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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

One Game Shouldn’t Equal Panic

It was not the outcome Oilersnation was looking for. The Edmonton Oilers were the inferior team, excluding Cam Talbot, for 48 of the 63 minutes.

The Captain Obvious statement is the Oilers need to play better, but there are specific areas of their game they need to sharpen up for tomorrow’s pivotal game two.

The Sharks controlled the first five minutes, but then Drake Caggiula and Zack Kassian got in on the forecheck, delivered some hits which energized the crowd, and Kassian registered Edmonton’s first shot of the game 5:22 into the first period. That shift got the Oilers into the game. They controlled the next 15 minutes and scored twice. The building was rocking, the crowd was electric and many fans were loving it.

But the Sharks took over in the second period. Mark Letestu had the Oilers only shot on net in the first 12 minutes. Connor McDavid had a partial breakaway with 7:39 remaining in the middle frame. The Oilers had four shots in the second period and only three in the third. Easily their lowest 40 minute total of the season.

What went wrong?

The Oilers passing was not crisp. Patrick Maroon missed short passes to McDavid four times and the Sharks regained possession in the neutral zone. The Oilers passing out of their zone and through the neutral zone was off all game. They weren’t crisp. I’ll give the Sharks credit, they played a really smart game and I didn’t see experience as the main factor. Tomas Hertl was a beast for the Sharks, and I thought young Timo Meier was involved all night. They are two of the Sharks younger players.

I believe the Sharks out-executed the Oilers. Their passing was better and they spent way more time in the offensive zone.

I noticed the Oilers got caught on long shifts too often. The Oilers had nine players with an average shift length of 45 seconds or more. Leon Draisaitl was at 57 second/shift. The Sharks had four players at 45 seconds an over, and Joe Pavelski was the highest at 47 seconds. The Sharks made quicker changes and were able to catch the Oilers late in their shifts, and at the tail end of shifts most players aren’t as quick as those just coming on the ice.

The Oilers did not play as well as they have in the past month. They weren’t able to re-establish a forecheck or any consistent pressure through the final 40 minutes. They shouldn’t panic. It was one game. Had they played well and lost, then I could see more reasons to be concerned, but I think it is clear they can play better.

The Oilers top line was average. Maroon and Draisaitl combined for zero shots on goal. They spent way too much time in their own end. McDavid had some very good moments, but after the game he was quick to say he can do more. He’s correct, and I’d expect that line to be much more involved offensively, and much crisper with their passing. Maroon rushed a few passes, even when he wasn’t pressured, and those errors were unforced, rather than from pressure from the Sharks. Those small details are easy to fix.

It was amazing how quiet the building was after the Sharks won it OT. Fans were gutted. It’s understandable, but there is no need to jump ship and think the series is over.

In 2006 the Oilers lost game one in the first and second round. It is never ideal to lose game one, but now is not the time to panic. The Oilers need to clean up their game, protect the puck better and find a way to regain momentum in the game. They had too many long stretches where they produced virtually nothing.

One shot in the first 12 minutes of the second frame and no shots in the final 17:21 of the third period is unacceptable. The Sharks are good, but not so good that for a combined 30 minutes of the game the Oilers could only muster one shot.

PARTING SHOTS

  • The Sharks won 58% of the neutral zone draws and often that allowed them to change up D pairs, especially when Braun and Vlasic were on. Overtime was a great example. The Sharks started those two, while the Oilers had RNH’s line on. The Sharks won the draw cleanly, controlled the puck and allowed those two to change quickly so they would be ready when McDavid’s line came over the boards. There were long stretches without whistles, especially in the first period, and that doesn’t allow as many opportunities to take advantage of last change and with all the penalties it made it easier to get that matchup. Pete Deboer really wants the Vlasic/Braun pairing out against McDavid’s line, but I didn’t see that matchup crushing the Oilers last night. They didn’t shut them down with great defence, the reality was McDavid’s line spent too much time in their defensive zone and it wasn’t due to Vlasic/Braun. The Oilers missed some easy outlet passes, and the Sharks forwards had them hemmed in while cycling down low. If McDavid’s line is crisper in their own end they will get chances, because if McDavid exits the zone with speed and the puck on his stick, no defender can slow him down. The top line rarely exited their zone with speed. That has to change in game two. The other factor was with so many penalties, it made it easier for San Jose to get that matchup. McDavid’s line is usually the first line out after the Pk, or sometimes he gets on late in the PK and it is easy for the Sharks to put out Braun/Vlasic. It would be foolish with so many penalties for McLellan not to put McDavid’s line out right after in hopes of trying to regain momentum. When you look at who plays against the player you need to look at the shift chart as well and analyze it, rather than just look at the overall minutes. Last night’s flow of the game made it much easier for the Sharks to get that matchup.
  • The refs weren’t the issue last night. They could have called one hook/slash against the Sharks on McDavid, but they also let Gryba get away with steer wrestling Meier to the ice in the first period, and on the ensuing faceoff the Sharks were whistled for a marginal interference call. The Oilers took four offensive zone penalties. That can’t happen. But make no mistake the refereeing was not among the top-five reasons the Oilers lost.
  • Brent Burns was exceptional for the Sharks. He had eight shots on goal, had seven attempts/blocked and three missed shots. The six Oilers D-men combined for six shots, seven attempt/blocked and five missed shots. Burns was excellent in the offensive zone, but his stats illustrate how much more time SJ spent in the offensive zone. I also think the Oilers wingers need to play higher on Burns. He can’t have 18 shots attempts a game or it will be a short series. He had so many because he had 9:36 of PP time. He gets more touches and when offensive players have the puck more they gain more confidence.
  • Gryba had a tough night and in practice today Benning was with Nurse, while Gryba filled in for Larsson with Klefbom. Larsson was just resting and he’ll play tomorrow.
  • I expect a much better effort from the Oilers in game two. The fans were great last night, and I they might be even louder on Friday. The playoffs are not the time to feel sorry for yourself or get angry. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for the players as much as it is for the fans. I’m very curious to see how the Oilers respond. During the regular season they rarely let things spiral out of control, but the difference in the playoffs is a two-game losing streak can be devastating. In the regular season you have time to overcome it, but the Oilers can’t afford to go down 0-2 on home ice.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

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  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I agree with the other commenters here, and disagree with you, Jason. The refereeing definitely got the Oilers out of their rhythm and made them question what was a penalty and what wasn’t, as only one teams seemed to be getting called for marginal calls on multiple occasions. If they keep reffing biased like that the Oilers are going to be in trouble. It’s hard playing against two different opponents every night. Let’s just hope that it is one crew, and that will not continue for the rest of the series and playoffs.

  • Freddie the fog

    I hope most of the Oilers watched the Ducks/Flames game tonight. And paid particular attention on how hard the Flames worked for 60 minutes. They competed whistle to whistle. I love that they lost. But that is how hard you have to work to beat these Cali teams.

  • Mr.Snrub

    Canadian Teams 0-5 to start their series and penalty calls are currently 27 for to 16 against.

    The Bettman curse is real folks, i’ll leave it up to the tin foilers to decide if the curse is intentional or mystical in nature.

  • DXB

    Fully agree reffing was not the issue, aside from Grybas elbow had no issue with the calls. This series and any playoff run will come down to getting production from the 3rd and 4th lines. You could see momentum change in the first when Kassian started mucking it up. If they damage D men on the forecheck we will have a chance every game. We need to start getting dirty goals as well. Way to much waiting for the perfect play. If you look at SJ first two goals, that’s how you get it done in the playoffs. Oilers are still the favorites in this series, think we will see a different team tomorrow.

  • Sammy p

    Lord but I detest those outrageous orange coloured jerseys.Nicholson has dressed them up in clown suits simply for the sake of added revenue from jersey sales,orange is fine as a complimentary colour used to enhance the primary blue but as a predominant colour it is a disaster.
    Get back to Oiler blue and leave the orange to teams like Philly and the Ducks.

      • corky

        Exactly. We are not looked at as fans as much as we are looked at as customers/revenue. But we do have a choice whether to spend our money. Every team does the extra jersey concept. They know it’s money in the bank. Remember years ago when it was a major coup to have Todd McFarland design the third jersey. One question I do have is whether any of the $80 foyer ticket revenue is being donated to charity?

  • O.C.

    To anyone going to the game tonight, and if wonder why there is a constant buzz / vibe in the building, take notice that corporate quest to suck every dollar out of the fan has taken a backseat…

    …there is no “advertising on every whistle”

  • slats-west

    Gregor this was a fair assessment of the evening. But a few counter points

    – where did Sharks score 2 of their 3 goals? In tight around the net. I think Nurse needs to be better as he really put Gryba out of position on goal#1
    – on PIMs sure it isn’t the Top 5 but influenced the Top 5. For argument sake let’s say for every Gryba transgression not called there was a Sharks offence also not called (eg pavelski pitch fork of McDavid) but The Gryba call on his hit as per Kerry Fraser was not a penalty it’s protecting a player who shouldn’t be playing, and the hook on a scoring chance by McD makes this 5-6 in favour of Sharks totals PIMs then I could say we are at even playing.
    – but as a result of that what happens. Letestu plays more (makes bad play on Goal #2 perhaps because Of fatigue he was just on ice killing a penalty), McD plays less, Vlassic gets more rest etc etc it always dominos away from your game plan which is not good

    Where we agree
    – Maroon was awful easy plays with time and space and he made poor decisions all night. He also never took the inside position going to the net on key plays (like the 2 on 2 with McDavid). I was surprised there was no line juggling.
    – other Good News was when we were out of the box and got the matchups of home ice we dominated that 12 mins

    It’s only 1 Game we will be better – I wouldn’t make too many changes as then any experience is lost and we may have more new mistakes to deal with.

  • Rama Lama

    For me it was more of a team hanging on to a lead hoping for the best………playing defence at the expense of offence usually leads to trouble. The Oilers of old were never satisfied with a two goal lead. I remember Gretzky once said Something to the effect of, we never stop trying to score goals no matter what the score. I hope he goes down and tells this to the current roster.

    • corky

      Play like the New England Patriots do. Never let up and just keep the foot on the gas. In the end the young legs of the Oilers would benefit from this. The Sharks have played a lot of hockey the past year. Wear them down and go for the throat.