It was better than the completely flat season opener, but it still wasn’t good enough. Last night’s 4-1 loss to Boston looked a lot more like the disappointing 2017-18 Oilers than the hungry and determined Oilers we were supposed to see fly out of the gates this season.
Things started out nicely for the Oilers. Ty Rattie grabbed the puck at the blueline and hit Connor McDavid with a cheeky spin pass that had Zdeno Chara looking like he was on rollerblades. McDavid ripped past the future Hall of Famer like he was a turnstile and buried his first goal of the season between Jaroslav Halak’s pads.
But things quickly went south after that. Much like last season, Edmonton’s penalty kill got picked apart and the momentum totally flipped. I will give Boston credit, they have a very good top power play unit, so it isn’t like the Oilers allowed a bunch of scrubs to pick them apart. Adam Larsson took a penalty and David Pasternak proceeded to break Matt Benning’s ankles before tying the game.
The go-ahead goal came shortly after that when JJ Khaira went to the box for boarding. Boston got a little bit lucky here as Drake Caggiula had Brad Marchand’s cross-ice pass go off his stick and past Cam Talbot for the go-ahead goal.
The Oilers turned on the jets in the third period and had a few nice chances to close the gap. The McNuggie line did work down low and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fired one past Halak that bounced off the post and danced along the line.
This was quite the sequence pic.twitter.com/qdj33Crlsl— OilersNation.com (@OilersNation) October 12, 2018
But Boston ended up icing the game on this ugly sequence. Matt Benning collected the puck after Brandon Carlo wiped out trying to hit the open net, but he passed it right to Patrice Bergeron who isn’t going to miss with that opportunity.
The Bruins held a heavy 37-25 edge in unblocked shot attempts as it took the Oilers until the third period to really get going. And, of course, part of Edmonton “getting going” was Boston sitting back and defending their lead. The Bruins were, through and through, the better team last night and the score reflected it.
- Like I alluded to at the beginning, that game was better than the lacklustre showing against New Jersey in Sweden. But still, that’s an extremely low bar to set. We were told prior to the season that the Oilers were hungry and wanted to prove everybody wrong after their miserable season in 2017-18, but we simply haven’t seen that in their play so far. It was the same old story as last season. Long lulls in which the Oilers couldn’t get anything going, a penalty kill that got totally outclassed, and a too-little-too-late wake up in the third period.
- The penalty kill continues to be an issue for the Oilers. It’s easy to write Boston’s second goal, the one Caggiula deflected into his own net, off as a fluke. But Boston was having an easy time working around Edmonton’s box formation penalty kill, finding open space, moving the puck quickly, and getting themselves high-danger chances, so it isn’t surprising they ended up getting a lucky bounce. You have to be good to be lucky.
- Yet another problem from last year that appears to be an issue this year is play without Connor McDavid on the ice. The bottom-six was invisible when it came to generating offence, though they didn’t get scored against, which is ultimately their goal. Leon Draisaitl’s second line with Kailer Yamamoto and Milan Lucic had occasional flashes, but they couldn’t get any kind of consistent attack going against the Bruins. When there aren’t any threats after Connor McDavid, it becomes a lot easier to shut him down.
- Jesse Puljujarvi is a hot topic of conversation right now. He played just 10:26 and saw no time on the man advantage. Many are calling for him to get a chance in the top-six. I don’t know if he can actually help in that role, but Puljujarvi simply needs more ice time to work out warts in his game. He isn’t going to develop as a player seeing 10 minutes of ice time in a game.
- Todd McLellan whipped out the blender in the third period again last night. Leon Draisaitl was put out on the top line with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The coach needs to do something to stack a line behind McDavid because, as I said above, it’s shockingly easy to shut him down when the team has virtually zero offensive firepower behind him. Why not try Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl together? That would open up a spot on the top line for Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto, two young players who could use the boost.