Battle level, goaltending, and zero support for Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Sometimes it’s one or two of those things that cost the Edmonton Oilers two points. On others, like Tuesday in San Jose, it’s the whole enchilada.
A .500 team capped a .500 road trip with a listless, not-so-competitive loss at the Shark Tank, falling a full 14 points behind third-place San Jose in the Pacific. It’s safe to say Edmonton will be, at best, a wild-card team, with the second wild-card spot still well within the Oilers’ reach.
How did they manage to lose a game like this in San Jose — the second straight game against the Oilers where San Jose has put up seven goals — just two days after shutting out the Anaheim Ducks? Well, let’s talk about that.
Win One, Lose One
It’s amazing how the same group of players can maintain this Jekyll and Hyde look, flying one night, then looking like they’d rather be anywhere but a hockey rink the next.
For us, it’s a sign of two things: One, the team goes how McDavid goes. Far too seldom does the third and fourth line dictate the pace, or score enough to give McDavid a night off the scoresheet and still win.
And secondly, goaltending. Cam Talbot didn’t have a chance behind this kind of effort, but he wasn’t good enough and was pulled. Just when it looked like he’d found his game, Talbot gave up four goals on 17 shots. In the end, he wasn’t the worst Oiler, but was nowhere near the best.
Edmonton is allowing too many goals, as the seven-tally Sharks outburst puts the Oilers into the bottom third in the NHL in goals allowed (138). They’re struggling down low, as the Sharks owned the dirty area in front of the Edmonton goal all night long Tuesday.
Newly-traded-for defenceman Alex Petrovic left the game with an injury in the second period, while the other D-man recently brought in, Brandon Manning, was not in the lineup for the second straight game. And it was a tough night for young Caleb Jones, who was minus-3 and had his first real rocky night in the NHL.
Four years into his tenure as GM, Peter Chiarelli has improved his blue line perhaps not one iota. It was a weak point when he arrived, and still isn’t deep enough to deal with an injury or two.
After scoring just two goals in the calendar year of 2018, and just two in 86 games overall, Milan Lucic buried a Nugent-Hopkins feed for his second of the season. He hadn’t scored since the Oilers’ season opener in Sweden, and the relief on Lucic’s face was obvious.
Oh boy, could this club use a guy like Lucic to get productive. There isn’t a support player in this lineup with more scoring pedigree, but it’s fair to ask if that was from a former lifetime. His goal on Tuesday was Lucic’s first even-strength goal since March 5, 2018, a span of 59 games.
The Good News
From here until the all-star break, the Oilers couldn’t ask for a better schedule to get back into the playoff picture in the West. Six of their seven remaining games before the break are at home, against some opponents that you had better be able to beat if you consider yourself a playoff team.
The Oilers get Florida, Arizona, Buffalo, Vancouver (only road game), Calgary, Carolina and Detroit. Not that Edmonton can look down its nose at anyone, but a bunch of those teams will miss the playoffs this year, and that should smell like opportunity to the Oilers.