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Photo Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Way I See It…

As goofy as it seems to characterize the third game of an 82-game season a must-win game, that was very much the situation for the Edmonton Oilers in Saturday’s matinee at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. The two points from a 2-1 decision obviously matter, but just getting a taste of success means every bit as much. Probably more.

In terms of the actual standings, there’s no big difference between starting 0-3 and 1-2. In terms of the collective psyche of the team, though, anybody who has spent any time inside an NHL dressing room – or even played competitive sports at a high level – knows what a difference a little success can make. Rest assured, the flight back from New York after the game was far more enjoyable than it would have been after a third loss.

“We took a step forward,” said coach Todd McLellan, who was looking for a rebound from losses to New Jersey and Boston at MSG. “We’re obviously happy with the win. We needed one. It provided a little bit of relief and we’ll certainly enjoy the flight a little bit more than if the outcome was the other way.”

“We had a lot of pressure on our backs, even if it’s the third game,” Oscar Klefbom told Mark Spector of Sportsnet. “It felt more like a Game 3 of a playoff, when you’re down 2-0 in the series, versus Game 3 of the season,” added Milan Lucic, who had a game-high nine hits. “There was a lot of pressure on us, from top to bottom, to get a win here before we got back to Edmonton.”

WEIGHT LIFTED

Again, getting two points from the very beatable Rangers in the third game of a hellacious October schedule doesn’t mean that everything is fine, a corner has been turned and the Oilers are now ready to roll. It’s infinitely more subtle than that. What the win does is allow the Oilers to collectively exhale, at least a little bit, and gather themselves before what will be a tough game against the Jets in Winnipeg Tuesday.

While it’s probably a stretch to say beating the Rangers is any cause for confidence, doing so at least allows the players and the coaching staff to more calmly assess and adjust for what comes next — that’s almost impossible to do when you’re in all-out free-fall mode. It’s difficult to put into words, but I’ve seen things swing more times than I can remember when a team manages to find even a little bit of a mental foothold.

Jason Gregor touched on that very well here. Saturday’s win won’t magically address the deficits and depth issues with this team that are very real. For the time being at least, McLellan and his staff have a spark to work with, something positive to reinforce with a group of players that is, to say the least, fragile right now. One win doesn’t necessarily signal the beginning of a successful run, but I’ve seen the timing of one loss send a team the other way. This game could have done that.

The Oilers fly into Winnipeg Monday, face the Jets Tuesday then open at home Thursday against the Bruins, who spanked them 4-1 the first time around. That came on the heels of a 5-2 loss to the Devils — if the second period of that game wasn’t the most hopeless I’ve seen from the Oilers in a decade, it was too close for comfort.

Fans, rightfully so, will be in a show-me state of mind for the foreseeable future, but I like the Oilers’ chances of navigating their October schedule far more today than I did before the win Saturday. How that translates into wins and losses, we’ll see soon enough.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

  • No surprise with young players, especially on a team where even veterans are struggling, that Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto didn’t get much traction in New York and look a little bit lost right now. I thought that Evan Bouchard looked steady paired with Jason Garrison, although he was guilty of a bad giveaway in the third period.
  • Connor McDavid’s power-play winner and his assist on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal means he’s been in on all five goals the Oilers have scored (he’s 2-3-5). That much we know. When the right side is going to get something done, I don’t know — Ty Rattie is the only RW with a point (an assist).

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • the dope $teez

    Right now the name of the game is neutralize McDavid and you win handily. The 2nd and 3rd lines need to play harder and contribute or else we’ll have some good odds at Hughes…
    The defence is a tire fire but we all saw that coming from chia’s off season moves. They can’t be better because they just are not that good. Draisaitl can be better, same with Nuge, Lucic, Puljujarvi etc. Time to step up and earn your paycheques.

    • Gravis82

      The second and third lines don’t need to play harder, they are playing as hard as they can. The problem is that they the lines are just not filled with enough good players.

      Saying the players need to be better is not productive. Players are what they are. It’s the gms job to recognize that and build accordingly

    • Rob...

      Do you honestly think the name of the game for the past 2+ years hasn’t been ‘neutralize McDavid’? Any couch not going into a game with that game plan should be fired.

  • The future never comes

    Sometimes I get the feeling some of the players worked so hard to get to the NHL that they forgot they have to continually work even harder to stay competetive in it. These players need to learn to put the onus on themselves to make that next play and not fall back to others on the team to do it.

      • IRONman

        Put Leon with McDavid. Nuge Strome and Jesse together. Yamo to Ahl. The oilers can put jj Center 4th line. Brodz can handle 3rd line. He is strong in faceoff. Need to have better line 2. Jesse is good with Nuge

        • jesse says yep

          people just can’t get past the contract that Leon signed. Just because he signed a 8 mil contract he has to be the #2C or the world will stop spinning. Much like Lucic’s contract, they are signed and the money is spent. It’s time to put the lineup together in a way that it has the best chance to succeed. If that means Drain and Connor play together and Looch moves down to the third line, so be it. The off season is when these issues need to be worked out. During the season it should be win at all costs.

          • KMA

            It is perfectly reasonable to expect a player who makes (not earns) more than $100K per game (whether he plays or not) and $5K per played minute should perform to the highest levels compared to the elite of the NHL. The point is Pete is at fault for a lousy contract and Leon is just not that good.

          • jesse says yep

            @KMA What you think is reasonable to expect is completely beside the point though. You can beat your head against the wall until you knowck yourself out but the players are who they are. Organize them so that the team can succeed not according to the payroll

          • MrBung

            Example of bad management. You can’t have a winning team if there are not value or appropriately size contracts. Leon needs to show he is not just a McDavid inflation. Malkin can play without Crosby. Drai is showing that he is nothing but a playoff Pisani and a McDavid pump up.

      • The future never comes

        None of what you just replied with has to do with what I wrote, but alright. Also, formulating a full sentence once and a while would be good practice, what are you doing with all that extra time you save from writing 3 word sentences?

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Or, and I hate to even consider this given the narrative of this season, they’re so tired of McLellan that they’re going to try and have him fired by not competing

  • Soccer Steve

    Hockey is a really streaky sport. They won a game that they absolutely had to win while on a bad streak. It shows this team has something. If Talbot can steal a couple games coming up, if Connor can keep ripping throats, if Drai can get going (these are not big IF’s, mind you), if they can go 4-4 coming up, I really like their chances on making the playoffs this year.

    • ed from edmonton

      A lot of ifs there. Kind of like the Oil in general. The Oil can make the playoffs if ;

      1. Benning can play 2nd pair minutes (hasn’t happened)
      2. Someone can be the 3rd pari RHD (so far Bouchard has dome okay)
      3. PC finds some D help (still waiting)
      4. Young RWs step up (still waiting)
      5. Talbot plays to 16/17 form (yes in two of three games).

      • MrBung

        Dude. The Oilers are not making the playoffs this season. Can’t believe there are hockey/Oiler fans that look at this roster and defence and think this is possible. No. lol.

        • Soccer Steve

          Dude, Vegas made it to the finals last year. This is sports. You saying it is impossible after game 3 is sillier than me suggesting that they can.
          What I said was if they can go 4-4 through October I really like their chances of making the playoffs. This implies that if they go 1-7, 2-6, 3-5 I really dislike their chances.
          Your ultra-negative, everyone-is-so-stupid, schtick is really played out. Dude. lol.

          • Odanada

            You are correct, but given the culture of the fans, management and the players, it is unlikely.
            The team needs a new coach to breathe some life into them. These guys are not bad players, they just need to be molded into a team that believes in itself. Todd is just not that guy

  • Archie45

    McDavid is the only constant,still has to carry a number of passengers.His wingers are Ok…That 2nd line needs someone to drive it.Time,29, to start earning your keep.Show an example.Being in your own end doesn’t mean your being defensive responsible.56 just isn’t ready yet.Needs ice time in minors….Have to look forward but how an organization can have that many high 1st round draft choices and still be this bad.Unforgivable for the fans…Are drafting better with present GM.Not sure he will be here to see them play.That is counting on them being developed.

  • 18% body fat

    Not Brownlee per say,

    But i find it funny how the media, loved the lucic signing and thought it was a deal, kept defending the Hall trade, thought the Reinhart trade was what the oilers needed, and fought tooth an nail to defend the Russel contract.

    All these moves were defended by the media (DVD was one of the exceptions), and all these moves have killed oilers assets and handcuffed the teams ability to make moves going forward.

    Why cant these media people admit they were wrong,

    Why cant Chia admit he was wrong, he owes the fans that, and an apology

    • 50 Flex

      What media were you reading? You should unsubscribe. People thought those players were good additions, but it was universally accepted that Chiarelli paid way too much.

    • You’re using a broad brush and generalizing in all the cases you cite. A lot of media people, me included, liked the Lucic signing for what he brought to the team. Not many people, me included, liked the length of the term. Most people, me included, considered the Hall trade an overpay, but one driven by the need to shore-up the blueline. The question was degree. Fought tooth an nail to defend the Russell contract? No. I don’t recall anybody doing that. What I do recall is some extreme takes at the opposite end of the spectrum by non-MSM people that made it sound like Russell is barely a beer league player.

      A question back: why do you frame this as “these media people” and overstate? If you are suggesting that none of what you’re talking about came from fans or various blogs written by non-MSM people, you might want to check again.

  • Clayton

    It is funny to hear people saying the first part of the season isn’t really a good judge of how the Oilers are doing because they are all top teams in the league. Isn’t that the measuring stick you want to use? How do we stack up against the teams we want to be? Or is that where we have sunk to…resigned to the status of ‘also ran’ and ‘bubble team’? I hate looking south at the Shames, but they are doing things right…they went into Nashville and didn’t look at it as well, as long as we show up and play a good game we are good…no they came into that game saying if we want to be elite we have to beat the elite. That is the attitude that the Oilers need.

    • GK1980

      Yes, if we are still saying the Oilers have a “Tough Schedule” then we have all accepted the fact that this team is still garbage. Good teams beat good teams.

  • Rama Lama

    I think that we are reading too much into the state of the team………I for one can take the players as they are but how they are coached is another matter.

    The only thing that concerns me is the constant line juggling which IMHO is the biggest problem for the team. I think that most coaches in the league give it a few games before they start trying new line combinations………our coach seems to give it about one shift before he starts changing things up.

    Until that changes expect the fortunes of the team to remain in neutral.

  • OilerFaithful.Always

    I have been an oilers fan since I was 7 or 8. I’m 30 now and was born in London, ontario. Ive watched the Oilers since when I can remember. Its been frustrating at times but Ive always stayed positive and never been a bandwagon fan jumping on and off my team when they played well, and when they didn’t. I sometimes believe that we have more of an affect on the players then we know. Our negative fans and bashing of the players gives us not only a bad reputation, I can guarantee when we run players out of town when they play poorly gets around and makes other players not want to come here. I get it they get paid a lot of money to perform well especially if they have large contracts but they are still human beings. I hear a lot of negativity on this site and have been for a long time. I would love to see what kind of difference we as fans can make if we stayed positive and supportive of our players for a change. We also have an affect on our players confidence. How about it? If your truly a fan of the Oilers. Stay behind them through the good and the bad I promise you from experience its way more rewarding when they do well and you can proudly say you were behind them from the beginning.

    • Serious Gord

      Bollocks.

      The Team’s Ownership and management has been the cause of all of this failure and thus the ire and skepticism that oilers fans (yes, fans) have been expressing for the past twelve years.

      Oilers fans are no different than those fans of teams where the following is intense and the level of failure epic: The Browns, The Bills, The Cubs (until very recently) to name just a few.

      Do those fans also criticize the shortcomings of players? Of course they do – especially is that shortcoming is centered on attitude and/or effort.

      True (what ever that means?) fans want the best for the team. That is no different than a parent’s wishes for their child. And like a parent points out a child’s shortcomings and offers recommendations on how to correct them, so too a true fan does with the team they love.

      So stop enabling bad behaviour and take off the rose coloured glasses.

      • dabears318

        I’m sure children who are taunted and harassed in public (with their parents outside a restaurant, in McDavid’s case) and constantly surrounded by negative press, boo’d, etc. turn into high functioning adults…

        I wouldn’t call the emotion oilers fans have shown over past decade to be anything close to “constructive”.

        It is understandable, but let’s not pretend it’s helpful.

        • Serious Gord

          The people who abused mcdavid in public represent a tiny fraction of the fan base. Don’t lump every one else into that group.

          If the oil fans had been complete sheep these past twelve years Kevin lowe would still be GM, mact the coach etc. So yes fan ire IS HELPFUL.

    • ed from edmonton

      Its been stated by a number of ex Oilers that Edmonton is a tough place to play when thing are going bad of that there is no doubt. The hyper criticism on this site and in general is, as others have stated, due to a long history of struggles to put competitive teams on the ice which reach back to the early 90s with a brief period of modest success in the early 2000s and the lightning in a bottle in 2006. Until a period of competitive teams are produced this attitude will continue.
      oats
      I do, however, agree that individual players become unwarranted scape goats and have been run out of town to the detriment of the team. But it happens elsewhere (Phil Kessel eg) as well. I am a lot older than you and have personally known precisely 1 NHL player who played for a goodly number of years in the NHL (none in Edmonton). He told me his policy was to never listen to or read local media. This must be more difficult now with the multitude of social media outlets around.

    • Quoteright

      Totally right with the negativity being an issue for the players. McDavid even mentioned it. The issue with Edmontons unique situation is that the fans have endured so much mediocrity while paying TOP dollar for their seat at the table. Most markets that have a team that sucks as bad as the historically awful Oilers have results in decreasing prices allowing new happy fans in to cheer and create atmosphere.
      Our atmosphere is a detriment and if you don’t think that effects the players then your not listening to them.
      It’s a chicken and egg situation trying to blame the fan that has financially bankrolled this monstrosity of an organization. $500 for a couple and it’s hard to cheer blindly forgetting all the past.
      We trash the players we have, who already have shown they can do it two years ago.
      Here’s my suggestion
      Cheer For Beer
      Have a sound meter and for every ten decibels of sound gets everyone a buck off beer (40 decibels $4 off aka $6 beer)
      Maybe greedy Katz should find out how to share some of his ridiculous profits from this train wreck.

  • OilerForLife

    You’re right, the Oilers aren’t out of the woods yet, but it does mean something. The Oilers put a spirited effort together to win the game, and it will help the confidence of the team moving forward. I was on the edge of my seat, and we had some breaks, but it’s gone the other way all too often. Anaheim playoff series comes to mind.

    Bouchard played in a real NHL game and it will help him going forward. He looked very well in a structured game. The D let load some major blasts and if they hit the net more often it could have resulted in a few more goals. If they can carry it forward and beat the Jets, then they are in the thick of it.

    • D1983

      The management and coaching staff have to figure it out. Most teams in the league have holes somewhere in the lineup. PC should of done more to fill some holes obviously but as of right now this is what we got so these guys gotta figure out how to get the most of what is here or get people in that can. Three games into the season hasn’t looked great by any means but id hope they can put it on the past and move forward because it’s a tough schedule coming up. When you look through the league there are no easy games so this team has to believe in themselves and just move forward go play hard as they can and let the results be what they are. No excuses to not put in the effort it’s when the effort lacks is when things get real frustrating.

  • Rufio Barcoli

    Benning, Yamamoto and a pick need to be packaged for a defensive improvement.

    RNH needs to be a third line center to balance the line up and stretch the competition.
    Lucic, Strome, Khaira, Puljujarvi, Draisailt, Reider, heck even Caggiula could take turns playing with McDavid. Depending on what challenge opposition presents serve them McDavid with a different side dish every time.

    • ed from edmonton

      For Benning, Yamo and a pick it would need to be a very good Dman with term left on the contract. BUt for the right guy, sure.

      It has been well shown that McD will score with anybody, right CAgullia un-fans. So if the zero goals from outside the 1st line and PPs something might have to happen.

    • Oilman99

      RNH is one of only three top six NHL forwards the team has he cannot get buried on a third line if they want to have any offence at all. There is chemistry with McD, that is critical for success.

      • Rufio Barcoli

        Why would you call it buried?
        For a former 1st overall pick, on a third line RNH should be having a field day most of the nights, especially considering the defending pairings he would be up against.

        • Clayton

          The issue with RNH on the third line is the mismatch it creates for other teams against the Oilers on their second line. Yes RNH should have a Hey day on the third line, but the Oilers don’t have the depth to accommodate that without a huge gap in the second line.

  • OilCan2

    Hockey is on. McDavid is the star. Fun to watch for sure. Bouchard has my vote for best rookie. Talbot got the W in NYC; the first of many to follow. Our 2,3 & 4 lines will be the proof of the pudding. It will be fun when they really get rolling.

  • Arfguy

    I just finished watching the Hurricanes vs. Jets game and it was amazing to watch the Carolina team (who played the night before) using an aggressive style of play against a rested (maybe even rusty) Winnipeg team. The Jets team should have dominated, but they were losing a lot of the battles and on the back of a stellar performance by Laurent Brossoit.

    What I am saying is…this Carolina team is skating and working hard. They are definitely talented, but not more talented than the Jets, but their style of play was yielding a lot of scoring chances.

    The last 3 games, the Oilers looked slow and barely won against New York. Their style of play may be a result of their lack of confidence, but they just are not showing enough aggression or desire to win. I want this team to win, but I have a feeling that the team has tuned MacLellan out. I am really resenting MacLellan’s line-combination and the lack of chemistry throughout the line up seems to prove my assertion right. I do not think the Oilers are any less talented than some of the teams that are managing to win games, but a lot of the players are not being put in position to succeed. At this point, I am not seeing much chemistry between RNH and McDavid. I see some between Rattie and McDavid, but not with RNH. I think it’s time to put Leon back on McDavid’s right win, salary be damned. Place RNH back at second line centre along with Jesse and Rieder at left wing. RNH seems to be more comfortable distributing and deferring than controlling. He does not seem to want the puck as much as a scoring winger should.

    It is very early to line-juggle, but if these lines are maintained, I think the Oilers will continue their trend of mediocre play.

    • Odanada

      I’ll agree that the players do not find the fire with TM at the helm.
      While TM may not ultimately be the problem, a new coach would mean a new start and maybe even some systems that get results.

  • John Pullen

    The insanity that prevails is hard to explain. The Oilers, having to go to Europe from Edmonton, a much longer time displacement than the Devils experienced, going through the emotion of Germany, having a squad with many new and young players, some last year players recovering from injuries and/or coming off poor seasons, three new coaches, the team attempting to play a redesigned system, while facing a ridiculous schedule of mostly last years playoff teams as far as you can see. What a wonderful NHL Management Team to set this up, this way. Add in our magnificent media, from Friedman on down to the locals, expecting the Oilers to run the table or else roll out the guillotine. Even those reporters who I expect to have some perspective sound manic. The first game the Oilers run into New Jersey, a static team, Jersey, with most of last years squad, the same coaching staff, having rested in Sweden two days longer than Edmonton, Edmonton loses, panic. Into Boston another static team, a last year’s playoff team, Edmonton loses, puck luck a possible factor, but more panic. Now the guillotine is rolled out. Edmonton wins in New York, but it is not enough… I am sick of what I read, I want to mute the hockey telecasts. I can fully see how stacked the deck is again my team, it is my team. I hear the same media falling all over themselves for the starship franchise, one who has some seven games in and has not played a last year’s play off team yet. There is nothing wrong with that. Only let Edmonton have it’s chance, realize the facts, it is a tough situation for the Oilers, media put your knives away, fans too, this is 2018/19 not 2002/19. Most of you buried Edmonton in 2015, predicting they would not make the playoffs, let’s see what they are before we bury them this time.

    • Arfguy

      I think the Oilers face a lot of obstacles and, whether fair or unfair, they need to overcome them. Unfortunately, after last year, they cannot fall back on excuses…regardless of how valid some of them may be. The problem I am seeing is that there does not seem to be a sense of desperation or urgency to this team’s game. That is what bothers me. I cite again the game last night between Carolina and Winnipeg. Carolina played the night before and they had to play in Winnipeg, who does not have an aiport. Carolina lost, but not due to a lack of effort.

      This Oilers team, with obviously the exception of McDavid, does not seem to be putting a lot of effort. That is the problem I see. I am not seeing enough desperation from some of the players.

      • Arfguy

        I think you could make a case that New Jersey and Colorado made the playoffs on the strengths of their 1st line. This year, I think the Dallas Stars are still a one-line team with a couple of high-end defencemen. The Oilers need production. I honestly don’t want to see Leon and McDavid on the same line, but until the offence gets going, I’m inclined to re-unite the two.

  • Big Nuggets

    I think its early to change the lines just yet. Need to see if this was just a rough start or outright sucking. Although there are interesting options with the 3 centermen to swap around. I might try Strome with Drai and Nuge. Drai can send his backhand passes to Nuge and they have a right shot to distribute to. I also like the idea of using McD, Drai, Nuge and Brodz all as centers. From a team psychology standpoint it might be good to spread the wealth and minutes out a bit. Let the wingers know its not just the McDavid show and they all need to come to play.

  • CTP66

    I would like to see Yamamoto on McDavid’s line for a game. People want to say he looks lost, and he should go to the AHL, but I think he has outplayed both of his linemates through 3 games. Can’t do much when Draisaitl has had a horrible start, and Lucic can’t keep up. Yamamoto has fought through traffic, gone to the net, thrown some hits, has used body position against bigger players and drawn penalties. He has the speed and smarts to play with McDavid. Rattie has not been terrible on the 1st line, but neither has he stood out. Move him to the 3rd line for a game, and move Puljujarvi with Draisaitl. Change it up to see if they can get more offence going.

    Bouchard, despite some mistakes (no more than any of the vets), looks vastly superior to the rest of the D moving the puck up the ice – passing and making the “right” pass.

  • In game #1 vs. the Devils, in the middle of the 2nd period when the Oilers hadn’t produced a shot, why didn’t McLellan call a timeout and try and reset the team? What did he say or not say in the 1st intermission locker room that made them come out so flat and uninspired?