It is difficult to win in the NHL at the best of times, but it is almost impossible to win when you continually gift wrap glorious scoring chances for your opponents. Right now the Oilers are their own worst enemy.
The Oilers aren’t losing due to a lack of talent. They have enough skill to compete, but not enough talent to overcome the hideous mistakes they’ve been making.
A porous penalty kill.
Inability to score from in close.
They allowed a goal 20 seconds into last night’s 5-3 loss to Carolina. Oscar Klefbom elected to pinch, even though the Oilers had three forwards deep in the offensive zone. It led to a two-on-one for the Hurricanes and Teuvo Teravainen ripped a shot off the post and in.
“I was over excited. You want to do almost too much. We’ve been losing some games and you get excited wanting to make a play, but I can’t do that, especially on the first shift,” explained Klefbom post-game.
Klefbom and his partner Adam Larsson are the Oilers top pairing. They should be the reliable duo, but Larsson has been on for eight goals against the past two games and Klefbom’s been on for seven.
“It is tough to win when your top pair is on the ice for four goals against. We have to be better,” Larsson said bluntly.
The Oilers top pair have struggled much more than the second and third pairings, and McLellan split them up after the first period last night. The Chicago Blackhawks play St.Louis tonight and Todd McLellan and his staff will watch the game and discuss pairings for Thursday when Matt Benning is expected to return to the lineup.
I could see him going with the same three pairs we saw on opening night, and simply challenge Klefbom and Larsson to play to their capabilities.
When the Oilers were down 1-0, they took a too-many-men on the ice penalty. Zack Kassian was the culprit and he only played 1:30 in the first period, and a total of 3:44 in the game.
Then Patrick Maroon let his emotions get the best of him. He was taken down, didn’t get a call, and then retaliated and the Oilers were back on the PK only 4:08 into the game. The Hurricanes scored and were up 2-0, due to a bad pinch and two dumb penalties.
“I was frustrated and took a stupid penalty,” Maroon said this morning. “We just have to find ways to limit the mistakes that are costing us,” he continued.
Unlike the Ottawa game, I thought the Oilers did a lot of good things. They battled back in the third and made it 4-3 and then Maroon had a breakaway from centre. Cam Ward stoned him and a few minutes later the highly-talented Jaccob Slavin scored to give the Hurricanes a 5-3 lead.
“We did a lot of good thing last night, but we also gave up too many triple A chances. We discussed the penalties we are taking, because they aren’t acceptable, especially the way our penalty killing is going. We had a lot of positives to show the players. We were significantly better last night from Saturday, but the quality of chances and the way the chances happen needs to get cleaned up, ” said McLellan.
ONLY WAY IS UP
I’d be pretty confident in saying the Oilers won’t have a four-game streak with a sv% of .897, .894, .806 and .762 again this season. They’ve allowed 19 goals on 121 shots over four games. Ouch. There is no arguing the goalies need to make more saves, and the Captain Obvious statement is Cam Talbot needs to play better, but the team defence needs to improve. They must cut down the egregious errors, and Talbot and Brossoit need to make more stops.
The Oilers PK has hit the skids. They’ve allowed eight PP goals in three games on only 14 penalties. They are 68.2% on the season. Terrible. It will improve, but this bad of a start will likely impact their ranking all season. Last year the Chicago Blackhawks gave up 15 powerplay goals in their first eight games on 30 penalty killing situations. They were a horrendous 50% through eight games. In their final 74 games they gave up 32 goals on 181 kills for 82.3%. The 10th best PK in the NHL was 82.5%, but the Hawks’ horrible start had them finish 24th overall on the season. The Oilers PK will improve somewhat, but they need to tighten up their lanes quickly and get some saves.
Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula skated this morning, along with Andrej Sekera and Tyler Benson. All four moved around nicely. Draisaitl and Caggiula are going on the road trip, but according to McLellan they won’t be available tomorrow in Chicago. They are looking at Saturday in Philly or next Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Sekera is only five-months post surgery. He skated well, but there was no contact, or lateral stops and starts. It is a good sign he is skating, but you’d think he’ll be out at least another month (he had surgery on May 18th). Benson looked good also, and he’s currently on the non-roster IR. Once he is 100% they will send him back to the WHL, but rumours are swirling he won’t be long in Vancouver. The Regina Pats host the Memorial Cup and right now they are the fourth best team in their division behind Swift Current, Moose Jaw and Brandon. Regina will try and load up and everyone I talk to associated with the WHL believes Benson will be on the move at some point.
The forwards, including Connor McDavid need to be better. It isn’t good enough to just get shots on goal, you need to bury some chances. If a D-man is in the right position, but doesn’t tie up his man and he scores then he isn’t completing his job. The forwards are creating chances, and a fair amount are coming from in close, but nine goals in five games from the forwards is not good enough. Last game was an improvement, but they need to fight through the low-confidence and find ways to score. They can’t just wait until their luck changes, they have to make it change.
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