Game Notes Oilers @ Predators: Don’t Be So Giving

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
9 months ago
In everyday life they say it is better to give than receive. I would agree. Helping others, giving them hope, love or a thoughtful gift is wonderful. But the saying doesn’t translate the same on an NHL ice surface.
We are six days from Christmas, but the Oilers have been far too giving recently and it has cost them games.
— The Oilers’ 4-3 loss to lowly Anaheim on Saturday afternoon encapsulated the Oilers’ season very well. Anaheim only had 17 shots on goal, but scored four times, and three of them were very completely avoidable. On the first Ducks’ goal, Darnell Nurse was too aggressive and left his side of the ice to skate right behind Cody Ceci. That left Sam Carrick wide open for an easy backdoor tap in.
On the third goal, Evan Bouchard had complete control at the offensive blueline, but tried a backhand saucer pass that was intercepted by Ryan Strome, who skated in all alone and scored on a breakaway. And on the game-winning goal, Bouchard turned the puck over with a no-look backhand pass. It gave Anaheim possession and nine seconds later John Klingberg scored from a shot along the boards. Bouchard was partially screening Stuart Skinner.
—  Edmonton controlled much of the game, but they made three big gaffes that led directly to goals. This has been a common theme all season, and until the Oilers’ players decide to stop gifting goals those types of losses will continue.
— I’ve seen suggestions Nurse is playing too much and that is why he is struggling. He has played nine games with 26+ minutes and he is averaging 23:58 in 31 games. Last season he played 25:03/game overall, but under Woodcroft he averaged 23:22/game and played nine games with 25:57+ minutes. Him playing 30 seconds more/game this year is not why he is suddenly making poor decisions. He simply isn’t playing as well as last year, but I don’t believe fatigue is the reason. In 2021 he played 25:38/game and had his best year. He just needs to calm his game down again. He didn’t need to overcommit on the Ducks’ first goal on Saturday, and he’s been directly involved on four goals against in the last five games where he didn’t make the right play. It’s been a bad stretch for him. He needs to reset, because earlier in the year he was playing fine. No one will make all the correct decisions. Hockey is a game of mistakes, and the speed of today’s NHL means there will be more. Nurse just needs to reduce the major ones like he did over the second half last year. He’s proven he’s capable do it.
— Nurse and Bouchard have been front and centre with bad defensive decisions, but the entire team has struggled in this area for much of the season. Edmonton will control the game for long stretches, but then make a turnover, or poor decision that leads directly to a goal against. Their errors are still more nines and tens rather than twos and threes on a scale of 1-10. I don’t see it as a structural issue, rather it is a need for better, and at times, smarter execution. Edmonton proved it could do it last season with Woodcroft, and the team needs to rediscover the same attention to detail.
— Jack Campbell gets the start tonight. His last start was solid. After allowing the first goal, which was deflected, he stopped 30 of the final 32 shots (.937Sv%). He is facing the same Nashville team tonight and he should have confidence facing them. He doesn’t need to be perfect. Offence is up around the NHL, so the Predators will score a few goals — he just needs to be steady.
— Jay Woodcroft switched his lines up v. Anaheim but is going with these tonight.
— Nashville doesn’t have the firepower to match the Oilers, and Holloway, Foegele, and Jesse Puljujarvi had solid games vs. Anaheim. These lines have a mix of skill, size, speed, and defensive responsibility. If someone in the top nine isn’t going early, I’d promote Klim Kostin and see how he does with more minutes.
— Draisaitl has 20 goals and 30 points in his last 10 games v. Nashville. He must have so much confidence vs. the Preds right now. He’s been ridiculously consistent in all 10 games. Here are his totals by game starting with the most recent:
Eight multi-goal games, nine multi-point games, and six 3+ point games.
— He has 49 shots in those 10 games for an average of 4.9 shots/game. In his other 303 games in that span, he’s at 3.08 shots/game. No doubt he is feeling it right now. Expect McDavid to keep feeding him the puck on the PP tonight.
— I see this as an important game for the Oilers. They want to stop their 0-1-1 slide quickly. I like their odds better against the Predators tonight than Wednesday in Dallas. It doesn’t mean they can’t beat the Stars, but win tonight and they stop a losing skid before it becomes an issue. This is a win that can keep things from overheating.
— What a great signing for Stuart Skinner and the Oilers. Skinner gets a life-changing $7.8m, while the Oilers get a good value AAV at $2.6m for three years. Who cares if it takes him to UFA? They have the rest of this season and three years to evaluate him and can start negotiating a year before he becomes a UFA. There is zero downside to this signing in my eyes.


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