Photo credit:Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Oilers are having issues at both ends
3 months ago
Aside from not being able to keep the puck out of their own net and what amounts to a scoring slump by their two most dynamic offensive players, the Edmonton Oilers are in good shape going into tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.
Sarcasm aside, scoring four goals as the Oilers did against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, should be enough to win, but it wasn’t in a 6-4 loss. As has been the case too often this season, the goaltending and defensive play came up short. With Jack Campbell in the minors and struggling to find his game, Stuart Skinner made his fifth straight start and gave up five goals on 23 shots.
We know there’s no question the Oilers, sitting 5-10-1, need to improve in the paint and making that happen is at the top of the to-do list for GM Ken Holland. Playing the wheels off Skinner with Campbell still in the ditch isn’t the answer, so we’re hearing the Oilers are looking around at options. Who that might be runs the gamut with all the speculation that’s out there. As for tonight, it’ll be Calvin Pickard making his first NHL start since January 2022.
At the same time, it’s worth noting the Oilers scored those four goals against the Bolts with usual sure-bets Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl being held pointless. Blame two of the best players in the game for this awful start? No. That’s not the point.
What’s fair to say is McDavid, who has tallied 4-9-13 in the 14 games he’s played, has been a bit off. An injury that kept him out of two games early seems to have been the primary reason for that. Draisaitl, who has been more productive than the captain with 6-15-21, has been hit-and-miss more often than we’re used to seeing.
Jan 19, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) tries to carry the puck around Tampa Bay Lightning defensemen Ian Cole (28) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
McDavid, coming off a career-high 153-point season, is three screens deep NHL scoring at QuantHockey. Draisaitl isn’t in the top 15. As odd as that looks for two guys who’ve run neck-and-neck in the Art Ross Trophy race for the better part of a decade, I’d bet the farm they’ll get their games straightened out before the goaltending comes around. Same with a power play that’s been off after operating at historic highs in recent seasons.
Like many of you, my guess is McDavid won’t stay quiet, by his standards, much longer. Maybe he’ll get something going against the Panthers tonight or Carolina Wednesday. It’s coming. We know Draisaitl has another gear. I’m far less certain about what we can expect from the goaltending — as the personnel stands now.
The schedule is such that Skinner could’ve carried the mail on his own into December, but that’s not the optimal approach, so we get Pickard tonight. Longer term, Campbell could find his game, but you’ll likely turn blue if you’re holding your breath on that one. I won’t bet one thin dime on that right now, so Pickard it is.
“We do have a map, but that always changes,” coach Kris Knoblauch said Sunday about deploying his goaltenders. “And you know, we’ll announce tomorrow morning who the starting goalie is, but like I said, things can always change.
“Dustin Schwartz, myself and the coaching staff, we have a roadmap of how we see things playing out, but if a goalie plays really well or maybe he tweaks something, there are just so many variables that can change that. But it’s good to have a plan.”
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