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GDB 30.0 Wrap Up: The Oilers play their first game in 11 days and look like it

Ugh. Final score: 4-2 St. Louis Blues.

Right off puck drop, it felt like watching a brand new season.

After all, it was 11 days since the Edmonton Oilers played their last game — a dominant 5-3 win over the Seattle Kraken. But like many other teams in the league, Edmonton got hit with COVID-19.

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Ryan McLeod, Devin Shore, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Duncan Keith, all returned from protocols, but Jesse Puljujarvi, Darnell Nurse, William Lagesson and Zack Kassian didn’t. The first of the three, however, should return Friday. Good news.

The Oilers went to St. Louis hoping to start their road trip on a good note by building off their strong game against Seattle. Bad news.

Edmonton looked nothing like they did against Seattle, but a lot like they did amid a November slump. Slow, turnover-filled hockey plagued the team in what shaped up to be a good matchup with the Blues.

While Edmonton looked okay exchanging shots with St. Louis in the first few minutes, two big mistakes from rookie Dmitri Samorukov, playing in his first NHL game, cost Edmonton early.

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At the 4:03 mark, the Blues scored their first goal of the game. Samorukov’s defensive partner Evan Bouchard was unable to hold the puck in the offensive zone, turning an odd man rush the other way. Standing on his own blueline, Samorukov inexplicably pinched on the puck carrier allowing him to find Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas, the latter of whom would score.

Not long later, Samorukov got caught again. This time it was by Jordan Kyrou, who danced the rookie at the blueline before freezing Mike Smith firing a shot over his shoulder.

That was the end of his night, as the Oilers coaching staff decided to play only five defencemen the rest of the way.

While Leon Draisaitl would get one back at the 7:31 mark with a beautiful long snapper, Edmonton struggled to do much in the period as a whole. In fact, they generated virtually nothing in the final seven minutes of the period.

Things didn’t get much better in the second even with an early powerplay opportunity. Evan Bouchard was crunched from behind by Alexi Toropchenko at the 3:24 mark and Edmonton didn’t really do much at all.

Bouchard, however, scored his fifth 5×5 goal of the year tying the game up after a Connor McDavid shot rang off the post. It put Bouchard in the top-three for 5×5 goal scoring and in the top-four for 5×5 scoring, all amongst defencemen.

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As soon as Edmonton thought they were back in the game, Duncan Keith got caught pinching to the outside allowing Vladimir Tarasenko to receive a pass and have a clear lane and score. The goal, coming at the 15:46 mark of the second, took the wind right out of the Oilers’ sails as they generated virtually nothing over the next 15 minutes of play.

St. Louis scored less than 30 seconds into the third on a powerplay, and the game was all but over.

The Oilers looked awful despite having 11 days off and a game like this couldn’t come at a worse time. Sure, the Oilers are missing key pieces like Nurse and Puljujarvi, but the players the team did dress didn’t do nearly enough. It felt like the five-game road trip earlier in the year where they struggled mightily.

I get that Samorukov made some brutal mistakes, but I question the coaches decision to bench him for the remainder of the game. The mistakes were bad, yes. They cost the Oilers goals in key situations, yes. But the truth of the matter is he was literally playing his first NHL game. I don’t like the message it sends Samorukov’s way.

Edmonton should get some reinforcements back Friday, and they’re going to need it. An effort like the one they put in tonight was uninspiring, and that’s putting it nicely.

Backhanders…

  • Happy birthday to Derek Ryan! He celebrated his 35th today.
  • Dmirti Samorukov made his NHL debut tonight with the Oilers, and he had a special guest in the stands. Anastasia, his wife, flew into St. Louis to see her husband’s debut. It’s just a shame he only played two minutes of ice time.
  • Leon Draisaitl continues to rule. With his first period goal, Draisaitl scored his 24th of the season making him the first Oilers player to score 24 goals in the team’s first 30 games since Wayne Gretzky in 1987-88.

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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]