The unpredictability of sports is what makes them so exciting. The Oilers dominated the Flames for close to 40 minutes on opening night, but the couldn’t score at EV and ended up losing the game. Last night, the Oilers played decent, got outshot 43-29, mainly due to six consecutive penalties, but they came away with a point.
I think we’d all agree, including the Oilers, that playing well, and “learning a lesson”, but losing is not what this team needs. They are past the point of moral victories that don’t result in two points. They need victories. Ugly ones, pretty ones, unearned ones or deserved ones; they need simply need wins.
The Oilers will lose games they deserved to win and they will win some games they deserve to lose. It happens, and I understand that, but five consecutive really bad losing seasons has cast a large shadow over this team, and I believe they need some early success to remain positive.
The Oilers haven’t played bad through the first two games, but they only have one point, and they have been outscored 4-0 in the third period. They’ve only been outshot 27-26 in the third frames, but the third period cost them the game against Calgary, and last night Vancouver forced OT with their third period goal.
As Eskimos Wall of Honour member and current U of A Bears football coach, Chris Morris, said recently on my show, “If you want to win games, you need to take them. No one gives you victories.”
Learning to win is difficult, and while the Oilers have played well for two games, they’ve let two victories slip through their fingers instead of grabbing them and holding on.
15 next-day thoughts
- Nail Yakupov worked on his skating this summer and his top-end speed is much better. His first few steps have always been explosive, but his top-end speed didn’t scare many defenders. That isn’t the case now. He has learned to accelerate with each stride, and he used his improved speed to score his first goal of the year. His improved speed, and much better defensive zone awareness has made him a much better player. He deserves credit for putting in the work in the off-season.
- Very few will give him credit, but it looks like Eakins’ decision to work extra hard with Yakupov on his defensive game has paid off. The Oilers of the 1980s didn’t always like Glen Sather’s approach, but they realized later that it helped make them better. Yakupov seems to be falling into the same category. Certain times a coach has to be hard on a player to get him to understand. Tough love can work, and Yakupov’s overall game looks much better. Both he and the coach deserve credit for that.
- It is difficult to win any hockey game when you take six consecutive penalties. Eberle, Hall, Hendricks, Fayne, Ference and Pouliot went to the box over a span of 21:32. The Oilers managed a shorthanded goal during Hall’s double minor, but the Canucks replied later in that man advantage, and then tied the game on Pouliot’s third period penalty. You simply can’t take that man penalties in a row and expect to win.
- I like Pouliot’s aggressiveness, but he’s taken two third period penalties in the offensive zone, and the opposition has scored on both powerplays. Granted his penalty against Calgary came very late when the game was essentially over, but last night’s penalty was needless. He hammered Matthias square from behind, right in the numbers, and got an interference call. I’m sure he had seen RNH get hammered seconds earlier and wanted to stick up for him, but he hit the wrong guy and if you are going to defend your teammate you have to do it in a smarter fashion.
- I love how Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stood up for himself. Hamhuis rocked him and RNH got in his face and didn’t back down. The Nuge did fine in that tilt, but more importantly he proved he won’t be intimidated. Who would have thought the Oilers first fight of 2014/2015 was going to be #93, good for him in that situation. I’m amazed at the “he could have been hurt” argument. He could also get hurt delivering a body check, or blocking a shot. Crosby fights once a year. Toews, Thornton, Getzlaf all fight now and again. You need to stand up for yourself, and RNH was smart enough to fight a non-fighter. I loved it. You can watch it here.
- I believe fighting will always be a part of the game. I have no problem with the league getting rid of the designated fighters. At Hockeyfights.com the fighting log so far this year includes the likes of: RNH, Hamhuis, Chris Krieder, Jack Skille, Simon Despres, James Van Riemsdyk, Shane Doan, Blake Wheeler, Mats Zuccarello and TJ Oshie. There is nothing wrong with fights when they occur in the heat of the moment, rather than just off a faceoff. That is why I believe you will never see fighting banned.
- Eberle had a bad night. He looked borderline lethargic and I wonder if he had some sort of injury. He just looked out of sorts. If he is healthy, then he needs to be much better on Tuesday. Your best players need to be more engaged in the game.
- The Sedins were scary all night, both on the powerplay and at even strength. The are wizards on the PP. They move the puck quickly, but they are always in constant motion. They rarely stand still and that makes life difficult for the penalty killers.
- Draisaitl and Yakupov didn’t play much for one simple reason; too many penalties. The Oilers were shorthanded for 11:56. Taking too many penalties allows the other team to gain momentum, but it also hurts players who don’t kill penalties. It is hard to stay in the flow of the game. The Oilers simply can’t take six minor penalties in a span of 21 minutes.
- Brad Hunt is a very dangerous shooter. There is no arguing that. My concern is his footspeed. If I can pick up on it, you know the video coaches will be on it. Teams spend hours looking for weaknesses of a team and how to expose them. They will target Hunt at EV. I like Hunt’s ability to move the puck. I like that he isn’t afraid to shoot, but his speed will be an issue. He’ll need to produce a lot of points to stay in the lineup, because the speed of the games only increase as the season progresses.
- Hunt really struggled at EV, and so did Ference. The captain will need to play better. He likely gets a few more games to get up to speed after sitting out in the preseason, but if his play doesn’t improve it will be interesting to see how Ramsay/Eakins handle his icetime.
- Fayne had a nice bounce back game. If you are an advocate of Corsi, he and Nikitin played well. Niktin was +1 in Corsi while Fayne was -1 and much of that came against the Sedins. Fayne was better than Nikitin, in my opinion, but if you only look at Corsi it says Nikitin was better. I don’t always agree with the stats. I thought all three right D-men, Fayne, Petry and Schultz were the Oilers top defenders.
- Purcell, Perron and Arcobello are developing some good chemistry. I thought Perron was excellent at controlling the puck down low and keeping the play alive.
- The Oilers allowed nine goals in their first two games last year and they’ve done the same this year. They need to tighten up defensively or it will be another long season.
- Kudos to Mark Donnelly. The Canucks anthem singer had an epic wipe out earlier this week when he sang the anthem while skating around the ice during a Penticton Vees game. I love how he poked fun at himself by signing yesterday with skates draped around his neck. We all need to laugh at ourselves sometimes. Good for you Mr. Donnelly and thanks for the laughs. This video is awesome, but it shows what a pro Donnelly is. He never misses a word. AWESOME. I credit the players right in front of Donnelly for containing their laughter. I’m not sure I could have. #21 biting his glove is classic.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
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