Just two games into their 2015-16 schedule and it appears as though the Edmonton Oilers have already taken to the teachings of their new head coach. For a second consecutive outing, Todd McLellan’s side managed to hold their own against another Central Division powerhouse.
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) October 11, 2015
Unfortunately for them, they once again came away empty-handed for their efforts. After dropping a hard-fought 3-1 decision to the St. Louis Blues in their season opener on Thursday night, Edmonton had no luck solving Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Goals from Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg proved to be more than enough, as they cruised to a 2-0 victory to remain undefeated on the year.
Netminder Cam Talbot followed up his stellar debut in St. Louis with another solid showing, blocking 24 of the 26 pucks fired his way. While the shot clock may have been in favour of the Oilers, 31-26, the former New York Rangers backup was called upon to make a number of crucial stops to keep his team in it. Despite having yet to register his first win in Orange and Blue, the 28-year old has been by far and away his team’s best player through two games.
McDavid Has Been Held In Check
Connor McDavid was held off the scoresheet for second straight game, as Edmonton’s offence continues to sputter out of the gate. While the box score may show Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as having scored against the Blues on Thursday, thanks again Alex Pietrangelo, the Oilers have yet to have one of their players actually shot a puck into the net. So much for that high-flying offence everyone was hoping for.
Despite playing the Blues and Predators to what was essentially a standstill on the shot clock, 57-55, both Brian Elliott and Rinne had fairly uneventful evenings. After being gifted a power play marker against St. Louis, the Oilers went 0-for-5 on Saturday night and it cost them the hockey game. In order for this team to have any shot of competing with the better teams in the league, they will have to be among the very best on the man advantage.
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Again, it may still be early but to this point the power play has been a rally killer. For the most part, Edmonton’s zone entries have been downright awful and outside of the kid wearing No. 97 on his back, no one seemed overly interested in winning any sort of puck battle. If you cannot enter the offensive zone and are unwilling to retrieve the puck, chances are your power play isn’t going to be overly effective.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
With that said, if not for a terrible giveaway at the Nashville blueline from Andrej Sekera in the dying seconds of period two and a complete brain cramp from Andrew Ference with seven minutes left to play, there is no reason to believe last night’s contest would not have gone into overtime. At this stage of the game, it has to be about small wins and the last two games have been exactly that.
Like every other team in the league, the Oilers make mistakes. To their credit, at least for the time being, they are no longer giving up one point-blank opportunity after another. There is no question part of that is due to the play of their netminder, but it seems to be more than that. While Talbot’s positioning and rebound control have had an immediate impact on this group’s ability to defend, they do seem much calmer in their own skin.
[Related Article: Opening Month Of Season Will Be Critical]
Make no mistake, they still do get caught puck watching and/or overcommitting in certain areas of the ice and but those tendencies are not going to go away overnight. It will take time, but it will come. However, what is rather perplexing is how inept this offence can look. With a talent like Connor McDavid now in place, this group should be stumbling into creating scoring chances and yet nothing. Hopefully, a quick pit stop in Dallas to face the unpredictable Stars is just what the doctor ordered.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.