Well, it looks like it’s not going to be easy. No one said it was, but I’ve got to admit that after last Wednesday’s dominant opener against the Flames, the idea of the Oilers as a dominant Western Conference powerhouse was starting to look pretty good. And more importantly, it looked possible.
Snap back to reality (oh, there goes gravity). The Oilers are now 1-2, with both losses coming to Western Conference sad-sacks of 2016-17. What’s possibly more concerning than the losses themselves, is that neither loss particularly looked to be of the hard luck variety. The Oilers have looked average at best for multiple long stretches of play in the last 120 minutes. Especially the last 40 minutes tonight, at home, against the Jets.
The Oilers actually came out of the gates great tonight, looking like a team that desperately wanted to put Saturday’s performance in Vancouver behind them. However, hockey being hockey, they were rewarded for their great opening 20 with a 0-2 deficit, thanks to goals by Scheifele and Kulikov.
The second frame didn’t feature the same kind of jump by the Oilers, but it did feature goals by Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins, to tie the game. However, the Jets answered with a pair by Ehlers, who would later complete his natural hat trick late in the third period.
As good as the Oilers looked in the first period, despite the score, all of the edge was given back, and them some some given back in the closing 40, when the Jets were undeniably the better team.
When it was all said and done, the Jets held a 5-2 lead in goals, 43-39 edge in shots on goal, and a 3.2-3.06 edge in all-situations expected goals (2.36-1.95 at 5 on 5, per corsica.hockey).
The Silver Lining is that it’s still early in the season, and a team with the Oilers’ top-end skill won’t be held to 2 goals on 39 shots every night.
The bad news is that, outside of the Oilers’ big three at Centre (McDavid, Nuge, and Draisaitl, who did move to the middle for the third), we’re seeing a lot passengers on the wing. Six non-open net goals through three games is not what many expected for a team that felt it had enough juice up front to unload legitimate top-line wingers in each of the last two offseasons.
McDavid was electric again, despite just the one assist, but a player of his caliber can’t really be considered for a game puck in a single point night, he’s held to a higher standard. I’m giving my imaginary game puck to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was solid all night, and also scored a beauty of a goal for the team’s best highlight of the game.