First, Show Up
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
11 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a good hockey team and that means the Edmonton Oilers can play well tonight at Rogers Place and still lose their sixth consecutive game.
What the Oilers can’t do is feel their way into another game as they have too often during a five-game losing streak. What they can’t do is give up the first goal as they’ve done in each and every game of this skid. The last time the Oilers led a game was Dec. 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguin on the way to a 5-2 win.
What the Oilers can do against the Maple Leafs, what they must do, when the anthem is over and the puck hits the freeze, is come out of the gate like they mean it. Play with some passion. Play with some purpose. That’s not the game plan from top to bottom. That’s the minimum. Play smart. Execute. Take care of the details. Above all, be ready to rumble when the bell rings.
Do that and, win or lose, there’s a respite from the predictable consternation we’ve been hearing during this stretch of ineptitude. You know, what about getting Anton Khudobin? Fire Dave Tippett. Trade fill-in-black for fill-in-blank. Stuff like that. At this point in the season with the Oilers at 16-10-0 despite this current free-fall, I think that’s goofy talk. Fire Tippett? No. Khudobin? No thanks.
That said, the frustration is understandable. The Oilers weren’t as good as they looked before this five-game losing streak. They are not as bad as they’ve looked during it. What matters tonight is how the Oilers came out – no matter who is in goal, no matter who isn’t in the line-up because of injury, no matter what the lines are. Show a spark. Show some life. That’s a start.
WHAT THEY SAY
Oct 22, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett looks on in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
The problems we know. The Oilers insist on playing from behind. There is no depth scoring, meaning too much of a load for @Connor McDavid and @Leon Draisaitl. Kailer Yamamoto isn’t even a threat to score lately. The lack of 5-on-5 scoring isn’t being mitigated by the power play now because it’s gone from being hotter than a $3 pistol to a more modest rate of late. Confidence, like execution, comes and goes. It’s been adios since that win against the Pens.
“The team that scores first, you get momentum in the game first,” Tippett said after today’s morning skate. “We’ve had some times where we feel like we’ve had momentum and not scored and all of a sudden it goes the other way. Like the other night, we feel like we’re starting all right and all of a sudden, we take a penalty and it against us. Now you’re chasing the game.
“Especially when you’re not scoring or things haven’t gone as well as you like, it puts an extra burden on your mind. You’ve got to get out there and get going. You get a lead, you play more confident. Your team plays more confident all the way through. It seems like all the lines become factors when you have a lead. When you’re chasing, you get erratic.”
Like I said earlier, I understand the growing frustration within the fanbase as the Oilers have peed away such a great start, but I can’t get on board with the people who want Tippett gone – at least not after just 26 games. From where I sit, that’s an off-season move for GM Ken Holland if the team misses the playoffs.
What changes that timetable for me is if we don’t see that passion and purpose I’m talking about, starting tonight. Has Tippett lost the room? I don’t think so, but I don’t know for sure because I’m not in the room. What I do know is action trumps talk every time. How this team responds tonight will be a big tell on a lot of levels.
“You’ve got to work through it,” Tippett said. “There’s no other way to do it, right? We can talk all we want about it, but guys have got to get out there and find a way to get the job done.”