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Monday Musings: Oilers need more focus after back-to-back losses in Ontario

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Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
24 days ago
Three goals in 72 seconds cost the Oilers the game in Ottawa. Edmonton dominated the majority of play, but the Senators scored three power play goals in a total of 72 seconds and the Oilers left the nation’s capital with their second loss in 24 hours. It is only the second time in their last 40 games the Oilers lost back-to-back games, so I doubt they are panicking, but two losses, in completely different fashions, is not how they wanted to start their brief three-game road trip.
They were outclassed in Toronto. The Maple Leafs were the hungrier and more physical team from the opening face off, and only a few third period power play goals made the game closer than it was. The Oilers rebounded with an excellent start in Ottawa. They controlled the game from the opening faceoff, scored first and eventually had a 3-1 lead, but their penalty kill was brutal.
The Senators needed only seven seconds to score on their first man advantage.
The Oilers killed off the Senators’ second man advantage.
Then Ottawa scored 58 seconds into their third power play.
And once again, needed only seven seconds to score the game winning goal on their fourth power play.
Three power plays, three shots and three goals against.
 
I will admit the penalty call on Desharnais that led to this goal was one of the softest calls I’ve seen in a long time. It caused the largest reaction we’ve seen all season from Kris Knoblauch, which was still very little, but him holding up two fingers and saying “the second time” — referring to two interference calls on Desharnais — was him at his most animated. Any type of reaction from Knoblauch shows you how weak the call was. He normally shows zero emotion.
Maybe Pickard could have stopped one of them, but it would have been a great save. I didn’t give him much chance on the first two, and the coverage on the third one was one of the oddest coverages I’ve seen.
It shows you how quickly a slight hesitation can kill you on the penalty kill. Nugent-Hopkins and Nurse didn’t pressure Batherson, and that allowed him to find a wide open Chychrun.
Yesterday was a case of the Oilers self-destructing more than the Senators controlling the game. The Oilers should have been ahead more than 3-1. They had many great chances, the best being back-to-back shots from Sam Carrick and Connor Brown, and neither could raise the puck over the outstretched pad of Joonas Korpisalo. Edmonton didn’t bury some of its best chances, and that allowed Ottawa to hang around, and then the PK gave up three great looks.
Even the only even strength goal the Senators scored was due to bad coverage by the Oilers. Cody Ceci led the rush up ice, took a shot, and then followed up for the rebound. One of Warren Foegele, Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needed to realize Ceci was the deep forward. None did and that allowed the Senators’ Tim Stützle to walk in untouched down the right side.
Edmonton controlled much of the game, but gave up far too many high danger chances. Ottawa had 15 shots on goal (not including the empty net goal), and over half were high dangers chances. Eight of their 15 shots were high danger — a great example of how quality over quantity matters.
Edmonton has been playing pretty sound defence for months, and allowing eight high-dangers chances in a game is actually quite good. The Oilers entered the game v. Ottawa ranked fourth best in HD chances allowed at 13.3 via Sportlogiq. The problem was that 53.3% of Ottawa’s shots were high danger. It was a good reminder at the importance of being sound defensively.
The last time the Oilers lost two in a row, they rebounded with five consecutive victories and allowed only seven goals. An NHL season is full of speed bumps and learning lessons. At some point the Oilers have to hope the lessons learned about playing sound defensive hockey become less frequent than we witnessed this past weekend.
The Oilers can’t fall back into playing loose defensive hockey. That was their downfall in the 2022 and 2023 playoffs v. Colorado and Vegas. Their main focus should be ensuring they enter the playoffs playing sound, defensive hockey.
If they don’t, they will likely depart the playoffs sooner than they’d like.

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