GDB 36.0 Wrap Up: Christmas is ruined, Oilers fall 6-3 to Tampa Bay

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a damned strong hockey team. Final Score: 6-3 Lightning

With this being the last game before the Christmas break, the Oilers had the opportunity to play in front of a rowdy Rogers Place crowd provided that they could give them something to cheer about. A lot of us started our holidays yesterday and the idea of getting a little bit tipsy and watching the Oilers win a hockey game sounded pretty damned fine. The problem, of course, is that the Tampa Bay Lightning are the best team in the NHL right now and beating them takes a lot of skill and a little bit of luck at the best of times. Closing out a win with so many key pieces missing on the back end was going to be a tall order for the Oilers no matter how you looked it. Fortunately, at Christmas time, magic is in the air so I was coming into this thing with the hope that I’d see the Oilers score enough goals to outrun any mistakes and that we’d all head into the break with a smile on our faces and a song in our hearts.

So when the Oilers opened the scoring early in the first period on a beautiful goal by McNuge, I found myself drifting off into a world of flowering imagination where the boys were able to play keep away with the puck, run up the score, and turn this game into one of the most lopsided victories anyone had ever seen. I was thinking of the kind of magical display that only Connor McDavid or Santa himself could bestow upon us. Unfortunately, the Lightning ruined the fantasy after not only scoring to tie things up on the power play, something the Oilers hadn’t managed to do in what felt like years at that point, but also flexing the kind of depth that powered them to the dominant win that I was wishing the Oilers might get. The Lightning looked every bit like the team that’s running away with the Eastern and they showed just how much work is left to be done around here. And while the Oilers were finally able to break their power play curse with two big goals to the drought in style, it still wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Lightning’s explosive offence.

The Lightning were just too much to handle as they were able to claw their way back from two separate deficits, and the fact that the score was as close as it was is more a testament to Koskinen’s work than how closely things played out. To put it another way, this loss was a tough dose of reality when using it to compare how the Oilers perform against the NHL’s elite.

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The wrap.

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  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring after he finished off a beautiful give-and-go play with Connor McDavid in the slot that happened so quickly that it left the goalie with no chance. But the whole sequence started as a result of Jesse Puljujarvi’s fine forechecking work that freed the puck up for McNuge to do their thing.
  • I don’t know what the hell is going on with Alex Chiasson this season but I’m going to ride this wave until it crashes. Chia’s son added to his career-best after he parked himself in the slot and scored his 16th of the season by deflecting Nurse’s point shot through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole. I don’t know what else we can say about Chiasson other than he seems to have magic in his hands right now.
  • After not scoring on their power play in what’s felt like months, the Oilers were able to get two tonight with the second coming from Leon Draisaitl midway through the second period. Nuge fed the puck to Connor with speed and he circled the net and found a waiting Leon who snapped the puck over Vasilevskiy’s blocker to bring the Oilers to within one.
  • I always love to watch Connor McDavid play against the best the league has to offer because he always seems to find a way to rise to the challenge and he did exactly that again tonight with a three-point night. Not to mention, he also had all kinds of scoring chances that just didn’t work so this could have easily ended with him getting four or five. Regardless, congrats to Connor McDavid on the 200th assist, Connor, and also for the 201st and 202nd.
  • I was really interested to see how Jesse Puljujarvi was going to handle the challenge of not only being slotted with McNuge tonight but also going up against the other team’s toughest defenders, and I thought he fared reasonably well. As I mentioned above, had it not been for Puljujarvi’s puck pursuit the RNH goal never would have happened, and that aggressiveness on the forecheck is going to go a long way for the big Finn if he can keep it going consistently. I know he got bumped down the lineup in the third period when the blender came out but I liked the way he started the game up on the top line.
  • Tonight was one of those nights where the Oilers really needed their power play to be a threat if they were going to win the hockey game, and while they were able to score two goals on three attempts it wasn’t enough to get themselves a point. Even so, getting two opportunities with the man advantages to click after going games without is certainly positive.
  • Mikko Koskinen was back between the pipes tonight as he looked to resume his status as a human brick wall at Rogers Place. The guy has been a one-man dream crusher at home and the Oilers were going to need him to be against a very potent Tampa Bay offence. While he wasn’t able to lock things down against the high-flying Lightning offence, Koskinen did keep the Oilers in the game longer than they probably deserved to be. That said, I’m sure he will say after the game that he’d want to have a couple of the goals back, though I’m not sure which ones as Tampa was buzzing all night long. Koskinen finished the night with 39 saves and a .886 save%.
  • The Lightning dominated the shot clock tonight, pumping 45 shots on net compared to the Oilers 28 going the other way.
What to expect from Tyler Ennis this summer


  • Steven Stamkos tied the game up at one apiece after he settled into his power play office on the sideboards and waited for the puck to come to him. When it did, he wasted no time blasting it past Koskinen with a shot he had little chance of stopping. Frankly, the goal was extra annoying when you saw just how effectively the Lightning were able to move the puck around on their power play. Stamkos added another goal in the third period after he picked up a pass in the high slot and snapped a quick wrister up over Koskinen’s glove.
  • When you give Nikita Kucherov multiple breakaways in a single game you know that he’s going to score on at least one of them. On the first one, Koskinen was able to make the save and bail his team out, but wasn’t able to pull off an encore when it happened again a few minutes later. Darnell Nurse threw a weird pass to Puljujarvi who wasn’t ready for it and the bobbled puck turned into Kucherov’s breakaway and goal. Tough sequence.
  • Only moments after Kucherov scored to tie things up, JT Miller put the Lightning up by a goal after he was able to box out Drake Caggiula in the slot and deflect home a perfect centring pass by Erik Cernak. The Lightning scored two goals in 1:28 and the Oilers went from having the lead to trailing by a goal in an instant.
  • Tyler Johnson finished off a 2-on-1 play by following up and knocking in a rebound that ended up laying in the slot. Koskinen made the initial save but couldn’t get bailed out by a teammate and Johnson scored Tampa’s fourth goal of the night. He later added an empty netter to seal the deal and squash any slim hopes of a comeback that we were feeling.
  • Speaking of power plays, how frustrating was it to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning to basically whatever they wanted with their first PP of night. They moved the puck around effortlessly before sending it over to Stamkos who blasted it home to finish off a perfectly executed power play opportunity.
  • The NHL site had the giveaways for the Oilers at 19 tonight, but I think that number is a bit light. Let’s call it Christmas generosity.
  • In the game of eating beets after every loss, there are no worse cans than the ones that happen this close to midnight. What happens is that my stomach starts rolling at about 2 am that movement can result in anything from a room-clearing fart to the need to get up and handle some business. Overshare? Probably an overshare. As always, you can join in the conversation over on my Twitter account.
Ethan Bear to don jersey with Cree syllabics in exhibition game



10:15 Edmonton Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (12) ASST: Connor McDavid (31), Jesse Puljujarvi (2) 0-1
17:09 Tampa Bay PPG – Steven Stamkos (19) ASST: Nikita Kucherov (38), Victor Hedman (16) 1-1


02:50 Edmonton PPG – Alex Chiasson (16) ASST: Darnell Nurse (11), Connor McDavid (32) 1-2
13:00 Tampa Bay Nikita Kucherov (16) 2-2
14:32 Tampa Bay J.T. Miller (7) ASST: Erik Cernak (6), Alex Killorn (12) 3-2


04:17 Tampa Bay Tyler Johnson (15) ASST: Brayden Point (25), Nikita Kucherov (39) 4-2
06:17 Edmonton PPG – Leon Draisaitl (17) ASST: Connor McDavid (33), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (21) 4-3
15:03 Tampa Bay Steven Stamkos (20) ASST: Nikita Kucherov (40), Anton Stralman (9) 5-3
18:35 Tampa Bay EN – Tyler Johnson (16) ASST: Nikita Kucherov (41) 6-3


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Talk to me, Twitter. Tweet at @OilersNation and @jsbmbaggedmilk for your chance to land in the Best of the Tweets.


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To start off the Christmas Spectacular, Chris the Intern walked us through one of the weirdest dreams about Connor McDavid that I’ve ever heard. Why was it weird? Because even in Chris’ dreams, he was getting bullied out of spending time with the McMagic one by an unlikely source. Keeping up with Chris’ life of leisure, we broke down his appearance on the Kiss Cam from Tuesday’s game against the Blues and offered up some advice should he ever get on there again. Was it really the worst Kiss Cam attempt of all time? It could be. Don’t want to hear about Chris? No problem, the rest of the episode is about everything Edmonton Oilers.

Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 12/22/2018 – 11:00 pm MT

  • Datsyukian

    Koskinen was the Oilers’ best player in this game. Without him, things could have easily gone into double digits. But this was a “scheduled loss”, and I don’t think many of us expected the Oilers to win. I certainly didn’t.

    • Microwave

      Not sure you know what a schedule loss is. Losing to a good team is not a schedule loss. Oilers had four days off Tampa is in the midst of a long west coast roadie. Losing on a back to back , with three games in four nights is a schedule loss. Team has no depth, you could go with a ‘Peter loss’ that rings more true.

  • slats-west

    A few thoughts

    – Playing the #1 team in league with Bakersfield staring core in back end is not a recipe for success.
    – Some bad bounces on Pooparty put a damper in what was looking like a good game. I agree with Hitch there is not many that can play an entire game with McRockets.
    – Put Reider on the PK please!!! You need some quickness.
    – i thought the 4th line engaged some good chances and Zykov has some real ability and needs more ice time. 5 mins cmon Hitch
    – Drai and McDavid posts were mms from changing this game.

    But the D is the story. They just can’t handle NHL forward game in game out. Heh Brain Trust find someone who can play with McDavid ……please!!!

    • I’d like to see Chris Kreider on McDavid’s wing. He is big fast and plays with an edge. Not sure the cap math or what the Rangers would want in return, but to your point they need someone on the wing who can “keep up” (AKA someone with world class speed…). Otherwise we are looking at the continuation of the science project – JP is the latest man up. Have Nuge playing with McDavid then creates a depth issue – that is the elephant in the room.

      Merry Christmas to everyone!

  • Clayton

    Im surprised that Larsson and Nurse aren’t amongst the top goal scorers in the league. They should be expert goal scorers considering how often they are standing around watching the other team put the puck in the net. A solid -4 for each of them!

  • Bluetomorrow

    First loss under Hitchcock that was aided by his choices, line juggling in the 3rd was terrible. Why did Kassian deserved top 6 minutes in the 3rd? Not sure Hitch even knows. Want to switch it up for the 3rd sure.. but many better options then Kassian, Cagguila had great run on top line earlier this year, or revert to Drai-McD-Chiasson with Cagguila-Nuge-Pulju as 2nd line. Maybe just leave lines alone and just double shift McD and Drai with some of the 4th line wingers.

    Everyone knows the roster is thin but placing deadweight in top 6 hardly the way to try comeback in a game

  • Prairiechicken

    – Tampa is really good.
    – Demotion of Jesse was odd after one (very bad) turnover. So inconsistent with Hitch’s philosophy of pumping tires.
    – Best goaltender performance I can remember in a game where he gives up 5.
    – We must have the worst +- where the goaltender is off the ice. Takes the other team an average of 10 seconds to put one in our empty net; and when they pull their goalie we’re white knuckle with shot after shot on Talbot / Miko to the end. (not that our ability at 6v5 is costing us games … it’s just odd).

    • Prairiechicken

      I forgot one …

      – Strome >>>>> Spooner. I know he didn’t really put up points while in Edmonton … but I remember the interview just before Strome was traded where he was saying that while he was frustrated with a lack of points, he was proud that he had only been on the ice for one goal against.

      By eye, the Strome for Spooner trade might be as bad as Eberle for Strome.

      Best case scenario is Hitch and 97 somehow get this team into the playoffs (where anything can happen),, but Pete is replaced in the offseason.

      • Randomfan

        I have my doubts about the playoffs with this roster. Its better to burn the year and get another good pick in next draft to help us in next few years. Plus by then we will shed some dead weight. And sooner PC is gone the better.

  • Natejax97

    Dreams crushed…lottery here we come. I bet we get at least a second rounder for Chaisson at the deadline though so there always that.

    Best player in the world…and we can’t build a roster in 4 years to compliment him to at least be a playoff team. That s what really grinds my gears. Makes me sad to watch when I already know where this is headed. But I will remain a positive fan…go oilers go!!!!

    Happy Holidays oilersnation!!!! All the best to everyone!!!

    • tkfisher

      Addition. We were building through the draft with first overalls and top ten pics for nearly a decade before we drafted the best player on earth, and were still here struggling to have a supporting cast around Connor.

  • Ko-D

    Team is much improved after the coaching change. The players roles and expectations are clear and players are executing as a team. Great to watch!

    Now, are we confident this group can compete for a cup this season? If not there is really no point finishing mid-pack guarinteeing bringing nearly the same roster of impact players into next season. That is the recipe for mediocrity and the definition of insanity.

    Lose for Hughes is a guaranteed improvement to the team’s core after years of poor asset management. Unfortunately this team needs a couple more impact players on ELC’s.

  • Oilswellthatendswell

    3 game losing streak. Out of playoffs at Xmas break.Injured players whose positions we can’t fill. Feels like I’ve seen this before somewhere.

  • Anton CP

    Huh, quite a few are complaining about defense tonight…Granted, the Oilers D is mediocre at best but tonight is not (ok, Adam Larsson was caught puck-watching a few times) just bad defense though.

    The Oilers are having major issues with puck handling, some of those giveaways are so terrible that even Brodeur can only make so many saves during his prime. Essentially giving one of the best offensive team in NHL to take multiple breakaway chances to test the goalie…heck, with THAT kind of giveaways that even the Kings can score a few too.

    I’m wondering about one thing of the Oilers…why “keep the feet moving” is such a hard concept for the team to understand? The Oilers are so often skate without the puck but almost never skate with the puck (really, seems like only McDavid is skating with the puck). It is almost like the players on the team are so afraid of receiving the puck and so often that they are not even focus on net instead just trying to find McDavid.

    • slats-west

      I believe they are puck watching as they have to play 30 minutes against the likes of Stamkos, Point, Kucherov and a very active defence group because Gravel, Benning and Garrison can’t even handle their 4th line. That’s not on Nurse/Larsson that’s on Chia…..

      • Clayton

        Larsson 22 Minutes. Nurse 27 Minutes. The issue isn’t minutes, the issue is neither one is very good. Both are #3/4 D-Men and being forced to play #1/2 slots. The other problem is when Sekara and Klef are back the lack of #1/2 D-Men doesn’t change. They then have 4 #3/4 DMen.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Guys need to learn the difference between being near their man and actually covering their man. They just seem to stand and watch so often. It’s like we have a huge hockey IQ problem all the way down on this team. Our scouts need to read Drafting for Dummies. Nurse, Jesse, and Yak are obvious in this category.

    • Dark Knight Returns

      No, the shame is why we haven’t built a team as good as Tampa.
      We have the same rules, same salary cap, we have years of drafting on the top 10, we have the best player in the world for the entire generation. Why can Tampa, and 25-26 other teams put together a competitive team if they don’t have what we have.

      They need to purge front office or relocate the team.

      I will cheer for whichever team McDavid is on, they can’t trade him soon enough for him to go and win a cup somewhere.

  • Shaun Doe

    What drives me nuts is that our defense always seems to reverse the puck from the far side half boards over to a vacant wing. The puck is always intercepted by an unchecked defender and the whole forward unit is left scrambling to cover the shot. This usually results in an Eakinsesque overload and several quality chances against

  • Rama Lama

    I think that the Oilers will bounce back after the Xmas Holidays, provided we get some defenceman back. I will say that LD has to be on the first line with McDavid. It’s obvious that he cannot carry a line of his own and needs McDavid to feed him in order to be able to score.

    The bigger problem is all the new talent ( Spooner, Zykov, Reider) seems to have totally forgotten how to play the game………they all seem lost out there. Even Zach Kassian a fourth liner seem like an upgrade over these guys.

    No need worrring about defence, I will just watch the juniors and hope that Evan Bouchard is the real deal.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    The Oilers aren’t healthy on D or a very deep team to start with, so it’s kind of tough to evaluate this team vs. the best in the NHL… Good gawd TBL are a good team. I mean c’mon: 28-7-2 (+48 goal diff)??? They are an absolute nightmare this year.