No silver linings with the Oilers 0-2 start
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
It wasn’t that long ago fans of the Edmonton Oilers were force-fed a steady diet of silver linings after losses, so coach Jay Woodcroft’s comments after a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday likely struck a chord with many of you, as they did with me.
“I think the big thing that I personally wanted to see out of our team was a response. I thought there were a lot of good things in our game,” Woodcroft said after his team followed up an 8-1 drubbing in Vancouver with a better performance, but no points. “We’re not in the moral victory business, I know that, but I saw a response. I saw us be way more competitive.”
Sure, a response is good, and Woodcroft got it in a game that fell into the category of deserving a better fate. Results, as always, are the bottom line. So, make a timely save. Kill a penalty. Win the game and get the points. Yes, it’s just two games into the season, but that’s not expecting too much from a team considered to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. It really is that straightforward, no?
Yet here we are with the Oilers preparing to jet to Nashville for a Tuesday game with the Predators looking to avoid losing three straight games for the first time since the 2015-16 season – when Connor McDavid was a rookie. Back then, the Oilers weren’t far removed from grasping for positives with the Decade of Darkness barely in the rear-view mirror. You remember that. Sure, you do.
GETTING IT STRAIGHT
Oct 14, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Jack Studnika (23) scores a goal during the second period against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The Oilers lost four straight games to open that season. To borrow from Captain Obvious, this team is not that team, but the Oilers jump the jet at 0-2-0 going into Music City and Philadelphia, and the areas of concern are many, starting with the crease on out.
Allowing a dozen goals in two games speaks for itself. Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell are both 0-1-0 and have identical .750 save percentages. The difference comes in goals-against average. Skinner is 5.33, while Campbell is 8.73.
Despite the numbers, Skinner and Campbell haven’t been awful, but they haven’t provided timely saves either. On the penalty kill, the Oilers have allowed four goals on nine attempts. At even strength, they have just one goal. To understate, tweaks the Oilers have made to their defensive scheme are ongoing. Woodcroft and his staff have a lot of straighten out.
“There were four moments in the game that we would’ve liked to have back, but at the same time, you’ve got to look at 60 minutes and the effort and it’s a long season,” said defenceman Mattias Ekholm, who showed the rust of missing training camp and pre-season with a strained hip flexor in his return Saturday.
“I think if we keep the shot clock that lopsided in most of our games this year, I think we’re going to end up on the winning side. We didn’t tonight, so we’ll learn from it and move on.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ekholm may be right. When you outshoot teams 40-16 as the Oilers did on Saturday, you’ll win a lot of games. Same thing if you get a timely save or two, tighten up the PK and get more done offensively at even strength. All this we know.
It’s likely that we’re going to hear more of the same kind of talk after the team skates today. It’s the action end of the deal we wait on.
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