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Oilers not close to good enough in 4-1 loss to the Flyers

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Photo credit:Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
Pick a word and it was lacking. The Oilers’ energy, passion, offence, intensity, passing, effort, emotion, defending and execution was not at an acceptable level in their 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. It was so bad their normally calm head coach, Jay Woodcroft, dropped an F-bomb in his post-game presser.
“Not to our standard, certainly, f*@king not good enough, excuse my language,” said Woodcroft.
He said it without raising his voice, which illustrates how frustrated he was. When you mom or dad dropped a swear word, while remaining calm, it was usually a tell-tale sign you severely disappointed them. That was Woodcroft after last night’s loss.
Connor McDavid felt the same about his team’s effort.
“Obviously not very good. Not what we are looking for,” said McDavid. “I think we have another level to get to, and we haven’t been there yet. Luckily for us it is only four games, but that being said it has been four games. It is time to put our best foot forward and start playing good games.”
The Oilers haven’t started 1-3, or worse, since October 2017, when they were 1-4. They won their season opener 3-0, before losing four in a row. They finished a disappointing 23rd in the NHL with a record of 36-40-6 in 2017-18. This edition of the Oilers is better, and I’d be stunned if their slow start led to them missing the playoffs, but they have been lackluster in two of their four games, and gave up way too much in Jack Campbell’s 42-save victory in Nashville.
The Oilers need to play better. In all facets. If your focus is on Campbell today, then you haven’t been paying attention to what has happened in front of the goalies thus far.
They are allowing the opposition far too many quality chances from the slot.
Game one: Slot shots 16-11 for Vancouver. At EV it was 10-7.
Game two: Slot shots 19-10 for Edmonton. At EV it was 10-8.
Game three: Slot shots 26-16 for Nashville. At EV it was 22-12.
Game four: Slot shots 22-9 for Philadelphia. At EV it was 17-8.
Last night the slot shots were 9-9 after 40 minutes, and then when the Oilers should have been the more desperate team in the third, the Flyers absolutely crushed them with slot shots 13-0 in their favour. In the last two games they’ve been outshot from the slot 39-20. Brutal.
That is beyond unacceptable for the Oilers. It is bad defensively, but to be that lethargic offensively is equally concerning.
Through four games the only Oilers players who have been on the ice for more goals for than against at 5×5 are Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Both are 4-3.
The bottom six forwards haven’t been on the ice for one goal for in four games.
Evander Kane (1-6), Brett Kulak (1-4), Evan Bouchard (2-6) and Connor McDavid (2-5) all have a GF% below 29%. McDavid’s xGF% is 44%.
Only four players have been on the ice for more shots for than against. Connor Brown (29-16), Ryan McLeod (21-16), Dylan Holloway (23-18) and Darnell Nurse (40-34). The first three are -3, -1 and -2 respectfully, while Nurse is even at 5×5.
It is lazy to suggest goaltending is the only issue. Far from it. Campbell would want the third goal back last night, but that is one play. He was fine the rest of the game, and the skaters in front of him were far more inconsistent and uninspired.
Edmonton needs to play better. Win more battles. Protect the house (slot) better defensively. Be better in the offensive zone and finish their chances. They have a measly six goals at 5×5 in four games. They were tied for fifth in the NHL last season with 192 (2.34/game). You won’t win many games averaging 1.5 goals/game at 5×5.
It is early, but the Oilers are already six points back of Colorado and eight behind Vegas. The Oilers do have a game in hand on the defending champs, but best-case scenario they are six points back after five games. Home ice advantage matters in the playoffs.
Vegas was 9-3 at home last season. In 2022 Colorado was 7-3 on route to winning the Cup.
Edmonton was 4-4 on the road in 2022 and 3-3 on the road in 2023. The were 0-2 in Colorado and 1-2 in Vegas.
It is a long season, but if the sluggish start continues, they could find themselves 10+ points behind quickly, and that is usually too deep of a hole to dig out of, if they want to secure home ice advantage after the first round.
The Oilers need to wake up. Goaltending, defence and offence all need to be better. Every line, every D pairing and both goalies.

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