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The Day After: New Year, same Oilers

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Photo credit:Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
10 months ago
Edmonton hoped to turn a new page as the calendar flipped over.
Instead, they just offered up the same mediocre hockey that’s plagued the team for over a month. The team looks lethargic, uninterested, and poor coaching decisions aren’t helping.
All of that led to another loss for the Oilers, this time in a New Years Day matinee that saw the New York Islanders topple the Oilers 3-2 in overtime.
Edmonton didn’t look terrible in the first exchanging chances with the Islanders before ultimately giving up the first goal of the game, once again. It was scored by Anders Lee who banged in a loose puck on the powerplay.
The Oilers, however, surged heading into the second getting on the board 33 seconds into the period. The stronger showing was bookended by Darnell Nurse, who fired in a knuckler from the slot.
But after that goal at the 17:13 mark, Edmonton let up completely. In fact, they only fired four more shots on net through the rest of the game.
But if you ask the Oilers, they say they played a good game.
“I thought we were good again. In the third we dipped a little bit, but other than that in the second they had nothing,” said Leon Draisaitl after the game. “It’s frustrating, for sure, but you got to take the point and move on.”
I don’t know how anyone could watch that game and be happy with the team withering away a lead and virtually rolling over, but okay, I guess. Edmonton is lucky to walk out of these last two games with two points.
The Oilers have now fallen to 3-7-2 since the start of December. One win came on Dec. 1, the last time Tippett won a game behind the Oilers bench. Edmonton’s other two wins came against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Seattle Kraken.
Tippett’s game plan to break that slump? Play Devin Shore in the top-six and give him more 5×5 minutes than Zach Hyman, Jesse Puljujarvi and Ryan McLeod.
It’s head-scratching, at best, especially when you look at what they did on the ice. Shore blocked one shot and got absolutely caved in on the ice. Hyman got an assist on Nurse’s second-period tally, firing two shots on net blocking another. Puljujarvi took two shots, and laid a hit, while McLeod didn’t register any boxcars.
The underlying numbers paint a different picture.
Sure, point to the Oilers early-season success and be content with the 18-12-2 record they sit with right now. But that was a different team than it is now. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were scoring at near-200 point paces and the Oilers powerplay was operating at mind-boggling levels.
These three things are still happening, to a lesser extent, but the truth is the issues that were already present in the early parts of the season are now on full display. Slow starts. Lethargic play. Blown leads. Never mind the goaltending issues.
Edmonton needs to get things sorted out sooner rather than later. The team has gone from just being on a losing skid, to flat out plummeting in the standings.
The Oilers are lucky to be holding a wild card spot right now.

Backhanders…

  • Kailer Yamamoto’s been red hot. He helped create the Draisaitl goal in the second with some strong work in front of the Islanders net. He had a three-point performance against the Devils Friday and is now up to five points in his last four games.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins flew back to Edmonton yesterday after suffering a lower-body injury. Our own BaggedMilk reported earlier today it sounds like he is destined for a stint on the injured reserve.
  • If that’s the case, the Oilers should strongly consider giving Ryan McLeod some top-six time. He played one of his best NHL games against the Devils, and did a strong job controlling play with his minor time yesterday.
  • Lastly, Mike Smith missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury that Tippett is calling a day-to-day injury. We should know more in the coming days.

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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