The Oilers and their fans had to endure a heavy dose of reality last night. After two games decent games, albeit both losses, the Oilers reverted to their old ways in Dallas. They lost battles, they spent too much time in the defensive end, they made wrong reads, they made bad passes and wrong decisions and the Stars fired 51 shots at Anders Nilsson in a 4-2 loss.
Fans watched in horror thinking “here we go again.” The wise hockey fan will realize this is not a coaching issue. It is on the players to play better, and until the are committed to making the right play more often than the wrong one this team will continue to lose.
Last night the Oilers showed they can still be one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The Stars were open in the middle of the ice far too often. The Oilers didn’t pick up the correct player in the slot or along the boards and it led to many scoring chances for the Stars.
When McLellan shows them the video this group needs to realize they have to play better. It isn’t about the coach or his system. Stop using that as an excuse. I recognize mistakes will be made and sometimes a misread will occur due to learning another system, but last night’s breakdowns were from a lack of focus and commitment.
It was one game.
Outside of Nilsson, no Oilers played well enough. None. They all need to be better, but last night I saw some players revert to their old habits.
Taylor Hall forced too many passes. Forwards who have the puck more will turn it over more, it happens, but Hall needs to cut down on his turnovers. The onus is on him. He can’t average over one turnover a game. He made some nice passes to McDavid, Klefbom and Hendricks that didn’t result in goals, but he made more bad plays than good last night. This type of game has to be once every 15-20 games from Hall. He is doing some of the things McLellan wants, especially shooting from anywhere in the offensive zone, but he, and his teammates, can’t let a lack of success make them frustrated and lose consistency.
Justin Schultz wasn’t aggressive last night. He reverted to being lackadaisical on the puck, especially in the defensive zone. On three different shifts he made “soft” plays on the puck or a Stars player and it led to a scoring chance. He didn’t do this in the first two games, so we know he is capable of playing better. He needs to find consistency.
Nail Yakupov has to make better defensive reads. After being stoned on a breakaway, Yakupov puts himself in perfect
position to check Spezza on the backcheck. However when Spezza cuts to middle Yakupov just keeps going and checks no one. Spezza slides to the middle, takes the pass and scores the game winning goal. Yakupov has to think better without the puck. His effort is fine, but you need to work smart, not just work hard.
Yakupov and Schultz have shown signs of improvement, but they, like Hall and the rest of the team, have to find consistency in their decision making and effort.
It was one game in a new season.
Nugent-Hopkins needs to be better. Benoit Pouliot has to show the same determination and spunk he showed last season. Every player has to play better, but the ones who have been here the longest need to find consistency.
It won’t happen overnight. This has been an issue for years, and McLellan is patient and experienced enough not to panic. I believe he expected some growing pains and there will be more bumps along the road this season. I sense most fans accept there will be some tough games, but after nine years of losing no fan is willing to accept a lack of effort. McLellan and Chiarelli both told me 20 games is time to get a sense who a player is
The crazy part is they were one shot away from taking the lead. If Yakupov scores on the breakaway they might have won, but he didn’t and then Pouliot lost a battle in the corner and Yakupov made a horrible read and the puck is in the back of the net. The Oilers make it hard on themselves by making it so easy for the opposition to score.
The five-star mistakes/giveaways have to stop.
The players have to avoid feeling sorry for themselves.
It was only one game in a new season.
They have to show some character and prove they are sick of losing. They need to recognize that consistency wins you hockey games.
Both of their goals came from simple hard work and directing shots on goal. The Stars didn’t hand them easy two-on-ones or breakaways. The Oilers have to earn their goals, and it is time the realize they have to make the opposition earn their goals as well.
The Oilers will have off nights, every team does, but they can’t have them every third or fourth game otherwise we will be talking draft lottery again.
None of us, especially the players, want that, so let’s hope they realize consistency is their friend.
It was only one game, and a win tomorrow will ease a lot of angst within Oilersnation, but the players have to ensure it was just one game and not the beginning of a streak of “bad” games. I expected some speed bumps this season, and feel they will be better in the second half, but they also can’t afford a lengthy losing streak to start the season. They can’t be out of the race by the middle of November.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- GDB 3.0: In search of offence
- More positives than negatives
- GDB 1.0: The McDavid Era begins
- Woodcroft discusses powerplay
- Draisaitl to the AHL
- McLellan “happy” about the loss