EDMONTON — If the Edmonton Oilers are going to win enough games to be a playoff team, they’ll have to figure out how to win a game that Leon Draisaitl and/or Connor McDavid don’t win for them.
Right now, if No. 29 or No. 97 doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done.
"There are a lot of ways to win games, and there are a lot of times your top players have to do it for you," head coach Dave Tippett said after yet another loss on Thursday. "But it would be nice to win a game another way."
Draisaitl scored twice on McDavid feeds, and the Oilers got one more goal from the third line, Zack Kassian’s first of the season. But they didn’t get enough saves from goalie Mikko Koskinen, watched Ethan Bear and Josh Archibald take predictable penalties in the third period, and the penalty kill allowed two goals and a third as the gate opened for Kyle Turris to step out.
The result was a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a 3-6 start for a sputtering, stumbling Oilers team.
Are they really a .333 club to this point?
"I feel like at times we’ve played better than that," Tippett said, "but we’ve got that record because we’ve brought a lot of that trouble on ourselves."
Here are some takeaways from an entertaining game that was over-called by the officials, with a host of ticky-tack calls to both teams that ensured we wouldn’t have this one settled at five-on-five.
In the end this one was settled by an extra power-play goal for Toronto, and extra save by Fredrik Andersen, and an extra free goal from Mikko Koskinen.
It’s the story of Edmonton’s young season.
What did the Oilers captain think of his team’s effort on Thursday?
"I didn’t like our first two periods at all, especially our first," he said. "I thought our second period did an all right job of just settling the game down. We found a way to hang around and I thought the third period was pretty good minus a couple of penalties and some PK goals against.
"Lots of power plays both ways and kind of a weird game but I thought our game wasn’t where it needed to be at all."
Nine games into the season, and have there been any sightings of this hard-to-spot game?
"Well, we’re nine games in," McDavid said. "I think we’re done figuring it out here. We need to start putting together games."
Edmonton has six points — eight behind Toronto.
"I think there is definitely a belief that is growing within our group," said Toronto’s Jason Spezza. "We’re just finding a way," added Andersen, who is an incredible 14-1-1 career versus Edmonton.
Confidence in one dressing room, and a paucity of same in the other. They’ll play again on Saturday night.
Three Metres of Misery
We’re not sure what to say about Koskinen, who has hung in there playing every minute this season, but will always be a 1-B starter
Surely, he isn’t the reason for Edmonton’s record. He’s given the Oilers a chance to win most nights.
But then there are the freebies. One every second night — at least.
On Thursday, the Leafs got one of those free goals they didn’t have to work very hard for when Koskinen got caught behind his net, then inadvertently tucked his stick inside the post impeding his ability to seal off the far post. A puck snuck in and it was 1-0 Toronto.
"First goal I gave up, that’s on me," the big Finn said. "We need to be better and it starts with me."
It’s not crippling — there were still 50 minutes of hockey to be played. But for a struggling team, allowing the opponent an easy one every second night isn’t going to cut it for long.
You lose by one goal, chase a game all night, and at the end of the game, the Oilers had the second-best goalie on the ice. Again.
PK isn’t OK
In Edmonton it’s called a "penalty kill" because it’s killing the Oilers. A unit that was second best in the NHL last season sits 20th this season. Yikes!
The Leafs scored twice on the power play, and scored another at the exact second a Turris penalty expired.
It was basically three power-play goals and a Koskinen freebie, and the Leafs walk away with a 4-3 win.
"Yeah, we shoot ourselves in the foot," spat Tippett. "That one was a misplay by (Koskinen). The winning goal and the third goal are poor penalties. We get a bunch of power plays — you know they’re looking to give us a penalty. And we still want to slash and hook people. You’re tempting fate."
What’s not happening this season that happened last year, on a PK that literally won games for Edmonton last season?
"Penalty killing is (about) sacrificing, getting in lanes and getting saves," Tippett said. "On the last two goals our players didn’t want to get in a lane, and we didn’t get a save. We end up on the back end of it.
"I liked our try, but ultimately we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and costing us goals."