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Wild win the goaltending battle and the Oilers lose consecutive games for the first time since December

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baggedmilk
4 months ago
The Minnesota Wild had given up 13 goals over their last two games heading into last night’s matchup against the Oilers, and I was hopeful that they’d be just as generous for a third straight time. Instead, the Wild got a performance for the ages from their goaltender despite the Oilers dominating the final forty minutes, and the result was a painful 4-2 loss at home.

MINNESOTA WINS THE GOALTENDING BATTLE

Calvin Pickard got the nod for Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild and was looking to extend his own personal winning streak to seven games. Seeing as Ken Holland is unlikely to trade for a goalie any time soon, we need to know what we’ve got in him. We need to know that he can step in and handle the job if called upon, and last night was a test where Pickard came up second.
Despite facing 18 shots, the Oilers’ goaltender allowed three goals, whereas Filip Gustavsson stood on his head and gave up only two on more than twice the amount of work. And it’s not like the 41 saves he made were all easy, either. In fact, the Oilers had plenty of opportunities from right at the goal mouth, and they just couldn’t beat the goalie. I mean, what else would you say when you have 43 shots and he finishes with a .953 save%?
Last night’s 4-2 loss was a classic case of their guy coming up with the saves, and our guy couldn’t match, which is frustrating because this was a winnable hockey game despite not starting off so hot. And with points being at a premium in the Pacific Division, passing up the opportunity to cash in a win in a game like that feels like a big miss. And yet, that’s what we love about sports.
As much as I want to be mad, you have to give plenty of props to Filip Gustavsson for stealing the win. Without him, we’d be heading into tomorrow’s BOA with a little bounce in our step, but now, we’re back to wondering what it’s going to take to get some pucks in the net. It’s been a weird year for the Oilers offence, you know?

THE OILERS HAVE TO STOP GIVING UP A PERIOD

The first period was one of the sloppiest 20-minute segments the Oilers have given us in a while, and it’s a damned shame that they can’t get themselves ready to play the way we expect right now. Even though neither the Oilers nor the Wild really generated many high-quality chances, it was the home side that got tagged for two goals after allowing Minnesota to walk into the zone with relative ease for a clean look on net.
Fortunately, the first goal got called back on a coach’s challenge, but it wouldn’t have taken much for the Oilers to be down by a pair before they even got their legs under them. The first period almost reminded me of a throwback to the Jacques Lemaire days when the Oilers could figure out how to solve the trap, and the only good thing that would come of those games was the nap you’d sneak in before it was over.
The point I’m trying to make is that the Oilers sleepwalked through most of the first period, and were lucky that there wasn’t more damage done than was came to be. For whatever reason, there seems to be an effort gap for 15-20 minutes every night and it’s giving the opposition an uneccesary head start. Who knows what the answer is for this problem, but Kris Knoblauch and co had better figure it out sooner than later or risk turning the games in hand they have in the standings into a wasted opportunity.

THE SPECIAL TEAMS SHINE

It hasn’t been very often lately when the Oilers have had both the power play and penalty kill come through with stellar performances, but we had both of them firing last night against the Wild. On both sides of the ice, the Oilers handled their business when up or down a man, and it was refreshing to see the boys get some success.
While I’m sure Kris Knoblauch isn’t thrilled that the Oilers took four penalties, you know he and Mark Stuart loved the way they killed them all off. What I noticed most was how aggressive the boys were near the blue line, often preventing the zone entry before it could even happen. They also did a better job of clearing pucks when they had the chance rather than gifting the Wild with additional zone time, and the results were the best we’ve seen in weeks.
On the power play, the Oilers only got two opportunities with the man advantage but they got the job done on both. Aside from we think of the missed calls that would have given them extra chances, it was fantastic to watch Edmonton snap the puck around with confidence and execute at a high level. On one goal, we got a patented Leon Draisaitl snipe from his office in the circle. For the other, Zach Hyman was parked in his office in front of the net, forever ready to clean up the garbage.
If the Oilers are going to solidify their playoff position and track down the teams they’re chasing, they’ll need more special teams performances like the one we got last night. If ever there was a silver lining to take away from a loss, a rejuvenated penalty kill combined with a lethal power play will be a lot for any team to handle if they can keep this going. Here’s hoping this was the first step.

OTHER GAME NOTES WORTH MENTIONING…

-Shout out to our man Dooks who was attending his first ever Oilers game last night. He flew in from Australia last week after being an Oilers fan for the last decade, and I was super pumped for him that he was finally able to get himself to Rogers Place.
-Connor McDavid hit the post three times last night. Three. It’s no question that he hasn’t been scoring goals at his usual rate, but this is getting ridiculous now. His sights are off by a quarter turn and it’s truly baffling how things aren’t going his way right now.
-We all knew how bad the Oilers have been in the second period over their last six games. Outscored 16-5 and a black hole of despair, the boys have looked so lost in the middle frame over the past two weeks, which made last night’s +1 performance all the more enjoyable. Not only did they get the lone goal in the middle third, but they also killed off every penalty they faced, and that’s a baby step worth celebrating after so many tragic second period moments.
-He never gets any love around these parts, so I’m going to offer a tip of the cap for Mattias Janmark who is arguably playing his best hockey as an Oiler right now. I know he doesn’t score much and that he’s probably going to get upgraded at some point sooner than later, but these last three games have been pretty damned solid. While he didn’t extend his goal streak to three, Janmark did finish with three shots on goal and one hit in only 9:53 of TOI.
-I love faceoffs and the Oilers won 67.9% of them. Silver linings, friends.

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