Edmonton Oilers’ coach Todd McLellan started the trio of Mark Letestu, Zack Kassian and Iiro Pakarinen to open the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Place Sunday afternoon because they’d been his best line in the first 40 minutes of a must-win game. It that’s not a problem, I don’t know what it.
In a game where the Oilers absolutely, positively had to take two points, or at the very least look inspired trying to before a four-game road trip through the Eastern Conference — call it a statement game if you want to — they instead came up with a whole bunch of nothing in a listless, indifferent 4-0 loss. A great big chunk of that zippity-do-da came from the big names on the marquee.
Maybe the statement, with the Oilers floundering at 4-8-1 through 13 games, is, “Hey, Pete Chiarelli, it’s time to pull the trigger on something because this isn’t working.” It was an effort so hopeless and lacking anything resembling resolve or will to win — stating right at the top — I expected to see Dallas Eakins behind the bench. While Letestu, Kassian and Pakarinen didn’t manage to get anything done, they at least looked like they gave a damn.
With stops against the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals coming up, there was no such gusto from the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon and the top-end of McLellan’s line-up against a far-more-determined Detroit outfit. “I didn’t think we had a lot of energy,” McLellan understated. Sure, that happens to even the best lines and the best players, but talk about lousy timing.
NEED A TURNAROUND
McDavid, who had a 17-game points streak on home ice snapped, Draisaitl, playing in his 200th NHL game, and Maroon, who had points in seven straight games, managed to combine for just three shots. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic and rookie Kailer Yamamoto, who played his ninth NHL game, weren’t a whole lot better, combining for four shots. Yamamoto, at least, had maybe his best game. Whether that keeps him here remains to be seen.
As usual, the Oilers lost the battle of special teams. That’s been a constant storyline that isn’t getting markedly better. Same thing for an attack that still isn’t close to clicking consistently. This was not the game to add to those woes by having the go-to-guys go away before fueling up the jet for that swing east. It was a textbook non-effort that begged for a shake-up by the GM.
Maybe that shake-up takes the form of calling up Jesse Puljujarvi or Ty Rattie, although I can’t see how a couple of kids being summoned from the AHL is going to make a difference. What happens with Yamamoto? We should know more on both fronts today. Something more substantial? Sure, but that’s always easier said than done. You’d have to think Chiarelli is at least contemplating going outside the organization to make a move or two — moves some have said he should have made during the off-season.
“We just weren’t good enough,” offered McDavid, who played just 15:55, easily a season-low for him, and was perched on the pine with his linemates for most of the third period. This was one of those games, with a deep hole already dug and a road trip that could bury the Oilers in the standings for good coming up, where the circumstances begged for “good enough.” It just wasn’t there Sunday.
If not now, when?
WHILE I’M AT IT
- I admire Kris Russell for the way he sacrifices his body blocking shots and battles and scraps to make plays, but he’s spent way too much time of late on his ass or lurching around the ice like he’s lost control of his limbs. A case in point was the 2-0 goal by Gustav Nyquist. Get your feet under you, man. You can’t be break-dancing on the freeze like that, especially when you’re paired with Eric Gryba.
- Bitching about bad officiating is a loser’s game, but that phantom interference call against Maroon on Frans Nielsen in the first period was an absolute joke — they inadvertently touched skates. Yes, it’s a fast game in real time, but if you’re guessing about whether there was an infraction, as was the case here, pocket the whistle.
- Jussi Jokinen looks like a good bet gone bad.
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