The Chaos Theory is derived from a branch of mathematics, but we do know chaotic behaviour exists in weather, climate and even traffic. A stall on the high level bridge can lead to traffic snarls 20 blocks away.
I’d argue it also exists in sports, and that the Edmonton Oilers are strong evidence for any theory involving chaos.
When one penalty killer makes the wrong read, then another tries to cover up for him, it leads to chaos, wide open seam passes and eventually a goal. We’ve seen it over and over this year season.
You might be more familiar with the Butterfly Effect. Last night one shot led to a complete meltdown by the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers trailed the Kings 1-0 with one minute remaining in the second period. After a sluggish first ten minutes, the Oilers woke up and were playing quite well. They had generated many chances late in the first period and through the first 15 minutes of the second period, but Jonathan Quick was stoning them. Even after the Kings scored, the Oilers didn’t fold.
They kept attacking and with 40 seconds remaining in the second period, Jesse Puljujarvi faced a wide open net. He spun around and proved he was paying attention in the pre-game meetings, because he shot the puck high, but it rang off the crossbar. He missed the net. An unlucky play. He made the right play by shooting high, it just hit the bar instead of going in.
If he scored the Oilers wouldn’t have completely unravelled over the next 5:14 of play. The Oilers still might have lost, we’ll never know, but hitting the crossbar instead of scoring altered the game significantly.
To be clear, I’m not blaming Puljujarvi, far from it, just outlining how one play changed the landscape significantly.
Thirty-five seconds after Puljujarvi hit the crossbar, the play was still in the Kings zone and Patrick Maroon hit Drew Doughty and was assessed a match penalty for hit to the head. The Kings had a five-minute man advantage and scored three times in the first 4:39. For me that sequence illustrates the difference in the Oilers this year to last.
Last year they found ways to overcome adversity, or chaos, whether it was a missed scoring chance, unlucky bounce, a bad call or a bad decision. They battled back. They had a swagger. This year, however, we have rarely seen those traits.
In 2016/2017 the Oilers had the third best winning % when trailing after 40 minutes. No teams were great at coming back, but they battled back to pick up 17 points when trailing after 40 minutes. They only trailed 27 times heading into the third period, 6th lowest in the NHL behind Washington, Minnesota, Columbus, St.Louis and San Jose. You’ll notice playoff bound teams weren’t playing catch up very often.
Through 40 games this season the Oilers have already trailed 20 times. They are 2-17-1 when trailing after forty minutes. Only Arizona and Buffalo have played from behind more entering the final frame. It is another illustration of the Oilers inability to be ready from the opening faceoff. Slow starts, combined with a penalty kill that is so bad you can’t describe it, has the Oilers playing catchup far too often and right now they aren’t mentally tough enough to overcome adversity like they did last season.
When chaos arrived — it does for every team — the Oilers were able to handle it. It didn’t consume them, but right now they can’t handle it. And the most damaging factor is much of their chaos comes from within. They are making major mistakes and giving up far too many glorious chances, mainly on the penalty kill.
Last night Kris Russell made an ill-advised pinch and it ended up in their net. Up until that point of the second period the Kings only had three shots. One major error, and boom it ends up in their goal.
Chaos occurs and the Oilers can’t stop it.
Another perplexing aspect of the Oilers season is how often they wilt on home ice. They have been shutout four times in 21 home games. And they lost those games 4-0, 4-0, 5-0 and 5-0. They have allowed 28 powerplay goals at home. They are down 1.33 goal/game before the puck drops. How is that even possible?
But it isn’t just the PK. The powerplay has dried up. They are 11.3% in their last 20 games. The biggest issue I see is their lack of quickness in moving the puck. They are very good at entering the zone, but once they get set up they delay too long. The extra split second allows the PK to reset. Right now opposing powerplays are zipping the puck around and the Oilers PK breaks down, but the Oilers PP is too deliberate. It is often one extra stick handle and that extra second or two allows the penalty killers to get back in position.
The Oilers PK it too chaotic and their powerplay isn’t creating enough chaos for the opposition. It is a recipe for losing.
1. I expect Maroon to be suspended. He wasn’t available to the media this morning. He had his phone call with the league before practice. His body language combined with Todd McLellan’s presser leads me to believe he will get at least one game…. **Updated**. He got two games and will sit out tomorrow vs. Anaheim and Saturday in Dallas. He forfeits $21,505 in salary which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
2. With Maroon out I would play McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH in the top-six. I don’t like spreading out the offence, because it just waters it down. When the Oilers did score for the first 10 games of three centres, the fourth line of Kassian/Letestu were more prolific than any duo on the 2nd or 3rd line. The problem the Oilers have is they don’t have a true third line centre. Ryan Strome isn’t an NHL centre. He’s mainly been a winger and that’s what he is at the NHL level. Nothing wrong with that, but the hope of moving him to centre has not transpired. I put that on Peter Chiarelli more than anyone. He needs to go out and find a third line centre, because spreading out your three best offensive players over three lines will not work long-term.
3. It was going to happen eventually, but Connor McDavid has now gone three games without a point for the first time in his career. It took him 167 games to go scoreless in three games. Over two full seasons. I’d be willing to bet he comes close to another 165+ games before he does it again. He was flying last night and created many glorious chances for his teammates. I would still like him to shoot more on the powerplay. It has become too predictable. Teams aren’t respecting him as a threat to shoot the puck.
4. Amazing how Florida left Jonathan Marchessault exposed in the expansion draft. He scored 30 goals last year and had another year of $750,000. Vegas gladly claimed him and he is top-25 in NHL scoring with 37 points in 35 games and Vegas rewarded him today with a six-year extension worth $5 million/year. Seems Gerard Gallant knew what he had in Marchessault more than the Panthers organization did. Those two moves by the Panthers, firing Gallant and exposing Marchessault, have really hurt them. Kind of like the Oilers trading Griffin Reinhart for two draft picks.
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