Only 12 days ago the Oilers coughed up a hard fought 1-0 lead when Anaheim scored with their goalie pulled and 17 seconds left to play. Then they watched the Ducks steal the second point with an overtime goal. Bummer.
Fast forward to St. Louis on Wednesday night, where the Oilers owned more than their share of the play. But with a bad start and an anemic offence, there was Cam Talbot sitting on the bench with a minute to play, a 2-1 deficit and an extra attacker out there trying to find something, anything in the way of offence.
Suddenly, boom! An Oscar Klefbom one-timer evened the game, and the Oilers went onto win in a shootout.
That point they blew in Anaheim? It just came back in spades against the Blues, and with home games Friday and Sunday against key Western foes Minnesota and Calgary, the Oilers have positioned themselves to make something good happen after a brutal November.
Some takeaways from St. Louis, where a sudden win erases what were negatives just moments before.
So, Cam Talbot CAN win, even though there may have been doubts during a personal six-game losing streak.
This was just reward for Talbot, who had zero chance on St. Louis’ two first period goals, both coming on some shoddy D-zone work by his skaters. He had a .933 saves percentage, and simply shut the door after the Blues went ahead 2-0. He doesn’t do that, and there’s no chance for a late goal comeback or shootout win, right?
Here’s what we know about these Oilers: They’re not looking like a team that’s going to score much. OK. So goalies that let in no more than two per night will be imperative if this ship is going to sail into the playoffs.
Mikko Koskinen stole the No. 1 job from Talbot. Now he’s punching back, a good sign in these parts.
Oscar The Cinch
On a defence with basically one offensive threat, oh boy has Klefbom found the right time to heat up for the Oilers.
He has seven points in his past six games, scored the OT winner Nov. 27 vs. Dallas, and had the clutch tying goal on a solid one-timer with 56 ticks left on the clock in St. Louis. He played over 30 minutes (overtime included) Wednesday, and despite probably having too much asked from him by a team that lacks offence from its back end, Klefbom has turned into a guy who gives you everything he has every night of the schedule.
He saved the day Wednesday, sending the Oilers home from the road at .500, and right back on track in the West.
At first we thought, “OK, it’ll take some time.” Under Ken Hitchcock, the Edmonton Oilers would figure out how to keep the puck out of their net, and then the goals will come.
In eight games under Ken Hitchcock the Edmonton Oilers have now scored 16 goals (shootout goal not included). They’re 5-2-0-1, which is truly amazing considering they’re averaging two goals per game.
So, what’s the issue? What has become abundantly clear with Peter Chiarelli’s Oilers is, they don’t have enough scoring from their wingers. The burden of scoring falls to three centremen — Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl (playing the wing) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who scored Wednesday.
They need help, and getting Tobias Rieder back soon should aid a bit.
Discounting Draisaitl, a natural centre who is playing with McDavid, Alex Chiasson leads all Oilers wingers with 11 goals. Drake Caggiula has seven. After that, not a single Oilers winger, through 28 games this season, has more than two goals.
With three goals now, Klefbom has more goals than Milan Lucic, Zack Kassian and Jujhar Khaira (one each), and Jesse Puljujarvi, Ty Rattie, and centre Kyle Brodziak (two each).
Edmonton dominated in possession against the Blues, but need the 60th minute to score a second goal. Like Teemu Selanne used to say, the Ketchup bottle is surely plugged right now.
What Goes Around…
There’s a growing cry in the Edmonton market about the lack of calls that McDavid draws from NHL referees. There is some merit there, but it should also be acknowledged when the calls go the Oilers way — and on Wednesday they got a doozy.
Trailing 2-1 in the second period, Matt Benning nudged Vladimir Tarasenko as he cruised in front of the Oilers crease. Tarasenko banged into Talbot, who went down, just as Zach Sanford rifled a puck into the Edmonton net.
The goal was disallowed, and replays showed that Tarasenko was undoubtedly pushed into Talbot. It was a break that took a goal off the scoreboard.
They don’t come any luckier than that.