This isn’t where the Edmonton Oilers expected to be at this point of the season.
After a commanding win against the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars earlier in the week, the Oilers hosted the limping Vancouver Canucks on the second leg of a back-to-back. It was a prime opportunity for Edmonton to roll into the NHL’s Christmas break with some momentum moving in their favour.
The Oilers pulled out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and things were going according to plan. But then everything fell apart.
J.T. Miller scored a weird goal to cut the lead in half and then he scored again right before the end of the second period to tie the game at 2-2. In the third, Canucks captain Bo Horvat completely took over. He scored the go-ahead goal, set up an insurance goal shortly after, and then iced the game with an empty netter.
The loss put the Oilers at 18-15-2 for the season, good for ninth place in the Western Conference standings…
After the game, Zach Hyman called the loss unacceptable…
“It’s unacceptable. We had a really good start and were up 2-0 and were the fresher team and then they scored five unanswered. You can’t win like that.We talked about how this is the way you need to play. It’s different when you have to go out there and execute it. You can say all the right things, tell [the media] all the right things, that we’re going to do this, we are going to do that. At the end of the day, you have the eye test.You can watch and see what happens and clearly we weren’t good enough. We were up 2-0 and then five unanswered. It can’t happen.”
Connor McDavid noted that the Oilers seem to solve the issues that hold them back from finding success and then they have new ones pop up…
“It’s a little bit like whack-a-mole. One problem pops up and you solve that, and then another one pops up. It’s just consistency throughout our whole game, five-on-five, penalty kill, power play, all of it needs to be consistent on a more nightly basis.Last year we got off to a racing start then fell off a cliff halfway through. This time around we have just kind of gone up and down. It has been a bit of a roller coaster. Two different ways to get to the same record.”
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
- It’s a little difficult to do a side-by-side look at where the Oilers are at right now compared to this time last year because the 2021-22 schedule in December and January got wonky with games being postponed due to COVID-19. Last year, Edmonton’s last game before Christmas was a 5-3 win over the Seattle Kraken that put them at 18-11-0. Their 35th game of the 2021-22 season didn’t come until the middle of January, and that was a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators that put them at 18-15-2, which is exactly where they stand after 35 games this season. Dave Tippett was fired in mid-February and the season completely turned around then. Surely the Oilers can’t fire their coach again and hope for the same bump.
- Another side-by-side comparison that might lead to more optimism is looking back at the 2016-17 season, in which the Oilers went into the Christmas break with an overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks that put them at 18-12-6. Taking away the loser point and looking solely at wins and losses, the 2022-23 team is at 18-17 and the 2016-17 team was at 18-19. The 2016-17 team got hot down the stretch and it didn’t take firing the coach to do so. Let’s hope this group can find their groove in the second half like that one did.
- Connor McDavid scored his 30th goal of the season in the first period against the Canucks. In doing so, he became the first player to reach 30 goals before Christmas since Alex Ovechkin did so in 2013-14 and he became the first Oiler to do so since 1986-87.