EDMONTON — They haven’t won back-to-back games yet this season, which tells us that the Edmonton Oilers simply haven’t found their game yet in 2021.
Get a lead? No problem. Hold on to it? Problem.
Two games at Winnipeg. Two third-period leads. Two points to show for it — and it took a wild comeback to pull that off.
“You put yourself in a good position and you can’t waste those,” admitted Darnell Nurse.
Getting those road leads is worth something, isn’t it? Is the glass half full, or half empty, Connor McDavid?
“Not sure what it was,” McDavid said, when asked what the issue is with holding leads. “Same type of story as the other night. I thought we did a good job most of the 40 minutes and then in the third period we kind of just let it get away. We were able to battle back the other night, but not tonight. It’s frustrating.”
Three Jets goals in 3:27 turned a 3-2 Oilers lead into a 5-3 deficit. This, after a few chances — by Zack Kassian in particular — had been wasted that would have extended the Edmonton lead to two goals.
Seven games into his season, Kassian doesn’t have a goal yet. We applaud the plethora of scoring chances he is creating — that’s more than some guys can say. But Kassian is missing the net on too many Grade A chances. He’s a vet who has to figure out how to bear down and help his team get through a tough stretch.
Here are a few more observations on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Winnipeg:
Minus Too Many
Here’s the deal on Oilers defenceman Tyson Barrie: He’s dangerous at both ends of the ice.
The problem is, so far this season he’s only been dangerous in one end — the defensive zone — and isn’t scaring anyone with his work on offence. Barrie has two assists in his first eight games as an Oiler and has been taken off the top power play unit. Meanwhile, after an even night against Winnipeg he is now six below par.
We get it — plus-minus is an antiquated stat. But minus-6 just eight games into a season? That’s not good enough for a guy who came here to play an important role.
“Well yeah, you’ve got to do both sides of it,” said head coach Dave Tippett when asked about Barrie’s game. “His game has got to be some good puck moving, some creative play at the offensive blue line. There’s been glimpses of it, but not enough of it.”
Barrie left his check alone on Nikolai Ehlers' goal, the first of three straight in the third period for Winnipeg. It was a straight two-on-two, and then Ehlers was wide open for a pass from Paul Stastny.
Barrie simply blew the assignment.
You can deal with those defensive deficiencies when the points are flowing at the other end. But they’re not — Barrie’s game as advertised has yet to arrive in Edmonton.
Or, if you listen to Leafs fans, perhaps it has…
Bad to Better
It’s funny: The Oilers felt great about erasing a 3-2 deficit and winning on a last-second goal Sunday. Now it is the Jets who are satisfied, having broken open the game in the third and grabbed the two points.
Neither team played a full 60 minutes in either game. But the one that gets the points always sees the positives, as Edmonton did on Sunday.
“Our mentality is just staying in the battle and knowing we’re better than that,” said Ehlers. “That first period wasn’t good. Bucky (Connor Hellebuyck) gave us a chance to stay in the game and we got the two points, We’re happy with that, will probably take the day off tomorrow and look forward to the next game.”
Meanwhile, Edmonton will search for some positives, heading home from a 2-2 road trip for a pair against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We did play some good hockey for long stretches,” Nurse said, “but we put ourselves in good position going to third and you have to find a way to get the next one or get momentum going your way. When we gave up the first one, we kind of just let it pile on more and more.
“There’s things in our game that we can build off of, but when we put ourselves in that position we have to find a way to close it out. You put yourself in a good position and you can’t waste those.”
Tippett did contemplate a time out after McDavid scored with 1:50 to play, pulling the Oilers to within one.
“Yes, we were,” he said. “But if you take a time out then, they’ve got to play that whole 1:50. We wanted to get 30 seconds (out of another line), so we’d (call a time out) and play them the last 1:20. If you take your time out then you’ve got to play them for two full minutes. That’s a lot of time at the end of a game.”
The Jets ended up scoring into an empty net, with the McDavid unit on the ice. Two late comebacks, alas, was too much for Tippett to ask for.