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Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: the Oilers need to find their killer instinct

Welcome to the day after where we dive into what’s happening with the Oilers the day after a game. Here’s last night’s post-game article. 

If there’s one thing the Edmonton Oilers have lacked for the last decade, it’s their ability to finish games. For so long we’ve watched Oilers teams, good or bad, regular season or postseason, be unable to consistently finish games where they have a lead.

Last night was no different. Edmonton was up 3-2 heading into they third period as they weathered a fast-paced period with a Winnipeg surge in the final minute. In fact, the Oilers were expected to come out with 1.5 standings points at the end of that second frame, but Winnipeg surged and the Oilers couldn’t hold fast.

Kassian had a few grade A chances and James Neal whiffed on a wide-open net. One of those goes in and it’s a different game. (Edmonton doesn’t seem to be the kind of team to have many lucky bounces go their way, but that’s a story for another day.)

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In turn, the Oilers inability to extend their lead, or even play with it as the third frame started, lead to their downfall.

“I thought we did a good job most of the 40 minutes then in the third period we kind of let it get away,” said Connor McDavid. “We were able to battle back the other night, but not tonight. it’s kind of frustrating.

“I definitely like where we’ve been at. We’re in these games. If it’s not for a couple of second period misses in both nights, we’re up by a couple heading into the third period. There’s some tidying to do probably around the net, some bearing down probably to do as well and have that killer mindset to put a team out when they’re down.”

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I wrote the other day about how the Oilers are learning how to play different styles of games and last night was no different. The Oilers were able to turn it around in game one of two in the Winnipeg set, but that wasn’t the case in last night’s game. It’s another game the Oilers will be able to learn from.

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Edmonton had a good push to start the third, but it really was only a seven-odd minute stretch that followed that killed the Oilers. Three Jets goals in just over three minutes and that was the game.

“You can look at it in the sense we played some good hockey for long stretches of periods of time in that game,” said Darnell Nurse. “We put ourselves in a really good position there going into the third and you’ve got to find a way to either get the next one or get momentum going your way.

“The first one we kind of let it pile on more and more. There’s good things in our game to build off, but if we put ourselves in that position we have to find ways to close it out. A few of those goals comes down to battling. You can’t let them score from three, four feet outside of the net when your goalie is playing so well. you’ve got to work for him down there.”

Nonetheless, the Oilers close out their four-game road trip at .500 winning the first of two games against the Leafs, and the Jets. Edmonton now heads home for a two-game set against the Maple Leafs on Thursday and Saturday night.

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Backhanders…

  • Bit of a weird decision by the Oilers coaching staff towards the end of the game as Tippett put the third line out after the McDavid goal with the game on the line. It seemed like a good chance to take a timeout, but that didn’t happen. His comments on it below, but I think Tippett and the staff overthought things a little bit too hard. https://twitter.com/zjlaing/status/1354280316202930176
    https://twitter.com/zjlaing/status/1354280317079543811
  • Zach Kassian had a solid bounceback game and got a bit of a look on the top line in the third. He looked engaged and account for the most individual expected goals of any Oiler at 5×5. I still think he’s a better fit in the bottom-six right now.
  • Edmonton did a horrible job of defending down low. All of Winnipeg’s goals (empty-netter notwithstanding) came from within 12 feet of the Oilers net.  That’s a big problem and Edmonton needs to do a better job there to help bail out Mikko Koskinen.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]

 

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