The Oilers ended their longest road trip of the season with an embarrassing effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs, failing to climb out of the NHL basement. It has been the same old story that we’ve seen in the past from the Oilers, they were outworked by the Leafs and lost the majority of the battles along the boards. They did not get the puck into the high traffic areas often enough instead of opting to take shots from outside the slot. The Oilers are still too easy to play against and until that changes they will not move up the standings. This is apparent in their record in one goal games, in which they have gone 4 – 8 this year. The Oilers have been in the majority of their games, but until they can impose their will and out-battle other teams, it will be difficult for them to get those close wins.
Another problem the Oilers seem to have, that has been lingering around for years, is failing to show up against weaker teams. It was quite evident again on this road trip. The Oilers played a great game in Washington but got shutout by Braden Holtby. They lost a tight one in overtime to Detroit and played a good game in Pittsburgh, managing to hang on against the one man show that was Evgeni Malkin. However, against Carolina and Toronto the Oilers did not show up at all. Two teams closer to the bottom of the standings that the Oilers should stand a good chance again and the Oilers let them walk all over them. The Oilers need to be able to show up night in and night out against every team.
Some other thoughts from this past game:
- The Oilers lost a lot of key face-offs which set them back during offensive opportunities.
- The Hall/Draisaitl/Purcell line was the only one creating offensively . Until Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle turn it around 5v5 the Oilers will have trouble winning games.
- Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle had trouble establishing a cycle and failed getting to the puck to any dangerous areas to create scoring chances.
- Eberle seemed weak along the boards in the defensive zone.
- Fayne couldn’t make a tape to tape pass even with time in the defensive zone.
It is upon the players in the room to figure out a way to turn this season around. The coaches and GM can’t be blamed this time, Connor McDavid isn’t back until at least January still and I don’t think Chiarelli will be trading anyone while their value is this low. The season looks lost again already by December, but this may be the last year on the team for some current Oilers. I’m sure Chiarelli and McLennan are looking at which players will be able to play a significant role on the team going forward, and be able to play that heavy brand of hockey Chiarelli has been preaching all year. There may be a lot of changes coming to the Oilers by the trade deadline and in the off-season, which is a sad, yet recurring sentiment at this point in the season for this organization.