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Three Thoughts: A Win!

I don’t know if that 8-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday represented rock bottom for the Edmonton Oilers in what’s been an unquestionably terrible start to the season, but it’s as close to it as I’ve seen since Dallas Eakins was strutting around behind the bench and getting pissy with Taylor Hall over a little spilled water.

That no-show in the Show Me State prompted coach Todd McLellan to criticize his team for being second-best in virtually every aspect of the game. It caused TSN analyst Craig Button to rip GM Peter Chiarelli for the way he’s built this edition of the Oilers. In the name of equal time, Mark Spector over at Sportsnet carved the Oilers a new one, calling them quitters.

Much of the criticism directed the Oilers’ way — the big picture stuff by Button and the narrative about Tuesday’s game — was fair comment and richly deserved as they dropped to 7-12-2. A lot of that venom was still present when the puck dropped against the Detroit Red Wings last night. I can only imagine the uproar around town today had the Oilers gone as timidly and indifferently as they had the night before.

Instead, the Oilers drubbed the Red Wings 6-2 and looked pretty good doing it. They got goals from six different players and a solid night from Cam Talbot in the crease, as they improved to 4-5-2 on the road and 8-12-2 overall. When you sit in the standings where the Oilers do, one win does not a turnaround make — not even close.  It doesn’t mean the team is built properly. It doesn’t mean the Oilers are on their way. There have been far too many wild swings in performance already this season to believe that. I did, however, come away with three thoughts. Here they are.

THE CREASE

Oct 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period at Rogers Place. Winnipeg Jets won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s absolutely no doubt that Talbot hasn’t been good enough this season. He faced the Red Wings having allowed 17 goals in his previous five appearances. He’d been under .900 in save-percentage in three of those five games. All told, Talbot has been under the pedestrian .900 mark in nine of his appearances. Not the stuff we came to expect of him after last season, when he was .919.

While Talbot’s been pretty good, very good actually, at owning subpar performances, that wears thin after a while. At some point, Talbot has to play better than the guy at the other end of the rink, and that hasn’t happened enough this season. He has to make not only the big save, but the timely save. He managed that against the Red Wings despite allowing the first goal and giving up one on a bad bounce on a night he made 20 saves.

I’m of the mind that Talbot has earned enough rope to be given the chance to play himself back to where he was last season. That’s a process that can be frustrating for fans, mostly because of the hole the Oilers have dug themselves early. The Oilers need wins to stay in the playoff race and I understand the sentiment that has some fans saying,” Get him out of there” if he’s struggling. That said, getting Talbot right gives the Oilers their best chance to win, even with the inevitable bumps in the road.

THAT BIG KID

Oct 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As difficult as it’s been to watch Oscar Klefbom struggle mightily at times this season after what looked like a breakout campaign a year ago, it’s been an absolute delight to watch Darnell Nurse’s game grow in leaps and bounds this season. We saw more of that against the Red Wings. After scoring against the Blues Tuesday, Nurse got another in Detroit — the long shot he pumped at the net was no masterpiece, but it beat Jimmy Howard to tie it 1-1 on a night when he led all Oilers in ice time with 25:27.

It’s never going to be about offensive numbers for Nurse, who has 2-5-7 in his 22 games, but we’re watching a young D-man grow into the minutes he’s being given. I’m not sure he’s a regular 25-minute per night guy, at least not yet, but he’s knocked off a lot of the rough edges that limited him in previous seasons. He makes better decisions, he moves the puck smartly and he’s playing with more control while maintaining the physical edginess that’s a big part of his game.

Nurse hasn’t even hit the 150-game mark (137 games) yet, so there’s plenty of room for him to grow — there’s no guarantee that happens of course, but even if he stays right where he is now he’s no worse than a second-pairing guy. When Klefbom gets himself sorted out, and he will, I’ll take a top-four that has him, Nurse, Adam Larsson and Andrej Sekera in it.

POOL PARTY

Nov 11, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) congratulate right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (98) after he scored a goal against the New York Rangers during first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

As is the case with Talbot trying to regain his form, it would probably be far easier for 19-year-old sophomore Jesse Puljujarvi to establish himself and find his place in the line-up without every game at this point feeling like a must-win situation. There’s a happy medium between easing in and the team having to play catch-up in the standings with its collective hair on fire, but the big Finn does not have that luxury right now.

That said, the one-timer Puljujarvi blew past Petr Mrazek to make it 6-2 was a thing of beauty. We won’t know for a long while yet if Puljujarvi will be a big-time goal-scorer, but he damn sure looked like it on that goal. Confidence can go a long way for a kid trying to make his way into the best league on the planet as Puljujarvi is, and goals like that will do nothing but help.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • Spydyr

    Every goalie lets in a soft goal once in a while. Talbot has to stop letting one in almost every game for this team to have success. Winning and losing starts with goaltender.

    • JimmyV1965

      Agreed. If Talbot hadn’t been on his knees yet again that second goal doesn’t go in. He’s leaving way too much net exposed and that’s why he’s giving up so many deflections. He’s a good goslie though so hopefully he turns it around. What’s indefensible is that Chia has neglected to get a backup who the coach trusts.

      • MrBung

        Tough for a goalie to change his style and tendencies. Also, more teams and players have studied video on him and have played him more … so they are adjusting their tactics and shooting.

    • Dean S

      Oiler goaltending is not adequate for a team with playoff inspirations. Last year in the playoffs goaltending was to inconsistent we could not protect leads late in games. We got shelled 7-0 by the Sharks and lost games 3, 4, and 5 to the Ducks blowing leads in the last 2.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    They played for their pride last night, but they also proved that they can play a solid game when they want to. Take the positives from last night and work hard to have them carry over to the next game.

  • LordRuggles

    One of the reasons I so strongly adhere to the idea the Puljujarvi should be given PP time is that if he is put in situations that are more about the offensive side of the game his acumen for offense will go up and I think if he sees that he has the tools and ability to pump some pucks in the net his confidence will grow he will be more sure of what he can do. I believe if his confidence goes up he could be a beast in the o-zone.
    Look at how brash and cocky Laine was coming into the league and what he did in his first year. Not saying they are the same player, but their skill sets aren’t drastically different.

    • cmandev77

      All of the scouts said Puljujarvi would take more time to adapt to the NHL than Laine would. They also said that Laine would be an immediate force while Pool Party would be the better player in the long term. I for one am not giving up on this guy as I think he will be one hell of a player in a few years.

      • TrueBlue

        I agree. I also think we need to be more realistic and realize prospects need time. We might not see what he fully is or is capable for, for another 2-3 years. Hopefully sooner, but like all players most need time.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Since Barry Frazier, it seems the scouts have given us players like Reinhart & Yakapov…
        Hopefully Puljujarvi works into a great player…? So far, so good though…

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Really, my 9 year old daughter could have drafted those guys, obvious choices…
            Get me the Caggula’s, Boeser’s, Burrows & Pageau’s all either NCAA or undrafted…
            That’s what scouts do, find hidden gems. Doug Gilmour, for example was drafted in the 7th round 134th overall… Those guys you mentioned above, we all knew about them, as the media was telling us 2 or 3 years ahead of their draft years… With that mentality, anyone can be a scout, just read the Hockey News…

        • Anton CP

          Yakupov has 7 goals with 10 points by playing the fewest minutes among all players that has 7 goals or more. I guess it is not so much about if Yak was a bust, it has everything to do if the coach knows how to use them.

  • Limster

    How old are Talbot’s twins now? They’ve got to still be under 2 right? I remember the sleep deprivation of taking care of individual kids under the age of 2. I can’t imagine twins or triplets at that. The sleep deprivation caused decisions to be late, reactions to be slow….

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            @Spydyr

            So, if I tell you what I do and how much money I make can you tell me what is allowed to distract me and what I’m allowed to feel? You know, based on my job and salary?

          • Glencontrolurstik

            More than the millions, it’s about the contract…
            Technically, he has a few to consider & prioritize…
            So he does have to juggle those priorities, if he wants to stay in the contract…
            Whichever one is his top priority?

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Eddy Lack’s available,… I don’t know what happened to him as he was once a very good goalie, on par with Schneider anyway… I thought he was better than Luongo at points of his tenure in Vancouver? Then again, most goalies were better than Luongo at points of ………

      • Hemmercules

        I agree with this but at the same time there is still daily stress when you have two 2 year olds. Unless of course you just avoid them 24/7 and let the wife/nanny do absolutely everything. With the career he has he shouldnt be responsible for nightly duties though thats for sure.

        Talbot seems like he gets in a funk sometimes like many other goalies do. I’m confident he can play his way out of it but he needs to grab the bull by the horns sooner than later. Another 2 or 3 game losing streak in the next month isn’t in the cards anymore.

        • Dean S

          Talbot is terribly inconsistent. Always has been. He’s on his knees more than any other goaltender (except Jonathan Quick). Edm won’t win anything until they have a consistent starter.

      • Shameless Plugger

        He’s paid millions, so that absolves him from being a human being? I have a sick three week old baby right now. And I can tell you he could give two you know what’s about how much money I make when he’s miserable at three in the morning.

        • Spydyr

          You constantly put words in my mouth. Stop it. Not once did I mention him being absolved from being a human being. Millions of people put their kids in daycare to go to work. He can afford live in help at home with his kids. That is what I said nothing more.

        • ed from edmonton

          If Talbot can’t play at an NHL level because he a 2 year old twins at home, he should stand u and say that ad retire until the kids get older. Most people would get fired is they can’t do their job, kids or no kids.

  • Hemmercules

    I hope last night was the start of something good. This season needs and uplifting winning streak so bad. Put in the work required and the results are good, go figure. Last night means nothing though if they don’t carry it into Friday.

    As other have mentioned, Talbots need to get back to what he did well last season. He’s gets so low so early that the top corners are money for any guy with a decent shot. He wants to be a puck handler all the time too like Smith and its just not him. Hug those posts harder, stay big in the net and handle the puck a little less.

    • MrBung

      I would really like to believe there is a turnaround of some sort so they can bring themselves to 0.500 but until they have some sort of sustained win streak, just assume they will drop a couple then win one … rinse…repeat.

  • camdog

    Talbot played like this when he first got here. There was stretch where Nilsson was getting a number of starts up until mid December. I followed Talbot’s story in New York when rumours were he was going to be traded to Edmonton when Mact was GM. Last year was the first year where I can think of where he didn’t start slow in his entire crew.

  • Roberto

    In Talbots first year in Edmonton, the Oil had Nilsson to step in and win some games while Talbot struggled out of the gate…. The backup is a position that Chia has failed to address thus far… which puts a lot of pressure on Talbot to be good all season. Is Ellis still rock solid in the AHL? I don’t think Broissoit will ever really be a solid NHL goalie

    • McDavid's Comet

      @ Roberto

      “I don’t think Broissoit will ever really be a solid NHL goalie” that’s the same narrative fans were saying about Devin Dubnyk when Mac T threw him under the bus.

    • Dean S

      I’m all for calling up Nick Ellis, he had a better GGA and SV% than Broissoit last year. This year he has been playing really well. He deserves an opportunity. Put Talbot on IR (stress anxiety leave).

  • Roberto

    Klefbomb and Letestu have Ugly Plus/Minus this year…. I know that stat isn’t perfect (none are, including advanced), but to be that much worse than the rest of the team is concerning..

  • Roberto

    Any update on the Drai/Nurse Rumors? There’s a lot of smoke so seems like there’s likely something to it…. but I’ve also heard many different versions of what happened….. so it could be just Edmonton gossip. It would be a shame, there seems to be a pretty decent core of young guys that could be dangerous in years to come. Hate to break it up over off ice issues.

      • Roberto

        Rumor: a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

        I guess I should have asked if there’s any update on the currently circulating story of uncertain truth, regarding Leon and Darrell.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      This was made up by Leafs Fans on Sportsnet… Then the media grabbed a hold of it on a slow sportsday…
      We all saw the hit, it would have left a mark… Full-Stop.

      • camdog

        I though the Coach said it was an un identified high stick to the eye area? That was the word I heard out of the locker room before the doctors found the concussion. Regardless Oilers problem were easily identifiable in game 2 and 3 before LD went down with injury.

  • Consultant

    If Pool Party or Nurse keep improving then we will have trouble affording them. I imagine Nurse would want 3+ on a bridge and Puju near the same if he gets some PP time and keeps improving. So that would mean Chia would give them both at least 5 – 6 million per year. At some point Chia may have to negotiate, hopefully they enroll him in some sort of negotiation class. “No Peter, you start lower than their number”, “No Peter negotiations don’t need to be completed within 5 minutes”, “Peter quite stroking your mustache and pay attention!!, players should not need to negotiate their salaries down.”

  • ed from edmonton

    Brownlee is absolutely correct when a teams top players are not playing well you lose. WRT Talbot and Klef they have gone from amongst the bets in the league (for Talbot anyway) to less than NHL quality. I firmly believe that if Sekera was healthy Klef would have become a fixture in the press box by now, he has been that bad. These two ae the leading culprits for the Oil’s demise, by I cant think of a single player, other than Nurse, who has delivered at or above expectations. I include McD is that group s well. He has been harvesting points as expected but his overall game has been spotty. Lots of rumors about a recent bout of the flu slowing him down and resulting in a loss of weight.

    • ed from edmonton

      I should also include Nuge as player who is exceeding expectations. He said he would try to be more productive offensive this year and so far he has been.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “When Klefbom gets himself sorted out, and he will, I’ll take a top-four that has him, Nurse, Adam Larsson and Andrej Sekera in it.”

    That actually looks really good.

    • Vanoil

      Sekera will be in the top 5 but I think the right side will have Larson and Benning in it. That means just one more interim D until Bear and Jones are pushing for spots and we will have the envy of the league — assuming someone takes Russel off our hands.

        • jultz=2cups!😂😂

          Lol. That would be smart of the oilers. Team needs wins to get back in the race but hey, lets buyout our best stay at home/shotblocking dman. The Russell hate around here absolutely baffles me…. if they buy him out, who are they replacing him with?? And who buys out players mid season??

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            I was thinking of buying him out this offseason, unless he finds a defined role on the third pairing after the cavalry arrives.

            And I don’t hate him, I love him. But the contact is too rich. And I think that’s a point that’s hard point to disagree with.

          • Slipknot 8

            Anyone who can stand up and play defense at a sub par level…Russell is absolute garbage, he blocks shots because the puck is ALWAYS in his end when he’s on the ice, if he’s blocking shots then where’s the puck, not to mention he blocks the most shots in the NHL, which by definition means the puck is in his end more then any other defensmen in the entire NHL & he plays against the easiest comp 90% of the time….
            Also, he makes as much as Klefbom & Larsson……..
            He’s terrible.

  • CMG30

    Yep. The team needs all three of those guys firing to stop the slide and pull themselves back to respectability. I only hope that when they finally get sorted out, it’s not too late.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Although later in the season, that St Louis loss was last years Buffalo…
    LET’S TURN THINGS AROUND NOW… the schedule is perfect, leading up to Nov. 30 & Dec 02…
    GOG…..

  • IRONman

    We need a backup goalie. If 33 can not do 92% we are doomed. The defence is what it is. Needs improvement. I am still confused why we did not upgrade the D this summer. Short term deal.