After the game last night, Todd McLellan said “I think that’s an indication that we still have a long way to go as a team” and that is true but only half of it. As much as this team fell victim to self inflicted wounds last night, the bigger matter is this: The defense isn’t good enough.
BELL BOTTOM BLUES, 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: 7-6-1
- Oilers in January 2015: 5-7-1
- Oilers in January 2016: 2-1-0
- Oilers after 42 in 2014-15: 10-23-9, 29 points (-46 GD)
- Oilers after 42 in 2015-16: 17-22-3, 37 points (-21 GD)
The great baseball manager Casey Stengel used to say there are 50 games a season you are going to win no matter what, and 50 you will lose no matter what. Stuff happens, and you have to accept that they do. It is what you do in the other 50 that makes you a winner. Opportunity missed.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Nurse—Schultz had a good night by the possession totals, and I thought Schultz showed some really good things in the first two periods. When the Lightning turned it on in the third period, it wasn’t close. Nurse and Schultz should be playing far less than the 19 minutes shown above, but that is the state of affairs with Oscar Klefbom injured. Nurse continues to impress with his physical strength, while also showing that he is young and learning on the job.
- This is three games in a row that Schultz has shown some things, this time a goal. I wrote about showcasing him for trade here, and do believe we are seeing it now.
- Hunt—Gryba played the lesser and kept things as controlled as possible, McLellan giving them butter-soft parade. When a team sends a pairing like this over the boards, I imagine they are hoping for nothing bad to happen. The problem? Good teams use those 12 minutes to push and push hard. We didn’t see any of that tonight.
- Sekera—Davidson hung in there pretty damned well for a time, despite the dash two each picked up last night. A funky little wrinkle not mentioned in the graph above? This pairing not only faced Stamkos, but the very effective Hedman—Stralman pairing. Did pretty well too (11-8 against Hedman) but if you have this pairing and one including (say) Klefbom—veteran D? Likely a better result. I did think Sekera’s pinch on the second goal, and his soft coverage on the first goal (no one got out there, but could have) did impact the final result.
- I can’t really blame Cam Talbot. He looked calm in net and I do not think any of the GA were on him. Friendly fire isn’t something you train for, not at all. I also have a hard time pinning it on a defense that was, for 40 minutes, playing as well as they could by my eye. They played two terrific periods against a superior team, before things caved in the final 20. You can blame them for going into a shell, but that can also be filed under lessons learned and the other guy deciding to hell with this noise, we are going to do something. Shiza happens, as the kids say.
CENTER, LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl and his line pushed the river effectively, but the timing was off and the damned puck wouldn’t settle. The Hedman stop was diabolical.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up an assist on the power play, and played well against the Johnson (7-7) and Filppula (7-4) lines.
- Mark Letestu and his crew had a tough time with that blasted Callahan trio, and Jon Cooper changed things up a little too (Letestu was 3-6 against Stamkos, who was in and on an a few sorties with different lines).
- Anton Lander had a nice start to the game, but sent a horrible pass into the middle on a sortie. He didn’t see the ice after about the 45-minute mark of the game. I think McLellan should rely on his 4line more and if he doesn’t trust these guys, maybe find three forwards he does trust and play them.
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Pakarinein—Klinkhammer didn’t play much in the third either —in fact, when Klinkhammer came off the ice at 15:29 of the second period, that was all she wrote.
- Hall—Purcell owned possession and along with Leon drove the bus like Otto blotto, but couldn’t cash and of course No. 4 had the difficult own goal. I will credit him for hauling ass and will tell you that betting on a guy who scores an own goal like that —will all the hard work—is betting on the right guy. Teddy Purcell is playing like a man who wants a contract, I would give it to him. I am seeing him so good it is getting a little crazy. He had a breakaway but was getting caught, so he positioned himself so that, despite getting caught, he could hold off the check long enough to get off a good shot attempt. And he did! I don’t think there is a man on this team who knows his own game better, or gets more from it. If you watch that play again, no doubt in my mind Purcell was planning and then executing a deft play while on a breakaway.
- Pouliot—Eberle seem to be getting it all together, at least to my eye. Eberle was flying in the first, Pouliot scored, not bad. I don’t think they showed terribly in the third either, to be honest. Pouliot seems to be returning to the range of things he did in the past, small little plays and intelligent passing. That helps this line enormously.
- Korpikoski—Hendricks were part of the Letestu line, and they had a tough time—to be expected based on their role as the checking unit. Difficult to get things going, I don’t for a minute think they were responsible for the loss. They did their jobs, as veterans do.
Oilers rally to beat the Oilers
— McIan McKokomo (@iankokomo_01) January 9, 2016
I thought this was pretty funny, but the truth is I am not that upset about last night. Edmonton is 2-1-0 in January and should be able to go 6-6-1 (or so) for the month. They don’t play after January 23, so get your fill in the next two weeks.
OSCAR AND DARNELL
Oscar Klefbom is about the same age now as Kevin Lowe and Charlie Huddy were in 1981-82, when they were just starting out. For a guy like Lowe, consistency arrived in the seasons between 1979 and 1981. In his rookie season, Lowe was very close to being sent to the minors, but Glen Sather saw enough in him to have him stay:
- Sather: “If a guy is making the same mistakes over and over again, you’ve got to be concerned. But if he’s learning then you’ve got to be patient.”
Darnell Nurse is in that spot right now, Oscar Klefbom spent most of his 20-year-old season in the AHL. Nurse does things every night to impress, but is also clearly learning on the job and trying to figure out best spots to ramble. I think Edmonton has him in a better spot now, playing less difficult opponents, although the TOI seems way too much—although his confidence does not appear to be fading, credit the young man there.
Back when Nurse played alongside Sekera, I mentioned many times that getting Nurse easier minutes would be vital and we have seen it. I also mentioned that his replacement would probably see a downward trend and we are seeing both.
- Nurse before/after the shuffle: 43.79/44.76 (Source)
- Davidson before/after the shuffle: 53.03/51.47 (Source)
- Sekera before/after the shuffle: 46.07/45.49 (Source)
I give Davidson (and Sekera) credit, the erosion continues but they are working like buggers to keep this thing aloft until Klefbom returns. I have read here and there about solutions, but the bottom line here is that Klefbom needs to get back, and they still don’t have enough defense to weather storms in the NHL.
I also see many blaming Peter Chiarelli, but I would suggest Todd McLellan is also being a little stubborn here. Mark Fayne remains available, I would play him with Sekera.