Nugent-Hopkins now has just two assists to show for the last 11 games he’s played.
RNH seemed particularly listless against the Blues and finished up 22.2 in the face-off circles to go with his bagels on the sheet. Still no wiz on the dot with percentages of 41.8 this season, 41.0 in 2012-13 and 37.5 in 2011-12, that’s lousy, even for him. He’s just 30.2 overall in his last five games.
Nugent-Hopkins, who has scored 15-29-44 in 65 games, started this 11-game slide by playing a season-high 25:51 against the Boston Bruins back on Feb. 1. He really hasn’t shown much since then.
TURN THE OTHER CHEEK
The Oilers unwillingness to stand up for each other was on display again last night against the Blues and it really is getting sickening to watch them shrug their shoulders and turn away when a teammate is getting roughed up.
Taylor Hall drew a crowd, as you’d expect, when he directed a puck toward Ryan Miller on a play that was called offside. While Jay Bouwmeester and Vladimir Tarasenko were giving Hall the stinky glove treatment – Hall already had a busted lip from a high stick earlier – the Oilers offered a whole lot of nothing in terms of push-back.
Most notable in that was Justin Schultz, who stood around counting the crowd while Hall took your-mommas from the Blues. In that situation, players don’t have to drop the gloves and start a brawl, but they damn sure better get in the mix and stick their noses in.
It can’t always be Luke Gazdic or Matt Hendricks – how often are they even on the ice when Hall or RNH or Jordan Eberle are on? – wading in. Others, it’s obvious, are hesitant to do it. That’s the book on the Oilers and it’s a book every opponent in the NHL has read cover-to-cover.
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
. . . I’ve lost track of the number of odd-man rushes Edmonton’s power play has given up this season, but if fans took a drink every time it happened, they’d never make it off the floor. At what point will coach Dallas Eakins stop being stubborn and abandon his 1-3-1 alignment on the PP?
. . . Is it any surprise Nail Yakupov looks totally lost out on the ice right now? Coaches can draw up schemes until they’re blue in the face, but the learning process is cemented by what happens on the ice. Given all the Oiler breakdowns we see from players far more experienced than Yakupov, who is showing him how it’s done?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.