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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Edmonton Oilers have missed the gun

The issue of being billed as a Stanley Cup contender, because the Edmonton Oilers most definitely had been heading into this season, is that if that group proceeds to be going through the incorrect means when the gates open, it will get slightly extra focus, and generates slightly extra alarm than the primary two weeks of the season ought to.

That’s the place the Oilers discover themselves now, having gained solely considered one of their first 5 video games. And it’s been ugly losses which have the Oilers devoted just a bit extra ornery than they could already be. They misplaced opening night time to the Canucks (the Canucks!) by a landing and PAT. Three nights later they misplaced their house opener to that very same Vancouver group. And so they acquired their clocks cleaned by the Flyers, a group which may not even be on Step 1 of their rebuild (although clearly one thing is within the air within the South Philly stadium advanced).

Maybe what’s so irritating for the Oilers is that their opening stumble is for probably the most acquainted causes, i.e. neither of their goalies has useful limbs to this point this season. The preseason was stuffed with speak that Jack Campbell appeared nice and was poised for a bounce-back season — what he would precisely be bouncing again to is an actual query wanting over his profession — as soon as once more proving that the preseason in any sport doesn’t matter within the least. Campbell has a .902 save share. Stuart Skinner, who usurped the beginning job final 12 months earlier than laying a funny-smelling egg within the playoffs, has been even worse, with an .814 and -5.1 goals-saved-over-expected in simply two begins (!). Goalie questions in Edmonton are a winter custom, they’re simply getting in early apparently this season.

Making issues worse, Connor McDavid harm himself and goes to overlook every week, or two. When it first occurred on Saturday night time most of Northern Alberta stopped respiration, however they dodged the kill shot with him solely being out for a short while. He’ll miss the Heritage Basic outside recreation in opposition to the Flames on Saturday, which makes a short-term absence sting just a bit extra.

Oh, and did the Oilers want a rat leaping off a sinking ship? Whether or not you do or don’t Evander Kane is all the time proper there for ya! One wouldn’t suppose that being got rid of the highest six for one recreation would ruffle anybody’s feathers an excessive amount of, however you don’t know Evander, who’s by no means wanted a lot of an excuse to be a royal ache in everybody’s ass.

The Oilers additionally haven’t gotten a single objective in 5 video games from anybody beneath the highest six, one other constant downside up there however one considered solved. Maybe that was the pondering of shifting Kane down that he took oh so nicely.

However past all that, issues aren’t all that dangerous for the Oilers. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has taken to his return to enjoying heart on the second line, permitting Leon Draisaitl and McDavid to play collectively full-time, when wholesome. RNH’s line has been dominant possession-wise and chance-share-wise (66.7 anticipated objective share), although McDavid and Draisaitl had struggled in their very own zone (47 xGF share).

However most of all, the Oilers simply can’t purchase a bucket to this point. At even-strength, they’re capturing simply 6 p.c, twenty fifth within the league. Mix that with the Oilers’ lack of ability to get a save anyplace or at any time, and so they have the league’s fifth-worst PDO (capturing share plus save share at even energy). The Oilers penalty kill is ranked as one of many worst at 71 p.c to this point this season, however their xGA on the kill is eighth-best within the league. Once more, they’re simply not getting any stops. They need to get extra stops than they’re, although it’s an actual query if they’ll ever hope for the goaltending to be any higher than league common. Is that sufficient?

The Departed – Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps fuck your self.

The excellent news is that the defensive pairing of Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm has been wonderful whereas taking the dungeon shifts. Which has freed up Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci to be a extra offensive pairing, with which they’ve additionally flourished. It’s most likely the perfect prime 4 the Oilers have sported within the McDavid period. That ought to, in concept, take some strain off their goalies in the future quickly, assuming both of the goalies can emerge from the land of wind and ghosts.

As well as, whereas the underside six haven’t punctured twine but, they’ve been on the great facet of issues territorially. Not all of them are going to shoot actually 0 for for much longer.

There’s loads of hockey to play, however Oilers Nation will see the Knights’ 6-0-0 begin and surprise simply how rather more distance, even this early, they’ll cede to the defending champs (although the yearly Mark Stone-has-something-fall-off-him enters the calculus). Campbell and Skinner don’t have that a lot runway to determine it out earlier than the alarm bells actually begin ringing. Positive, it’s nonetheless early, however the wind and chilly come to Edmonton sooner than anyplace else within the league, each figuratively, and actually.

Observe Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @Felsgate.bsky.social

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