When you look at the Oilers’ schedule, this matinee game against the New York Rangers immediately stood out as the most winnable in October. The Rangers are actively rebuilding, their defense is awful, and although they have some talent, their top players are nothing to write home about. That team can only go as far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them.
I’m going to skim over the game here, and go into a bit of a rant. Although we won, and outplayed the Rangers, there are so many problems that I don’t think should be ignored. And please, don’t tell me I’m always too negative, I’ve been the optimist around here since I started doing this.
The Oilers got buried in their own end for the first few shifts. Cam Talbot came up with some necessary save — including the first shot — and the Oilers were mostly able to match the Rangers early.
Just over seven minutes into the game, the Rangers would get their goal. The Oilers played a bit of swarm hockey defense, Draisaitl lost his man and Milan Lucic stood by watching as Mika Zibanejad put home a one-timer, with the assist going to Marc Staal.
When that goal in, it had the feel of one of those games where that was all it was going to take. The whole sequence was a pathetic effort and reminded us all about everything that is wrong with this team. However, it turn out that that wasn’t the case as the Oilers would score their own two minutes later.
After hitting two posts in the game against Boston, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes it count burying a rebound. The assists would go to Darnell Nurse, and Connor McDavid. I don’t know if I need to specify that McDavid got a point, as he is the entire team, and will have a point on every goal the Oilers score. Another thing to notice, Drew Remenda was the Color guy in this game and had some very important commentary as the play developed.
The rest of the period was quite dull. A few shots by each team, but nothing serious.
The Oilers were the better team in the second, not by much but it’s something. They had an anemic powerplay where they would fail to score, but on the plus side, they managed to kill off two penalties.
The highlight of the period would be Connor McDavid saving a goal against while Kris Russel auditions for the slip-n-slide commercials.
After 40 minutes, the game was still tied, the Oilers looked slightly better than the competition, but scoring chances were few and far between.
Five minutes into the the third, Kailer Yamamoto would interfere with Vladislav Namestnikov but luckily for the Oilers, Namestnikov would be the one sitting for two minutes. They called it holding, and I’m cool with that. Maybe these are some makeup calls after all the stuff other teams get away with on McDavid.
The powerplay looked like a powerplay that consisted of all left-handed shooters, but at the end of it, Connor McDavid managed to take a bad Draisaitl pass, kick it to his stick and put it passed Lundqvist. It was very much a goal that only McDavid can score.
Yamamoto drew another penalty later in the period doing something similar and getting hauled down, but the Oilers didn’t score on that one.
The Oilers held on to get their much needed first win of the season. I really wish I could leave it at that, but I just can’t.
- Jesse Puljujarvi was the Oilers second best forward this game. He was consistently carrying the puck in, and even rang one off of Lundqvist’s head. Sounds good right? WRONG! He played only 11 minutes. I love Kailer Yamamoto, but Puljujarvi is the better player at the moment, and he’s getting the shaft. He has done everything he can to show that he should be getting more ice time, and better deployment. Instead he’s stuck with two really crappy players with whom he can not create anything. He’s faster than them both, better on either side of the puck, and quite frankly, just too good to be used like this. If this is the way it’s going to go, is trading him for pennies on the dollar yet again really a bad idea? They’re not getting anything more out of him than they would with a crappy player given this terrible usage. It begs the question: Which is more offensive — A good player getting shipped out for a lesser player, or a team ruining a good player’s earning potential and possibly his ceiling? I don’t want to see him go, but if this is the goddamn plan, what’s the point?
- Ty Rattie was briefly demoted to the fourth line in the first period. The McBlender came out and we had a top line of Nugent-Hopkins - McDavid - Draisaitl. One one hand, it’s nice to see that maybe people are starting to realize that this Rattie experiment won’t work. On the other, all the centers on one line? Is this the best idea McLellan could come up with?
- The puck dies on Milan Lucic’s stick. He can no longer skate, and carry the puck at the same time. His top speed is slow, and it takes him four steps to get there. He should hang his head high, he’s had a great career, and managed to get a huge contract, but his days of being a true NHL player are over. It’s hard to picture him scoring 30 points this year. Harder still to imagine him causing less than 30 against.
- I thought Leon Draisaitl would have left his laziness in the preseason where apathetic play is expected by the high-end veterans. Unfortunately, that is not the case. He was the laziest player on the ice, and although he was still skilled enough to win his possession battle, he was weak in his own end, and at best showed general disinterest.
- Each line in the top-6 has a detriment. Rattie and Lucic are no where near good enough and they’re preventing the team from getting the puck out of the zone. The defense could most certainly be better, but it makes little difference when only two players on each line can preform a breakout.
- Ryan Strome... He got worse over the summer. He was never worth a Jordan Eberle, btu he was at least an NHL player until this year. So far he’s been just as effective as Caggiula in holding Puljujarvi back.
- Cam Talbot played well, he even made a huge save in the third.
- I will never stop complaining about the line combinations we currently have. I’ve heard the argument that it doesn’t matter because it’s rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but in this case, one of those deck chairs is wedged up against the steering wheel, and the rest are blocking the life rafts. These line combos, the forecheck, and the break-out are exactly why there is so much garbage dump and chase zone-entries. There is enough talent to have at least two lines who can bring it in and create real chances, but it can’t happen like this.
- Connor McDavid is still Connor McDavid, he’s the whole team until proven otherwise.
- I hate to say it, but this team reminds me so much of the 48-point 2016-2017 Avalanche. A bad roster with an even worse system. They got an ugly win against a team they should be able to beat easily, the 48-pointers didn’t do that very often, but I’m not seeing a lot to suggest it’s going to happen too often.
- If you look at the possession stats, you’ll think the Oilers played a good game. It’s misleading. Just like last year, they get the most shot attempts, but the mistakes are so giant that even if there were only a few of them, they’re enough to keep this team from easy wins.
- We got out first win though, so that’s cool, right?