The Edmonton Oilers weren’t really expected to be a playoff team this season. But they were expected to work hard, and focus on improving on all of the inconsistencies that plagued them last year. But they’ve only won 4 games so far, and posses the worst goal differential the NHL, scoring 42 goals and allowing 66. They have 11 points, tied with the New York Islanders for the worst record in the league. They are in 29th in the standings only because they have a game in hand on New York. We knew the Oilers wouldn’t be good. But did anyone really think they would be this bad? They’ve allowed 5 or more goals against in a game 6 times so far this season, including allowing the Rangers to put an 8 spot on the board on Sunday, November 14th. Unlike in Toronto, where the expectations are soaring high the results are extremely low, the expectations in Edmonton have been a little more reasonable. There was no claims this was a playoff team, no promises for short-term success. This a re-build in every sense of the word. But right now the Oilers aren’t doing the little things right, and it’s costing them big on the scoresheet.
The Goaltending is Struggling
Nikolai Khabibulin was one of the only reasons the Oilers stayed in games early on in the season. His numbers weren’t great but he was making some big saves and giving his team a chance to win. But lately, he has been downright awful. He was pulled on November after allowing 4 goals on 8 shots against the Carolina Hurricanes, then allowed 6 goals two nights later against the Detroit Red Wings. He was in net for all 8 goals against the Rangers, making just 23 saves on 31 shots. His back-up Devan Dubnyk has only played in 3 games, but his numbers are better, with a .921 save percentage and 2.98 goals against average. Khabibulin’s stats are ranked 41st in a 30 team league, with a .879 save percentage and 3.97 goals against average. But he does have all 4 of the Oilers wins, two of which came against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Khabibulin has let in his share of bad goals this season, but a lot of the time, the defense in front of him gives very little chance to have success. Oilers coach Tom Renney shares that exact same sentiment: “Khabibulin is a world-class goaltender and his teammates have to remember that,” said Renney. “Maybe they’d give themselves a better chance if they would limit the scoring chances against, so a guy like that can have success.” (Montreal Gazette)
What about the Forwards?