The Edmonton Oilers lost to the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 at Canada Life Centre on Tuesday (Nov. 15), finishing their five-game road trip with two wins and three losses.
Oilers netminder Mikko Koskinen conceded a soft goal on Winnipeg’s first shot of the game, and the Jets never looked back, building a 4-0 lead after two periods. Leon Draisaitl stayed red hot, scoring both goals for Edmonton.
Including playoff and regular-season games, Edmonton has now lost five straight to the Jets, who swept the Oilers in the first round of the 2021 NHL postseason.
After winning nine of its first 10 games, Edmonton has slipped to 11-4, which is still good enough for second place in the Western Conference, with 22 points. But issues that popped up only once every few games and could be easily overlooked while the Oilers started so strongly have become nightly occurrences that can’t be ignored if they want to remain near the top of the standings.
Oilers Have Made a Bad Habit of Playing From Behind
Edmonton’s streak of allowing the first goal has now reached a ghastly six games. Going back further Oilers have fallen behind 1-0 in nine of the last 13 games.
Overall, Edmonton is 5-4 when trailing first, but has lost three of their last five in that scenario, as the odds have begun catching up with the Oilers. Over the last two seasons, NHL teams have won less than a third of the time when the opponent scores first.
While they’ve authored some impressive comebacks early in the season, the Oilers are starting to learn that games can just as quickly get away from them when they’re in chase mode: Tuesday’s game marked the third time in this six-game stretch that Edmonton has fallen behind by at least three goals in the second period.
On the flip side, the Oilers are 6-0 when they score first. Which only underscores how critical it is for Edmonton to reverse this trend immediately.
The Real Version of Koskinen Becomes Apparent
While Edmonton’s sluggish starts are a teamwide problem, it’s Koskinen who is most guilty. In his last six starts, he has allowed a goal within the first four shots he’s faced five times, including three times that he’s been beaten by the opponent’s first or second shot.
This is nothing new for the beleaguered netminder, who gave up a goal on the first shot of the game four times in 25 starts in 2020-21. There were hopes that Koskinen had become the goalie Edmonton needs when he had a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.18 and 9.38 save percentage (SV%) through his first seven appearances this season, but in his last four games, Koskinen has a 4.31 GAA and .866 SV%.
Having seen Koskinen for more than three years now, Oil Country should know better than to get too high or too low on the 31-year-old netminder. Since coming to Edmonton in 2018-19, Koskinen has shown he can string together a few very good games, only to have an absolute stinker the next time out. It’s happened time and again, and by this point, no one should be surprised.
Koskinen can be a good backup, but he’s not the everyday goaltender on a Stanley Cup-contending team. As the Oilers continue to wait for goalie Mike Smith to return from injury, which is still at least a week away, coach Dave Tippet’s other option between the pipes is 23-year-old Stuart Skinner, who entered the game in relief after two periods Tuesday, and has a 2.66 GAA and .913 SV% in three appearances (two starts) this season.
Draisaitl is Simply Sensational
On a brighter note, Draisaitl continues to score at a rate not seen on the Oilers in nearly four decades, going back to a time when a guy named The Great One called Edmonton home.
Draisaitl pumped in two quick power-play goals, just 1:16 apart, early in the third period to give the Oilers life on Tuesday and now has a league-leading 17 goals, five more than any other player in the NHL. He also leads the NHL with 33 points.
The German center’s 17 goals are the second-most by an Oiler through the team’s first 15 games of a season, trailing only Wayne Gretzky’s 19 goals at the start of 1983-84. Draisaitl is on pace for 93 goals in 82 games, which would be an NHL record, one better than the 92 Gretzky scored in 1981-82.
Not to be outdone, Connor McDavid assisted on both of Draisaitl’s goals Tuesday. McDavid has at least one point in all 15 games for the Oilers this season and leads the NHL with 19 assists while ranking second to Draisaitl with 29 points.
Edmonton will look to rebound against the Jets, when the teams meet again in the second half of their home-and-home games, Thursday at Rogers Place.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.