Off the Top of My Head:
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
The frustration was obvious watching Connor McDavid hustle toward the dressing room at the final buzzer, followed closely by Leon Draisaitl, hacking at anything he could hit with his stick, at Rogers Place Saturday afternoon. And with good reason.
The Edmonton Oilers had no business losing to the Anaheim Ducks, but lose they did, coming out on the wrong end of a 4-3 score thanks in large part to their own mistakes and Lukas Dostal, who made 46 saves in just his eighth NHL game to backstop the upset. I’d have bet this was a guaranteed win, but no.
Despite connecting for two power-play goals against the worst penalty killing in the league and outshooting the Ducks 23-2 in the third period alone, the Oilers couldn’t overcome more defensive blunders, notably by Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard, and figure out the unheralded Dostal often enough.
Factor in a tough afternoon for Stuart Skinner, who wasn’t the problem but allowed four goals on 17 shots, and the Oilers are on their way to Nashville and Dallas for games two points lighter than they should be.
“We weren’t sharp in the first two period and turned it on the third there, but had too many mistakes,” Draisaitl said in his post-game availability. “Too many individual mistakes from everyone. Defencemen, forwards too. We are maybe a little out of position after that. We’re chasing it. We’ve got to clean that up.
“It’s frustrating right now, obviously. We can’t hang our heads. We’ve got to park it, learn from it and we’ve got a big road trip coming up.”
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Apr 14, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) waits for a face off during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
When you make the money Nurse does, mistakes like the one he made in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis and yesterday against Anaheim get amplified. That’s understandable. It’s human nature. The $9.25 million Nurse is being paid per season is a big stack of lettuce.
That said, if you’re going to factor the money into everything Nurse does over the balance of his contract, you’re going to spend a lot of time frustrated and unhappy. Truth is, the mistakes Nurse made – specifically the play that led to the tying goal late — against the Blues aren’t acceptable whether you’re at the league minimum or the salary cap maximum. He owned that.
“We shouldn’t be in that position,” Nurse said when asked about the OT goal by Draisaitl that was negated by an offside call against McDavid. “I turned the puck over there . . . that’s unacceptable on my part.
“I let my teammates down tonight. We shouldn’t be in the position to be in OT like that. I play too many important minutes in situations like that to be making plays like that. That’s on me.”
Thursday wasn’t the first game we’ve seen Nurse struggle (his giveaway led to Anaheim’s 1-1 goal yesterday). The issue with Nurse is he plays too many minutes. That’s not his fault, but it’s his problem until GM Ken Holland brings in some help for coach Jay Woodcroft. Nurse, regardless of his salary, has to be better.
AND ANOTHER THING
Players on NHL teams aren’t treated the same. Based on their importance to the team and the currency they’ve built up with coaches and teammates over the years, core players like McDavid, Draisaitl and, yes, Nurse, get treated differently. They are cut more slack than players further down the marquee. If that’s a news flash, it shouldn’t be. If you don’t like it, too bad.
If you’re this guy: “Nurse should be riding pine for that mistake because if Bouchard did that, he’d be benched,” you’ll always be unhappy with how a coach like Woodcroft manages his line-up. Nurse has earned and gets more margin for error than Bouchard does at this point in his career and that’s as it should be.
Bouchard coughed up the puck at the blue line on the 3-1 goal by Dylan Strome against the Ducks. Woodcroft put him right back out there for his next shift. Later, it was Bouchard who gave the puck away and screened Skinner on the 4-3 goal. Tough day.
BY THE NUMBERS
With two assists, Draisaitl moved into sixth place in Oilers’ career points with 275-395-670. Draisaitl; is one point up on Paul Coffey, who sits at 669 points.