The Edmonton Oilers lost 3-2 to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, on a late goal after coming back and tying the game in the third. For the second game in a row, they suffered a loss despite outshooting their opponent. They probably deserved a better fate; they ran into a goaltender who stood on his head and probably won the Bruins the game. Scoring seems to have dried up for the Oilers, with four goals in their last three games (“Edmonton Oilers summon up a better effort, but not a better result in 4-1 loss to Wild: Cult of Hockey Player Grades,” Edmonton Journal, 12/7/21).
It’s never easy to battle through adversity, but better early in the season than down the stretch or in the playoffs. It was the first time under head coach Dave Tippett that the Oilers have lost four in a row in regulation. Their game has looked a lot better in the past two games as opposed to the previous two losses and even some of the wins.
Edmonton again allowed the first goal and is now 0-8 when trailing after one period. They didn’t let one in early, though, which is a start, but they still had to scratch and claw their way back into the game. The Oilers are trending in the right direction, showing effort every shift, so the goals and wins should come, and once a few goals go in, the floodgates should open. Here are four takeaways from last night’s loss.
Oilers’ Aggressive Penalty Kill
The Oilers’ penalty-killers continued to be aggressive, not giving the Bruins any time or space. They created offensive chances, a carryover from their game against the Los Angeles Kings and more recently when they had to try and produce when they were down with aggressive penalty kills (from “Game Night: Edmonton Oilers hope to stop the bleeding,” Edmonton Sun, 12/9/21).
Bob Stauffer mentioned in his broadcast after the first period that the team should consider using Connor McDavid on the penalty kill in longer situations in case they can manage a 2-on-1 rush. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman do it a lot, but it might be more effective with the fastest player in the league. This seems like a great idea because Tippett doesn’t want McDavid on the bench for too long anyway.
Despite being shorthanded for a while in the first half of the opening period, the shots were even, and they didn’t allow a goal. The Oilers should take these small victories and build off of them. They got into the game before they trailed.
The Ups & Downs of the Oilers’ Power Play
The power play is still struggling and allowed the first shorthanded goal of the season against the Bruins. The power play was on a 1-for-18 run before scoring two on the man advantage later in the game. The Oilers should start asking themselves when Evan Bouchard will get a chance on the man advantage? He has produced this season despite not receiving any significant time on the power play. Until then, Darnell Nurse has been getting a shot on the top unit when things aren’t clicking.
Tyson Barrie recorded two power-play assists, but the real work was done by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. However, he also messed up on a pass that sprung Brad Marchand and cost the Oilers a shorthanded goal.
Another problem is the middle of the ice. It’s more crowded while the Oilers are on the power play now. The pass from McDavid to Draisaitl for the one-timer has been mostly taken away as of late. The power play had to show a little hockey IQ and get the penalty killers moving in order to capitalize and open lanes. That wasn’t done on earlier power plays, but the Oilers eventually broke through with two nice one-timer goals off Draisaitl’s stick.
Niemelainen Standing Out From the Other Young Defencemen
Markus Niemelainen is the only call-up on defense left in the lineup now that Nurse and Cody Ceci have returned. That is going to change, as Kris Russell didn’t return to action after suffering an injury. He played 7:26 before missing the rest of the game. However, Niemelainen has been playing so well that his ice time is set to increase again, and deservedly so.
Tippett has shown trust in the big defenceman, and he has played hard and physical every shift, which the Oilers need more of. Niemelainen deserves to stay in the lineup, and he saved a goal late in the third period that would’ve put the Bruins up by one before the Oilers allowed one soon after.
Foegele & Oilers 3rd Line Playing Well
It’s only a matter of time before the third line – Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod, and Zack Kassian – finds the back of the net. They were glued to the Bruins on every shit, battling and working the puck down low in the offensive zone, wearing them down.
Edmonton’s play-by-play team, Jack Michaels and Louie DeBrusk thought it may have been Foegele’s best game even though the points haven’t come yet. He is now on a 17-game goalless drought after he was expected to add depth scoring. You can see the frustration, but you can also see Foegele pushing through that and working hard.
Like most of the team, the third line did very well stopping the Bruins’ transition and forcing icings so that they were able to play their game in the offensive zone. The Oilers bounced back after each goal with a flurry of chances, but they couldn’t seem to break through until late in the second period. At no point in the game did they let up, and they were rewarded with a couple of goals for their efforts.
The refs were again a big player in the game, as a few blatant calls were missed; one leading to a Jake DeBrusk goal just mere seconds after it wasn’t called. But this time it wasn’t just missed calls. Hyman got away with a boarding call on Nick Foligno that ended in an Oilers power play. It would be nice if the refs weren’t a factor in great games like these, but we’re still waiting for something to be done to ensure consistency. Given the speed and skill of the Oilers’ stars, missed calls will continue to happen and be a regular conversation.
The Oilers are set to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday as they try to stop the losing streak before it gets too concerning. It will be no easy task against another one of the league’s best.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
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