The Post-Game Probe (G44)
Jan 13, 2016
You know, I think you have to make a choice when analyzing the Oilers:
- either do full justice to how bad they still are or
- look past many of their known deficiencies and recognize what the team needs to improve on.
Let’s be clear, last night was disappointing. The Arizona Coyotes are not nearly as bad a team as they should be; they’ve proven that by beating a lot of good clubs this year. Ultimately though, this was a game the Oilers should have won and I don’t really think there’s any other way to view it. The penalty kill got whooped (1/4 on the night and full of holes), the passes weren’t clicking, Hall wasn’t himself, and the Oil let a weak opposition goalie off the hook.
But you can tear down or you can build (I’m looking at you, Remenda).
In what I hope to make a theme around these parts, I choose to build.
- Justin Schultz had a good night, in all parts of his game. With a goal and an assist, he bumped his production up considerably. I think it’s reasonable to suggest he may still be able to hit his career pts/g scoring average this season (.41) and perhaps even quiet some of the vitriol cast his way.
- Jordan Eberle and his sublime stickhandling skills have made a return. That is the most confident I have seen him with the puck on his stick in quite some time. Is he finally 100% healthy? The game looks like it’s beginning to click for him and it’s nice to see his progress showing on the scoresheet (3 A).
- McLellan succeeded in jumpstarting Draisaitl. His move to the Eberle line resulted in some extra ice for Neon Leon and he made it count. The move also appeared to kickstart the powerplay which has been woefully sub-par of late; Draisaitl’s unit accounted for 2 goals on 3 powerplay opportunities.
What Needs to Improve
- Goaltending. Yes, the Oilers’ blueline makes it hard to assess the quality of the club’s netminding, but I would have liked to see a better game from Nilsson. Every goal scored came with a reasonable excuse but #1 goaltenders must be able to make saves through traffic and on the penalty kill. That’s the simple truth. You show me the Oilers on a winning streak, I show you a hot goalie. What the Oilers lack in this position is high level play delivered on a consistent basis; Talbot and Nilsson have high ceilings but they need to bring up the floor. We’ll see what Talbot brings against the Sharks on Thursday – he’s been good lately.
- Puck transition. This falls on both forwards and defencemen… but mostly on defencemen. Poor passing from the backend disabled the Oiler breakout and kept them on their heels for large portions of the night. Sustained pressure almost always leads to goals against or penalties taken. Sekera in particular struggled, while to my eye, Davidson and Schultz had decent-to-good nights.
- Tertiary offence. We hear a lot about secondary offence but really, the Oilers should feel very comfortable with their top two lines. The Oilers bottom six is dreadful right now. I give them a pass because they are being asked to do more than they can, but boy, it has been ugly some nights.