Dave Tippett could have taken the two points and accentuated the positive after watching his Edmonton Oilers beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 at Rogers Place Wednesday. After all, the win improved the Oilers to 6-1-0 on the season. What’s not to like?
Plenty, to hear Tippett tell it. The Oilers allowed 52 shots against a Philadelphia team that was dead tired at the end of a ridiculously long road trip. They were thoroughly outplayed for the first 30 minutes of the game and were only in it because Mikko Koskinen was as sharp as we’ve ever seen him before Connor McDavid took over. Then, they got sloppy late after running up the score to 6-1. A masterpiece it was not.
While I wrote just last week that Oilers’ fans should celebrate what was then a 3-0-0 start to the season and not wait for the wheels to fall off despite more than a few less-than-perfect stretches in that span, Tippett has a different measure than you or I. He made that abundantly clear last night. The bar has been raised.
WHAT HE SAID
“Should’ve been the first, second, and third star,” a clearly unhappy Tippett said after watching Koskinen save his team’s bacon. “It wasn’t a 6-3 game or a 6-1 game. The score was that, but it wasn’t that kind of game. We’ve already talked about it as coaches — this is a really good teaching one just because you can’t play like that and expect to be a playoff team.”
And that – being a playoff team, not just a 6-1-0 team on a heater – is the bar Tippett and his coaching staff have set. While it’s fine for long-suffering fans to enjoy the moment with 12 of a possible 14 points in the bank, Tippett has to look beyond that. He has to stay on top of everything. Nagging and prodding and demanding more is what Tippett does, and the main reason he found a way to go into Dallas and Arizona and turn around struggling teams.
McDavid, who put up the third five-point game of his career and has 17 points in seven games, isn’t going to keep scoring at the rate he has been. Neither is Leon Draisaitl, who has 15 points. The power play and the penalty kill aren’t going to be as ridiculously good as they have been to this point. James Neal isn’t going to score at better than a goal-game pace as he has. All this we know.
So does Tippett, and that’s why he was fuming last night despite that 6-1-0 record. When McDavid, Draisaitl and Neal come back to earth and the special teams dip to good or very good from out of this world, what then? That’s where coach-speak like “structure and process” kicks in. That S&P blueprint has to be second nature. That’s what gets you by. The Oilers aren’t close to there yet.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Oilers have played from behind too often. They’ve leaned on McDavid, Draisaitl and Neal too much and they’ve been getting away with it because of special teams and the kind of goaltending I didn’t think they’d get – Koskinen is sitting at .927 through three games and Mike Smith is at .917 after four. Obviously, Tippett still needs to get more offence from his bottom six. A lot more.
All that said, the points are in the bank. They’ll come in handy down the road. So, by all means, enjoy the 6-1-0 start heading into Friday against the Detroit Red Wings. No need to throw a wet blanket on the results to this point. Tippett, you can rest assured, will take care of that. He’ll sweat the details. That’s his gig. As it should be.
WHILE I’M AT IT
— Oilersnation (@OilersnationHQ) October 17, 2019
- McDavid and Draisaitl played their lowest minutes of the season against Philadelphia. McDavid, who is averaging 22:30, played 18:28. Draisaitl, who is averaging 24:23 and leads all forwards in that category, played 19:51.