The Oilers had been playing better hockey of late, boasting a dominant record since the Olympic break and, perhaps more importantly, after trading for Ben Scrivens and giving their goaltending a much-needed upgrade. The acquisition of Viktor Fasth added even more depth to a goalie tandem that seemed poised to do great things for a team who struggled early on in the season.
But, in the midst of a season long six-game home stand, the wheels have again come off. Oilers’ fans who bravely travelled through pre-spring winter conditions were forced to sit through three straight disappointing losses.
The Oilers supporters are getting restless, and they have good reason to be. The team fell to the worst team in the NHL 3-1 when the Buffalo Sabres came to town. This poor performance was followed by a complete breakdown, as the Flames walloped the Oilers 8-1 on home ice, the largest goal differential for the Flames in the history of the Battle of Alberta.
This was the breaking point for the Edmonton faithful, as a total of three jerseys rained down from the stands in the third period. Scrivens used his stick to throw one jersey back into the crowd, and the ice crew collected the others. For those who remained past the mass exodus of the drawing of the 50/50 (for more than $60,000), they remained only to boo their under-performing team off the ice.
Poor games and disappointments are not without their lessons, and there were many for the Oilers in their most recent string of losses.
They Are Not Strong Enough Yet to Compete With the Top Teams in the League
There really is no shame in losing to the San Jose Sharks, who have played well all season. They, along with the Detroit Red Wings, have made the playoffs every year since 2005, highlighting their consistency. Their 5-2 victory over the Oilers was mainly driven by going three-for-three on their power play. Joe Pavelski scored two of those three power play goals, adding a third for good measure to complete the hat trick. It was the second time in as many games that Edmonton fans had to watch an opposing player score three goals against their home squad.
They Can’t Finish Off the Bottom Teams of the NHL Either
Perhaps more troubling than the loss to the Sharks are the two consecutive losses to non-playoff teams. In the game against the 30th place Sabres, which should have been a strong confidence boost for the Oilers, they lacked offensive punch. Instead of taking out the one team below them in the standings, they fell 3-1.
Although that game stung Oilers’ fans, nothing prepared them for the loss to the Calgary Flames. The Oilers scored first, then allowed their provincial rivals to claw back into the game, take the lead, and eventually destroy any chance of a comeback. Curtis Glencross scored a hat trick that night, inspiring Calgary fans who had come to cheer on their rival club. Edmonton fans booed voraciously at the announcement of the final minute of play in the game. They had, after all, come to see great hockey and were sadly disappointed.
Things Aren’t Going to Get Any Easier
The schedule for the rest of the Oilers’ season doesn’t look any better. The Anaheim Ducks come to town Friday, followed by the New York Rangers on Sunday. The Oilers will need to learn how to win these games against stronger teams if they ever want to be playing meaningful games in March and April.
I have gained experience writing for the sports section of The Gateway, the campus newspaper for the University of Alberta and blogging for puckrant.com. I am completing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with aspirations to try my hand at sports writing for a career.