After a great showing on Friday against New Jersey that suggested the team was on track, the Oilers slid off the rails during a terrible afternoon loss to Detroit on Sunday.
Four years, four million. pic.twitter.com/rPB3k6t2VW— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) November 5, 2017
There’s a lot of terrible things going on here. Kris Russell sliding around and not being able to handle the puck, Eric Gryba just standing at the post acting as a second goalie for some reason, Connor McDavid doing a fly by on Henrik Zetterberg and letting him stay alone behind the net, and Leon Draisaitl doing nothing on the back check. This is the kind of play I remember watching from, like, 2010-2014, not from a team that was tagged as a legitimate contender coming into the season.
Here was another ugly one. Darnell Nurse made a nice effort on the back check to get Detroit’s forward tied up and free up the puck. Unfortunately, he threw the puck up the ice and no Oilers back checkers were anywhere to be seen. As a result, the Wings got themselves a three-on-two on Edmonton’s transitioning blue liners and buried an easy goal. I understand the team is struggling to score and why the forwards would play down low in the offensive zone, but this is a terrible back check effort.
What can you even say at this point? pic.twitter.com/dx8SSSlVTL— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) November 5, 2017
The Oilers certainly weren’t without their chances. Petr Mrazek played a very good game and stopped all 36 shots Edmonton threw at him. This one wasn’t one of those 36, but Jussi Jokinen got an open net chance and completely missed the target after a relentless shift by the Oilers offence.
Frans Nielsen falls down. Patrick Maroon goes to the box. Okay. pic.twitter.com/QTswooK62L— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) November 5, 2017
The Red Wings got a power play midway through the first period off of this phantom call. Frans Nielsen just kind of tripped while skating backwards and Patrick Maroon was in his general area so he got put in the box for interference. This negated an Oilers power play and Detroit scored a few seconds after Maroon came out of the box to give them a 2-0 lead. I mean, not like it made much difference because the effort was poor for the majority of the game, but this call is awful.
The Oilers peppered Detroit in terms of even strength shot attempts 68 to 50. It seems impressive, but when you account for score effects and the fact the Wings basically went into a shell in the third period it becomes less so. In the first two periods, the shot attempts were largely even with Edmonton owning a slight edge. But while the Oilers excellent at getting pucks towards the net, they didn’t do a great job getting them through. In terms of actual shots, Edmonton had 33 and Detroit 31, and the Oilers barely edged Detroit 13 to 11 in high danger chances despite the Red Wings, like I said, going into a shell for a third of the game.
The Caggiula, Strome, Jokinen line absolutely crushed in terms of possession and scoring chance numbers. To be honest, I didn’t notice them out there that much save for the one terrible back check I pointed out earlier and a few good chances in the offensive zone, but they must be doing something right. As a group, they put up shot attempt numbers over 60 percent and scoring chance numbers over 75 percent. Still, they can’t seem to convert. On the flip side, the McDavid, Maroon, Draisaitl line got completely caved in going up against Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson and largely Henrik Zetterberg. That was noticeable. When that line isn’t flying, this team isn’t winning.
- After the team’s strong showing against Taylor Hall and the high flying Devils, this game was a massive letdown. The Red Wings are not a good team. They have some speed and skill, but this a team who routinely gets caved in because of a mediocre blueline and poor depth forwards. Edmonton getting completely shut down by this Red Wings team in the final home game before a tough four-game road trip is very troubling.
- I think it’s time to split up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Putting them together generally gives the Oilers a dominant top line that can score on anyone. They were shut down yesterday, but I think that was more of an anomaly than anything else. Regardless, when the Oilers were successful in last year’s playoffs, both star centres anchored their own line. Give Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a winger like Draisaitl to spread the scoring out and make this forward group a little more difficult to match up against.
- The team is 4-8-1 at this point. Generally, if a team is out of it by American Thanksgiving, they don’t come back and make the playoffs. Thanksgiving is on Nov. 23, and the Oilers have nine games until then to make up about seven points in the standings to be in the thick of the race in a heavy Western Conference. There’s still time to make up that ground, but that nine-game stretch features two games against the St. Louis Blues, who right now look like the best team in the West.
- Who’s going to be scapegoated for this terrible start? Will the team ride it out and hope things get better or is there going to be a panic move? Ottawa, Nashville, and Colorado showed us that deals can absolutely be made at this point in the season when the teams came together for a three-way deal involving Matt Duchene Sunday evening. I didn’t expect the team to use their large amount of free cap room until the deadline, but at the rate things are going, they might be out of it by then. Another thing to consider is the security of Todd McLellan. I don’t really think he’s responsible for this poor showing, but I see a parallel between this team’s situation and the one the Penguins were in back in 2015-16. Mike Johnston had the team at a mediocre 15-10-3 record and was fired in December. The were rumours that there was a rift between Johnston and Sidney Crosby and the team went on to win back-to-back Stanley Cups after he was replaced by Mike Sullivan.