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The Day After 67.0: Edmonton Oilers show their belly in 7-4 loss to Toronto Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
19 days ago
Oilersnation went down to Toronto and saw the Oilers play, they were all like ‘ewhhhh’ and I’m like whatever!
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Far from an ideal night in the six. After coughing up the first goal of the game, the Oilers seemed to turn things around pretty quick. Mattias Ekholm walked in from the point blasting a shot home. Evander Kane scored on a wrap-around at the 11:24 mark of the first, then Connor McDavid extended the Oilers’ lead to 3-1 2:33 into the second but then… disaster.
Let’s talk about what happened, and a few other things…

Not on the kids

Ryan McLeod is the easy scapegoat from last night. A terrible, awful, good-for-nothin’ pass in front of the Oilers’ net landed right on Mitch Marner’s stick, and the resulting play will surely end as one of the nicest goals of the year. A great play in tight by the Leafs’ forward.
For as quickly as that puck was turned over, the game turned for the Oilers and quickly. It was an onslaught from that point on. William Nylander scored less than a minute later, then two more from John Tavares gave the Leafs a 5-3 lead by the end of the second.
I get the premise of targeting guys like McLeod or Vincent Desharnais. It’s the easy target after a game like that. But truth be told, it falls on far more than just them. How about Darnell Nurse losing the battle in the neutral zone on Tavares’ first goal? Or Auston Matthews getting to sit alone unabated in the slot on their 6th goal? Or how about the fact that as a whole, the Oilers just showed their belly after McLeod’s turnover?
The game falls on far more than just him, and the leadership group knows it. After the game, McLeod and Desharnais were requested by members of the media to speak. Instead, they got Evander Kane and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Two ways to look at it, of course. One being “the kids can speak for themselves,” and the second being “the leadership group knows it’s not all on them.” I lean more towards the second here, but understand the first.

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Mar 11, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers left wing Evander Kane (91) battles with Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Michael Bunting (58) during the third period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

More Ekholm-Bouchard, less Nurse-Ceci

This has been brewing for a while.
It’s pretty apparent at this point in time that Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci are just not top-pairing. We’ve got more than enough of a sample size, and over the last six games since Mattias Ekholm rolled into town, it’s clear who the Oilers’ top pairing is: Ekholm and Evan Bouchard.
Look at these numbers:
PlayerPlayer 2GPTOITOI/GPCF/60CA/60CF%GF/60GA/60GF%xGF/60xGA/60xGF%SCF/60SCA/60SCF%On-Ice SH%On-Ice SV%PDO
1Cody CeciDarnell Nurse686:0714:2144.5953.6545.393.484.1845.452.32.6746.2725.7829.2646.8413.1686.050.992
2Mattias EkholmEvan Bouchard683:5116:5367.6750.3957.325.761.44803.52.3160.2839.5928.7957.8917.0295.121.121
3Brett KulakVincent Desharnais652:078:4148.3554.1147.192.34.6133.333.132.4655.9429.9320.7259.098.787.880.966
Sample size notwithstanding, it’s pretty clear that the Oilers’ best pairing as of late is the Ekholm and Bouchard duo. While they’ve been buoyed by a PDO heater and by getting 46.15 percent of their zone starts in the offensive zone, vs. Nurse-Ceci’s 36.84 percent. That being said, they’re also better at transitioning the puck out of the defensive zone.
Take a look at last night, for example. Ekholm and Bouchard played 13:16 at 5×5. With them on the ice, the Oilers controlled 58.33 percent of the shot attempts, 57.8 percent of the expected goal share and 66.57 percent of the scoring chances. They also outscored the Leafs 1-0 and went toe-to-toe with Toronto’s top six all night.
Evan Bouchard on his own led all Oilers players in 5×5 ice-time playing 16:55. 61.76 percent shot attempt share. 57.69 percent expected goal share. 65 percent scoring chance share.
The Oilers’ numbers as a whole last night at 5×5? 47.37 percent shot attempts share. 44.82 percent expected goal share. 46.51 percent scoring chance share. Outscored 3-4.
It’s time to up the responsibilities for these two.

Soup time?

I think the Oilers go back to Campbell here on Tuesday. It wasn’t all on Stuart Skinner last night, but at the end of the day, some of it falls on the goalie when six are let through.
Tuesday could mark a great spot for him to get a start here, too. The Oilers took it to Boston last week, then put up an absolute stinker last night. They’re going to be pissed off and will want to play a strong game when they take on Ottawa and it could be exacerbated knowing Campbell, whose game has struggled, is in the net.
Let’s see how Woodcroft handles this one.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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