Five games in a week is too much. Final Score: 7-3 Wild
If you read the GDB this morning, you’ll know that I was nervous about how much gas the Oilers would have left in the tank after what was undoubtedly a very busy week for the boys. As much as I know the Wild are a solid hockey club, I also know the boys can beat them when they’re playing at their best, but when you’re working on your fifth game in a week, I also think it’s reasonable to expect our side to be a tired bunch. Yet, even though I had almost decided in my mind that this was a scheduled loss because of the heavy schedule, I certainly didn’t expect that the Oilers would be down by four goals before the game was even 14 minutes old. As far as starts go, this one was so bad it was almost like showing up for a first date with a fresh turd in your pants seeing as the game was basically over before some fans even got to their seats. As much as I was happy to see the boys get one back before the buzzer, I don’t think there were many of us that were feeling too great about our chances to come back.
Even though there was still plenty of time left to play, the Oilers had a sizeable mountain to climb and if they were even going to make this thing interesting they would need some luck to go along with what needed to be a much better effort. I mean, when the hole you’re in requires a ladder to climb out then you know you’re facing a tall order, and the Oilers were going to need a major overhaul on their play if they were going to get anything done. To their credit, Edmonton had much more jump in the second period and it honestly looked like they were working their way into something positive until the Wild rained on the parade with their fifth and sixth goals of the night. It was one of those nights where the Oilers just didn’t have anything go their way even when they probably deserved a break, but that’s the way things go in the NHL when you’re making way too many mistakes and failing to execute on the small details.
Heading into the third period, all I was looking for was the Oilers to finish the game hard and maybe even win the period if we were lucky. Even though a win was likely out of the question barring some kind of miracle, what we could hope for was some effort down the stretch that showed us that this team refuses to quit regardless of what the scoreboard said. While I don’t think any of us expected the winning streak to go on forever, I do think Oilers fans are a group that appreciates hard work and if they were going to lose anyway then I wanted to see them go down swinging. And while I would by no means suggest they rolled over and died, it was clear that the boys were out of gas and running on fumes because they looked like they were skating through sand towards the end of regulation. At the end of the day, the Oilers are still 5-1 under Jay Woodcroft and this was a really tough game to win given the scheduling, so I’m choosing to take this as a learning experience that the boys can work on ahead of Wednesday’s matchup with the Lightning.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- @Evander Kane got the Oilers on the board (4-1) with a power play goal late in the first period after he parked in front of the net and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found him with a pass right near the crease.
- @Tyler Benson finally (FINALLY!) got his first NHL goal (6-2) after battling his way to the crease and finding a loose puck laying there just waiting for him to smash it home. Even though the game was well out of reach at that point, I was still pumped to see Benson get his first NHL goal in his hometown, an accomplishment he will remember for the rest of his life.
- @Zach Hyman continued his hot run (7-3) with a shorthanded goal late in the third period after he and McLeod broke into the zone on a 2-on-1 that they executed perfectly. Hyman now has goals in four straight games.
- The Oilers were able to get one power play goal on two chances with the man advantage, and that makes three games in a row where that’s happened.
- I’m going to keep shouting out Markus Niemalainen for the way he throws the body around and makes people their heads up in the neutral zone. We haven’t had a defencemen like this in a long while, especially one that takes cross-checking fines for tossing sticks up in people’s grills.
- If you’re a fan of the fancy stats, I am here to announce that the Oilers finished the night with a 58.21 CF% and a 58.03 xGF%.
- If you love a good Corski win then you’re probably excited about outshooting the Wild by a 33-22 margin.
- At least I can tell you that the Oilers won 64% of the faceoffs.
- Sign up for the new ON Newsletter! It’s a weekly thing I’m doing and I’ll have some giveaways, etc happening in there.
THE FACE PALMERS
- @Brandon Duhaime opened the scoring (1-0) after taking a pass between the hash marks and ripping a quick shot up and over Mike Smith on the glove-hand side. The Oilers were a bit sloppy in their own zone along the boards and instead of making a play to get the puck out, a small mistake turned into a big one and in the blink of an eye, they were down by a goal.
- Joel Eriksson Ek extended the lead to two goals (2-0) with a snipe to the glove side after he found some time in space in between the hash marks for yet another grade-A chance on net.
- @Kevin Fiala threw some salt in the wound (3-0) on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 that saw him dangle around an outstretched Nurse and rip a shot past Smith. Fiala added a second goal just over seven minutes later (4-0) with another sneaky wrister that not only put the Oilers into a deeper hole but chased Mike Smith from the net.
- @Connor Dewer put the Wild back up by four goals (5-1) when his shot pinballed through traffic before taking a lucky bounce off the post, then Koskinen, and then into the back of the net. Way she goes sometimes, ya know?
- Matthew Boldy tacked on Minnesota’s sixth goal of the game (6-1) after pulling off a nifty little backhanded toe drag around the Oilers defended in the high slot and ripping wrist through Koskinen down low.
- Mats Zuccarello converted the touchdown (7-2) early in the third period with a breakaway goal that saw him in all alone before zipping a wrister up and over Mikko Koskinen on the glove hand side.
- Turnovers sunk the ship.
- Another game, another goal allowed on the PK. (1/3)
- Mark this down as the third time the Oilers have allowed six or more goals at Rogers Place this season.
- You have to feel for @Mikko Koskinen who had to walk into this game in a miserable situation — no goalie wants to take over when you’re down four goals — but he wasn’t able to shut the door for his team either. To his credit, Kostco made some big saves at times but ultimately struggled to get the job done like the rest of his teammates. Koskinen finished the night with 12 saves and a .800 save%.
- This was not @Mike Smith’s night in any way, shape, or form. From the first goal to the last one, Smith struggled to make the saves we needed him to make to weather the early storm that we all knew was coming. That said, the team in front of him left him hung out to dry at every turn and it wasn’t exactly surprising to see him get the hook. Smith finished the night with three saves and a .429 save%.
- The team defence was not good at even though I know blaming the goalies will be the easy route some folks will take, I think everyone looked out of sync and a step behind.
Woodcroft using one of Tippett's banked timeouts. Smart! You can't take em with you!
— Romulus' Apotheosis (@RomulusNotNuma) February 21, 2022
— Wendo (@WendolynLamchop) February 21, 2022
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LISTEN TO BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER
On this week’s podcast, I looked at Jay Woodcroft’s effect on the team and how he could have been The Answer all along.