Question the Edmonton Oilers leadership? Sure.
Their professionalism? Why not?
There were still 27 games left in the 2017-18 season when they dropped the puck Thursday night in Las Vegas, but the Oilers played like the season had ended a week ago.
No jump, zero finish, not a pinch of physicality and a 4-1 loss. They’ve now lost five games in a row. They can’t lose the remaining 26….
Here are some tepid takeaways from a game that saw a completely deflated Oilers club get mowed down by a Vegas team that is much faster, far more committed, and played like the result was important to them. Edmonton scored a goal and won a fight in garbage time, but the best part of this game from an Alberta angle had to be the couple from Sherwood Park who were engaged in the first intermission, and married by Elvis in the second one.
Team work. Who knew?
Big Georges Tells Truth
It’s pretty sad when a 41-year-old guy who left your club a dozen years ago was the only one to truly bring it Wednesday night.
In a second intermission interview with our Gene Principe, Georges Laraque took a run at the product he saw in blue and orange last night, talking about an Oilers team that needed “a heart transplant.”
“On paper the Oilers have a better team, but (Vegas) plays with more heart,” Laraque said. “There are a lot of guys on that team that need to make a hospital visit and get a heart transplant. There’s not enough heart out there. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Big Guys, Bad Plays
Individual defensive breakdowns. It doesn’t matter what the coaches preach, or how the system is supposed to work. If individual players don’t make individual plays on defence, pucks cross goal lines.
On Vegas’ first goal, Cam Talbot stopped Derek Engelland from a prime scoring position, but Milan Lucic had lost his man, Ryan Carpenter, coming out from behind the Oilers net. Carpenter easily deposited the rebound for a 1-0 lead — the 37th time in 57 games that the opponent has scored first against Edmonton.
In the second period it was Patrick Maroon’s turn to play derelict defence when he was skating right next to Jonathan Marchessault in the Oilers slot. Nate Schmidt fired a harmless, long wrist shot. It wouldn’t even have counted as a scoring chance — until the unattended Marchessault was able to tip the puck about five feet in front of Talbot.
The Oilers goalie didn’t have a prayer on either goal. We know Talbot hasn’t ben as good as he needs to be this year. But this movie — two goals on defensive breakdowns that left him chanceless and down 2-0 — is a movie we’ve watched since October.
They are an awful defensive team, these Oilers. It’s the key ingredient for any lottery team.
Talbot Did His Part
OK, enough credit for Talbot, who once again was the second best goalie on the ice Thursday in Vegas. Take the Golden Knights’ third goal as an example, a microcosm of the kind of goaltending Edmonton has received all season:
With Vegas on the powerplay, Marc-Andre Fleury made a heroic shorthanded save off of Mike Cammalleri, after a beautiful Zack Kassian saucer pass. It could have been a crucial goal and made the score 2-1, but Fleury denied the Oilers.
Then the play blazed down to the other end, and William Karlsson scored after a backhand drive, pulling the puck to his forehand and beating Talbot. It was a scoring chance of half the quality of the one Fleury had just stopped. The opponent got a big save, while Edmonton couldn’t get a routine one. That’s how you land where Edmonton sits today: Ranked 31st in the NHL with a pathetic save percentage of .893.