The Edmonton Oilers have been shutout in four of their last ten home games. They lost those four by a combined score of 19-0. They weren’t remotely engaged in those games. It is an unacceptable trend and if this group has any pride at all, they will at least they will put forth an NHL-worthy effort tonight.
The Oilers have shown up and played well against the Pacific Division this year, going 9-2, and will look for a similar effort tonight against the Flames.
No question Peter Chiarelli made some bad decisions that have led to the Oilers taking a huge step back this season. The coaches also need to share a lot of the blame, because the Oilers have the worst special teams in the NHL, and it isn’t close.
But the players also need to share some responsibility. This lineup has more talent than a 26th place club, and their performance on home ice over the past ten games simply hasn’t been good enough.
I have a hard time accepting the players don’t hold some responsibility.
Through 48 games last year, of the 15 forwards who played 20 games, Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot, Tyler Pitlick Matt Hendricks and Anton Lander are no longer here.
In those 48 games Eberle had nine goals, Pitlick had eight, Pouliot had five, Hendricks had two and Lander had one. Pitlick played 31 games, Hendricks and Lander had played 20. They combined for 25 goals.
The Oilers forwards have scored 114 goals.
Their forward replacements this year have been Strome for Eberle, Khaira for Pitlick, Cammalleri for Pouliot and Pakarinen for Hendricks/Lander, since those two rarely played at the same time. Lander was sent down November 16th and Hendricks played his first game on November 19th.
Through 48 games this season the Oilers forwards have scored 109 goals.
The five fewer goals came from those changes. So, a small drop, no question.
But the Oilers big minutes players are still the same on forward, and Darnell Nurse took Andrej Sekera’s minutes and has kept them even with Sekera returning.
Many of the existing Oilers haven’t played as consistently or as effectively as last year. No question the GM can be looked at for losing trades, and the special teams coaching has been abysmal, but the players, as a group, haven’t been as effective, especially in the defensive zone.
The Oilers defensive zone coverage, starting with Cam Talbot and including the defence and forwards, hasn’t been as good. They have turned the puck over more and far too often they’ve had five-star giveaways. They have to own that.
There will be more changes to this roster, and likely the coaching staff and possibly even management over the next few months, but the majority of this team will be back next year and those players need to use the final 34 games to find the competitiveness they proved they could play with last season.
Do Colorado, New Jersey, Vegas have more talent than the Oilers? I don’t think so, but they have been much more consistent. It is completely fair and accurate to question some of Peter Chiarelli’s moves, but that shouldn’t give this group a free pass to be sitting in 26th spot and to have been lifeless far too often this season.
They have more ability than they’ve shown so far this year and I’d hope they use the final 34 games to rediscover the consistency, passion and commitment they played with last year. Even if they are down a bit in skill, they should not drop from an eighth place team to a 26th place team because of changing out four forwards, and only one who was a top-six forward.
The Oilers might be playing with seven D-men tonight. Todd McLelland wouldn’t announce the roster moves this morning, but Brandon Davidson and Mike Cammalleri said they were playing. Iiro Pakarinen and Mark Letestu were out late after practice.
Adam Larsson is a little banged up and his status will determine what happens with the lineup.
Ryan Lomberg will make his NHL debut for the Flames. The Flames might have another lineup change.
Rittich has a solid .932sv% and a 2.03 GAA in six appearances this season.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Oilers lost 5-0 on Wednesday to Buffalo. Buffalo. They’re a reeling team. Expect an emotional game from the Oilers as their players try to salvage their season, save their coach’s job and try to somehow get themselves back into the playoff picture.
Nobody in the NHL has a worse penalty kill than Edmonton. Their home penalty kill has only killed off 54% of their penalties. It seems like a nice fit for Calgary’s power play.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Your guess is as good as mine as to which Oilers team will show up, but they have been excellent versus the Pacific Division in their last 40 games, going 29-8-3 with six consecutive wins over the Flames. The Flames have points in ten straight games, but have lost three consecutive games in OT/SO. Oilers continue to frustrate Oilersnation by rebounding with a solid effort and looking like a completely different team than 48 hours earlier. Oilers win 3-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Flames score a PP goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Puljujarvi continues his goal-a-game pace against the Flames in his career and scores his fourth goal in four career games versus the Flames.
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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 1/25/2018, 1:30pm MST