LOS ANGELES — It’s hockey’s most worn out cliché. The one about your best players needing to be your best players, if you’re going to (blah blah blah)…
The problem with that particular cliché? It is sooo true.
The National Hockey League’s leading scorer has, on the whole, been the Oilers’ best player through the first 24 games. Even better than Connor McDavid, though calibrating that particular measurement would take a sharp instrument indeed.
The bubble burst on this night for the big German however, as his 13-game points streak was snapped on a minus-three evening in L.A. We cannot disagree with his own assessment: "(It) starts with me and our line. It wasn’t good enough."
In fact, the Kings hung a big ol’ minus-three on the line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Zack Kassian in the opening 20 minutes, the third one being the goal on which Draisaitl was particularly derelict, lazily following Jeff Carter to the Oilers net as he made it 3-0 with less than four seconds left in the period.
"The first one comes off a line change," said McDavid, who scored the lone Oilers goal. "We need to do a better job in coverage with that. The second one (was) not very good, and the third one also (was) not very good.
"It was over pretty early."
Look — when a team that many picked to miss the post-season wins 14 of its first 23 games, they should be allowed a hiccup or two.
So, a loss at Los Angeles, where the last place Kings have now won five straight, should not be deserving of a public dressing down by the coach. Or a good, old fashioned carving by the hockey writers, right?
Everyone willing to grant the Oilers a stinker can take a step forward.
Dave Tippett… Why are you standing there?
"Can’t make excuses," the Oilers head coach said. "Got beat on the first goal on an easy outside play. On the second got beat because we were late getting back to our net. And on the third poor checking and a goal that should never go in.
"Take our medicine and learn from it."
Did the Oilers walk in here after a statement game in San Jose, see a last place Kings team, and concur that they could win simply by tossing their sticks and gloves over the boards? Maybe, but it’s a stretch to think that a good quarter-season would breed such confidence on a team that has missed the playoffs for the last two seasons.
Did they have an awful game? You bet they did.
Is it because they think they’re so elite they don’t have to dig in against a team like L.A.? If there is even a spark of that overconfidence it will be extinguished this morning, after a Kings team that is 12 points below Edmonton in the Pacific beat the Oilers for fun.
"They played well. We played really bad," said Draisaitl. "Especially our line."
Kings coach Todd McLellan game-planned to try and keep McDavid and Draisaitl off the score sheet. Scoring three on them in Period 1 was surely a bonus.
"It certainly makes you feel better," McLellan said. "Our group doesn’t play from ahead very often, and certainly not by three. So it makes you feel a little bit better.
"But when it comes to 29 and 97, I don’t think you can take your foot off the gas. We did a really good job of checking them for most of the night."
This loss does, however, put another log on a bit of a disturbing fire that has seen the Oilers burn eight points this season to teams that certainly weren’t beating anyone else very often:
• Edmonton lost in Chicago, which was the Blackhawks first win of the season. OK, Edmonton was 5-0, the Hawks were desperate. We get it.
• In a 3-0 loss at Minnesota against a team that was 2-6 coming in, the Wild dominated Edmonton.
• In a 3-1 loss at Detroit, the Oilers simply did not match the competitive level of a Red Wings team riding an eight-game losing streak.
The good news is, beating the bottom feeders is something that a little attention to detail can solve. Beating the top teams and winning on the road — where Edmonton is now 7-5-1— are the hallmarks of a good hockey team, which Edmonton has mostly been through its first 24 games.
Take a breath. It’s only one game.
Even Draisaitl and McDavid are going stink the joint out now and again.