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The question has changed.
It’s gone from ‘Are The Oilers For Real?’ to ‘Which Team Is Edmonton Going To Be?’
Now there’s a danger here of this hockey team — 7-1 to start the season and getting people giddy — coming home from Minnesota to curse their fickle fans and critical media for “one bad game and …”
But you can’t blame Edmonton’s hockey-savvy fans that have experienced 12 of the last 13 seasons out of the playoffs for watching that 3-0 loss from the State of Hockey and not only holding their noses but thinking “we’ve watched this movie before.”
The Oilers have been shut out in their last two games — 152 minutes and 38 seconds in all.
Connor McDavid has been held pointless in three straight games for only the second time in his career — 201 minutes and 20 seconds in total.
Off the last two games, Edmonton appears back to ‘Stop Leon Draisaitl And Connor McDavid And You Beat The Oilers’ mode.
The renovations general manager Ken Holland made, allegedly upgrading the bottom six, may have improved the penalty-kill and lowered the goals against to this point, but the Oilers are last in the league in shots on goal and had the grand total of three scoring chances against the Minnesota Wild.
And where’s the secondary scoring?
Now-injured Joakim Nygard scored his one goal in the Oilers’ second game of the season.
Look at the rest of them.
Combined, Gaetan Haas, Marcus Granlund, Riley Sheahan, Josh Archibald, Patrick Russell and Joel Persson have a grand total of no goals. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Four of them don’t have any assists, either, as is also the case with 0-0-0 veteran Jujhar Khaira.
Oil Spills podcast: McDavid, Draisaitl can’t do it all for the Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers are flying high to start the 2019-20 NHL season, but even teams that touch the top of the standings can see their star players fall off a bit as seen in recent games.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl didn’t crowd the scoresheet in a win over Detroit and in a shutout shootout loss to the Jets, which once again underscores the need for the Oilers to conjure goals from their secondary lines.
Yes, this is a team that has played six of their last eight games on the road. And yes, until Tuesday, their compete level was excellent.
So give them a pass? Look the other way and pretend that game didn’t happen?
Maybe. But that last game featured the last-place team in the Central Division coming to the rink to play desperate hockey and the Oilers failing to compete at all.
Dave Tippett’s team was outplayed in every single facet of the game. And it wasn’t like goaltender Mike Smith let in a couple of soft ones early. He was their best player.
For fans who have watched the Oilers go on winning streaks here and there during the Decade of Darkness and then allow themselves to let down, suffer a couple of losses, lose all confidence and allow it turn into a couple of weeks of losing, the warning lights are now flashing for the first time this season.
If the team returns home where they remain undefeated at 4-0 and is determined to prove that they’re becoming a team of substance and choose to look at the next stretch of games as facing adversity for the first time with the intent of triumphing together, then all is well.
The Oilers return home to play Washington on Thursday and Florida on Sunday having completed their first 10-game segment, putting up a 7-2-1 record and depositing 15 points in the bank. Do that with the remaining 10-game segments, or even anything close to that, and the Oilers will not only be back in the playoffs but with home-ice advantage.
Last year, the Oilers were a major mess on the penalty-kill, 30th overall at 74.8 per cent. After the first 10 games this season, they’re tied for fourth at 88.2.
Edmonton finished 2018-19 ninth on the power play at 21.2 per cent. This year, they’re tied for first at 35.7 despite the recent goal drought.
Last season, the Oilers were 20th in goals per game at 2.79 and only five other teams were worse in goals against at 3.30. So far this year, they’re ninth at 3.0.
In 2018-19, Edmonton gave up 271 goals against or 3.70. Only six teams were worse. In the first 10 this year, they’ve averaged 2.40.
They were minus 42 in goals for-against. They came home from Minnesota at plus seven.
The Oilers finished ninth on the power play at 21.2 percent. This year they’re still tied for first at 35.7 despite the recent goal drought.
In the faceoff circle, the Oilers finished 25th in the league. They’re currently 20th.
If they keep those numbers up there, all will indeed be well. But they’re not going to stay up there with what you just watched.
So it’s a fair question.
‘Which Team Is Edmonton Going To Be?’
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