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Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Did Dave Tippett outcoach himself against the Habs?

Edmonton was handed a brutal 4-0 scheduled loss to the hands of an over-rested Montreal Canadiens team that hadn’t played a game in 10 days last night.

But it really didn’t have to be that way. While the Habs opened up the scoring a mere 18 seconds into the first frame — despite a challenge from the Oilers bench who thought they were offside — the Oilers appeared exhausted from the get-go.

“We didn’t start very well, we didn’t play very well, we didn’t end very well,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “That’s about it.

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“We didn’t have it, but it’s a good reset for us. There’s some things in our game that have kind of been under current. This trip was, you look at it, we have three games in 10 days or whatever the hell it was.”

Those Oilers sure did look gassed Tuesday, and rightly so, given the club had played three intense games in the last four days. With the team playing in the second half of a back-to-back last night, Oilers head coach Dave Tippett didn’t change his lineup beyond the goaltender between the 4-3 OT win against Toronto Monday, and last night’s loss.

The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and while yes, the Oilers walked out with two points an hour flight west Monday, they didn’t play a very crisp game front to back. That sloppy play continued last night and Edmonton let Montreal have its way in nearly every facet of the game.

While the 18 Oilers on the ice Tuesday looked gassed, there’s a few players who may have been able to bring it. Tippett and his staff have been reluctant to play young defencemen Caleb Jones and Evan Bouchard, who haven’t played since March 18th and March 1st, respectively, and last night would’ve been a great time to get them back into the lineup.

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Both players surely have had their warts this year in the games they’ve played, but they also add an element that Edmonton could’ve used against Montreal — strong skating and good puck movement on the back end. Edmonton struggled to move the puck and thus, create any resemblance of offence.

Analytically, Jones is one of the best Oilers defenceman. He suppresses shot attempts at the second best rate and suppresses expected goals at the best rate of any of any rearguard, and Bouchard holds his own very well in comparison to his teammates, all the while generating the most shots per hour of any defenceman at 5×5 that has played over 150 minutes. In fact, Bouchard fires 4.29 more shots per hour than his next closest competitor, Dougie Hamilton.

Meanwhile, William Lagesson, who is also one of the best Oilers defenceman at suppressing shot attempts and expected goals, has found a steady spot in the lineup in the month of March, and is allowed to make the same mistakes Jones or Bouchard have. It’s an apparent double standard that I can’t wrap my head around.

Tippett, too, could’ve brought in some fresh legs in the forward corps. Any or multiple of of Dominik Kahun, Alex Chiasson, Joakim Nygard, James Neal or Patrick Russell could’ve drawn in last night to try and give Edmonton some more valuable minutes.

The Oilers only mustered an embarrassing 16 shots on Carey Price, who has his worst career numbers against Edmonton, and surely fresh legs could’ve generated more.

All in all, the Oilers appeared ready to chalk it up to a chance to reset.

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“There’s some good, some bad. There’s somethings that have been boiling underneath for a while here we have to get a handle on,” said Tippett. “This will give us a good time to reset here.

“We were supposed to have a couple days off heading home, but now we’ll have one day off but we’ll still get some work done. [We’ve] got two at home then you’re back on the road Sunday.”

Edmonton has a scheduled off-day today, and will get back to work soon after with a Thursday practice before Calgary and Vancouver visit the Oilers Friday and Saturday.

Backhanders…

  • Hard to pin too much on Mikko Koskinen when he got no run support from those in front of him. Despite that, part of me wonders if we see Alex Stalock get a start Saturday against Vancouver. He’s been with the team for a few weeks now and I’d imagine he’ll get a look between the pipes at some point. Edmonton has him under contract through next season at only $785,000, so I’d imagine they’d like to see what they have in him.
  • On Connor McDavid’s high hit on Jesperi Kotkaniemi: I think his two minute minor will suffice as fair punishment for what he did. It was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit that McDavid followed through on. No further disciplining should be dolled out in my eyes.

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]