Edmonton Oilers Streak Ends At 6, Lose 4-2 In NYC


Tonight was a good illustration of how different this year’s edition of the Edmonton Oilers is superior to last year’s. Yes, it was a 4-2 loss. But the Rangers scored their 4th into an empty net, in a game where the Oilers stayed right with New York, until the dying seconds, in the 2nd of back-to-back games.

I’ve seen far, far worse from this club. 9 Things:

9. First, I was impressed with how Luke Gazdic performed, when elevated onto the line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. He ended the game with a Corsi of 70%! That’s terrific for a player like him. But it also speaks to the Oilers injury situation that he found himself there at all.

8. Justin Schultz has been hot & cold (well, maybe warm & cold) since coming back from injury, but he was very good tonight. He moved the puck well, out of his own zone and through the neutral zone, and didn’t give up much at all in his own end. I still don’t think he is 100%, but he was solid tonight, at least.

7. There is no good reason to overreact to this loss. Possession numbers were dead even, between a rested team and a fatigued one. The Edmonton Oilers held a good Rangers club to just 21 shots. But the Rangers WERE 14-and-0 when leading after 2 periods. Now they’re 15-and-0. This wasn’t Toronto or Carolina.

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6. There were lots of hands wringing over Rob Klinkhammer playing instead of Jujhar Khaira. But Todd McLellan hinted at the morning media availability that he was waiting until after the optional skate to set his lineup, and referenced some bumps and bruises. That may have been Khaira. But Klinkhammer is a more established NHL-er. It wasn’t a difference maker.

5. The bodies started falling early, for an already tired Edmonton Oilers. Iiro Pakarinen left after blocking a shot, and then Rob Klinkhammer (in his first game back from injury, yet) left on the limp. The short bench on a back-to-back is not a good recipe, and I while I was o.k. with the effort in the 3rd, you could tell that they were a 1/2 step behind.

4. I know it is popular to dump on Nikita Nikitin, but I’ve never been as down on him as many of you. And tonight, Nikitin was really very good. His Corsi was 77% in 16:29 of TOI. In particular, he moved the puck well, a skill that he was advertised to have when he first came to Edmonton. Small sample, but two games back from Bakersfield, he’s a better player so far.

3. On the other hand, I have seen Brandon Davidson better. He played almost 20 minutes on back-to-back evenings, and the workload may have impacted his game. While I hesitate to take much away from a player the quality of Rick Nash, Davidson was a 1/2 second slow to close the gap on Nash on that 2nd Period Power Play. That enabled Nash to chip in his own rebound. That may be harsh, however, as Davidson wasn’t terrible by any stretch.

2. The line with Leon Draisaitl, Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell was excellent again tonight. The difference between this evening and the win over the Rangers at home was a lack of finish. On one hand, when fatigue starts to kick in, fine skills are usually the first to go. But you know…that line didn’t get heavy ice-time the night before. In the end, it is fair to say the Rangers best players were a shade better than the Edmonton Oilers. I think that’s fair. You?

1. The Power Play was 1-for-6, in New York, including 3 golden chances to even the score in the 3rd Period. But they just could not capitalize. Had they, it is reasonable to expect that the Edmonton Oilers would have escaped Madison Square Garden with at least a point, which would have been impressive. It is on a night like this that the club really missed Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov. That 2nd PP unit (with 4th liners Hendricks and Korpikoski on the ice) lacks some firepower, to say the least, and with no Oscar Klefbom either, I thought that was the difference maker in this hockey game.

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You can’t win ’em all, and there was no shame in losing a game like that, shots were just 21-20. Few good NHL games Do win back-to-back road games. Too bad, though, as a point this evening sure would have made the upcoming Chicago game a little less critical.