The Edmonton Oilers lost in Chicago last night, a game that saw little offensive flair, the defense exposed again, and a (wasted) solid effort by Cam Talbot. In a world where we are gifted with the power of logic and reason, I see no need to rip most of the defensemen who dressed for the game. They were playing too high on the depth chart and a good team like the Blackhawks is going to thrive in that kind of atmosphere.
"We were flat. We expected more and it was team wide… That's certainly a team you don't want to be flat against." Coach McLellan
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 18, 2015
ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2014: 4-5-1
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in November 2014: 2-9-3
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2
- Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
- Oilers in December 2015: 6-2-0
- Oilers after 33 in 2014-15: 7-21-5, 19 points (-47 GD)
- Oilers after 33 in 2015-16: 14-17-2, 30 points (-13 GD)
Oilers are 1-2-0 on this road trip, I suggested at the outset 1-2-1 would be my line in the sand and that is certainly manageable this week. Colorado is playing well now, Edmonton could be wearing their ass for a hat Saturday night if they have another flat.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
This graph is a little misleading, as the Nurse—Sekera pairing played massive minutes against both the Toews and Kane lines.
- Sekera faced Toews 9:13 at evens (mostly with Nurse) no other defender faced Toews more than 3:15.
- Sekera faced Kane 8:02 at evens (mostly with Nurse) no other defender faced Kane more than six minutes.
Not much left to say here, beyond the fact Peter Chiarelli must have identified Justin Schultz, Eric Gryba and Andrew Ference as men who aren’t long-term solutions. Based on usage, one suspects Todd McLellan agrees. I do think Niki Nikitin may actually get traded for something at the deadline, his speed is a negative but he does have passing ability and is playing better than I have seen him since his arrival in our city.
SCORING CHANCES AGAINST, LAST NIGHT
- Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse 6
- Brandon Davidson, Eric Gryba 8
- Nikita Nikitin, Justin Schultz 9
Say what you will, and I agree Darnell Nurse should be playing down the depth chart, but when you look at the TOI totals and then check the scoring chances against (War-on-Ice), there isn’t much doubt in my mind who needs to go. It is one thing to make mistakes or lose position, but the galling thing for me is the indifference displayed in those moments and the incredible lack of progress. If you have five year’s experience your employer can project you into the future. If you have one year’s experience five times, you are not part of the future. We are here.
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
It was a weird night for matchups, as it looks like Chicago presented only two lines. Fact is Edmonton had a sliding set of lines and the Kane trio saw Matt Hendricks (as center) often but I have listed him on the wing. Individual high-danger scoring chances according to WOI included Letestu (2), Hendricks (2), Lander (1). That matched what I saw, as the two drivers at center all year long didn’t look at all dangerous last night (Toews and his line owned).
I said last night in the comments section, and truly believe, that sometimes we are so busy beating the daylights out of our team for sins real and imagined, while forgetting to give the other man his due. For me, there was a lot of credit that should be accorded to the Chicagos. That said, Nuge and Leon need to be better, and Todd McLellan pulled the chute on both of them in terms of playing time—perhaps recognizing they would be best saved for another day.
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
By eye and number, Matt Hendricks and Lauri Korpikoski were the best wingers on the night. Hall hung out with Nuge for 4:22 but nothing rhymed. Again, I get back to Chicago, who had their best defensemen out against Edmonton’s best. Keith spent about 12 minutes against Eberle, Hjalmarsson-Seabrook spent 12 minutes against Hall. Individual high-danger scoring chances according to WOI included Lauri Korpikoski (2), Luke Gazdic (2), Jujhar Khaira. A quiet night overall, especially for the top two lines.
Folks, the Hawks are going to be a mittful of trouble even when all hands are on deck and the chimes ring in time. Edmonton is missing key parts, and they did not bring their entire game to the evening. Aside from a regrettable series of breakdowns that sewered Talbot’s save percentage on the night, I was not surprised or disappointed by the score.
“We didn’t get a good look at him, but we’re not complaining.” – Joel Quenneville on the Hawks not getting to see Connor McDavid this season
— Rob Tychkowski (@Sun_Tychkowski) December 17, 2015
NINE MEN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The lesson Chicago teaches us every year is this: The men who make a real difference matter, the rest of the roster need only play the game to evens. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, that is your foundation. The Hawks may well add to that list long term with a trio of fine adds who look fantastic (Anisimov, Panarin, Teravainen) but generally speaking if the Kane line doesn’t kill you the Toews line will.
The Oilers are working on their list of difference makers. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are the established veterans in Edmonton. The Oilers have a large number of candidates who have been added or are pushing up from the draft (Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Cam Talbot) and we should know more by season’s end.
That is pretty much the key in the modern NHL. Nine men who make a difference, fill in with capable veterans who won’t cost you through stupidity. My list would be McDavid, Hall, Leon, Nuge, Eberle, Klefbom, Sekera, Nurse, Talbot, your mileage may vary.
— Cam Talbot (@ctalbot33) December 16, 2015
My frustration comes in the inability to properly evaluate because of defensive indifference and general tomfoolery. Cam Talbot is trying to show the Oilers he is bona fide, and last night—late into the game—he was holding his team in at 2-0. I was genuinely disappointed in the Oilers effort in that part of the game, absolutely left their goalie out to dry.
I don’t think Edmonton will get a good enough read on Talbot before the deadline, and some team is probably going to get a good goaltender because of it. On a night when the goaltender was confident, effective and determined to make a difference, Edmonton’s defense were slow to get off the ice for a line change, effective only in aiding the enemy on a goal, and in some cases galling in the highest.
And as I said above, tough to blame (most of) a defense we know is ill-suited to the roles they are being asked to fill. In his two outings on this road trip, Cam Talbot is 1-1 with a .930 save percentage. If his Oilers had not been actively aiding the enemy in the third period, the record would still be 1-1 with a .953 save percentage. I do not believe the six men who played last night for the Oilers are better than Mark Fayne. No sir.
No doubt in my mind Cam Talbot cost this team early, he was not sharp and it impacted his playing time. He used the time between starts to build up his game, and maybe he is the answer. I hope the Oilers give him the best chance they can to show well. The wrong guy is in Bakersfield and one of the guys who played last night should be in the pressbox Saturday. Amazingly, it is not Nikita Nikitin.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Friday! A busy and fun show, 10 this morning TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Jeff Hauser, Radio Hauser. NFL weekend, can the Eagles win the division of suck?
- Antony Bent, FC Edmonton. Major week in the EPL.
- Travis Yost, TSN. Bizarre decisions from the Senators, Stamkos and his offensive falloff.
- Paul Almeida, SSE. Oilers in Chicago, what to expect in Denver.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide twitter. Talk soon!