They still think they’re better than “teams like this.”
Entitlement is alive and well in Edmonton — even after the way they’ve performed this season.
“It was pretty clear,” began Milan Lucic, both the spokesman for and lead example of a team that simply didn’t put in a National Hockey League effort Tuesday night. “I don’t think we had enough respect for this [Buffalo] hockey team. That’s what happens when you aren’t ready to play the other team, no matter who they are or where they are in the standings.
“You can’t afford to lose games — no disrespect to them — against teams like this,” he continued. “Where you should have two points at least in the season series, and we come up with zero against them. It just goes to show why we are where we are.”
Somehow, as 2017-18 drags into the same irrelevant February that has afflicted most of the past dozen years in Edmonton, the Oilers can still show up at the rink and think, “We’ll just toss our gloves and sticks over the boards and beat these guys tonight. We’re the Edmonton Oilers. Everyone says we’re gonna win Cups one day.”
That’s what happened on Tuesday and Buffalo spanked them for it.
Of course, Edmonton could have played well and lost to Buffalo Tuesday. The Sabres were very good, a level that can only be attained when you play with heart and character — when you play for your coach — all of which are in serious question in Edmonton right now.
Buffalo worked, skated and played a determined game at even strength, then executed their power play against the Oilers’ penalty kill to the tune of three goals on four attempts. They might have had four, but Sabres head coach Phil Housley iced his third line on the final opportunity, showing pity on his poor counterpart, Todd McLellan, and his beleaguered staff.
“Horrendous. The penalty kill was horrendous,” said a downtrodden McLellan, who looked whipped after this scalding.
Here’s a stat: The Sabres scored on their first three power plays, in a combined time of 2:07. That’s three power-play goals in 127 seconds.
The Oilers’ penalty kill at home sits at 54 per cent. Basically, visiting teams score every second chance at Rogers Place, a crippling, embarrassing number that speaks poorly for the penalty killers, and perhaps worse for their coaches.
“It’s not on the coaches,” said winger Pat Maroon, including the power play in his statement. “It’s the players who strap the equipment on.”
Robin Lehner had as easy a road shutout as has ever been recorded, looking solid against an Oilers effort that would not have been sufficient had this been the family Christmas skate.
Edmonton’s 28th ranked power play struggled to enter the zone without going offside. Goalie Cam Talbot, under siege in the Oilers’ net, wilted and was pulled again. He has been pulled six times this season in 38 starts, as opposed to six in 73 starts last season.
Talbot has been yanked three times in his past seven starts. Like everyone else, the once stellar goalie is being second-guessed big time in Edmonton this winter.
His game isn’t as good as it was last season, to be sure, but it scarcely has a chance to be. Not behind a team as derelict defensively as this one, a team that rode a three-game winning streak into the Sabres game.
“Good, strong teams get on a roll, teams like Colorado and Calgary, and they don’t give it back,” McLellan said. “We’ve consistently done that this year. I don’t know if there’s a particular ingredient but that’s a common theme. Didn’t occur last year.”
Head-to-head, this game wasn’t close.
Ryan O’Reilly was a dominant force, with two goals. Leon Draisaitl, as has been the case on too many nights since he signed his rich new contract, was a passenger.
At $8.5 million per, Draisaitl can’t wait for the coach to put him up on McDavid’s line every night. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins injured, Draisaitl must drive his own line. Paid like a leader, he has to lead.
Calgary is in town Thursday.
At least the Oilers won’t look down their noses at the Flames.