Edmonton Oilers Waste Opportunity In Denver


Well…that was frustrating.

The Edmonton Oilers, on balance, out-played the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. But they were absolutely stymied by Semyon Varlamov, who was nothing short of spectacular in net.

However, I wish I could report that Varlamov was the only reason for the 5-1 loss tonight. There were a lot of factors. Lets count them down, shall we?

9 Things:

9. What did you think of Anton Lander tonight? What? Didn’t notice him at all? Yeah, well…join the club. How DOES he hang onto his job when Connor McDavid comes back? And how soon is that, again?

8. The 3rd line, the Edmonton Oilers best in Chicago, was ineffective tonight. I’m not questioning their effort, but they certainly got a net-negative return for their efforts on the evening.

7. The Edmonton Oilers lost the special teams battle tonight. They gave up their 1st short-handed goal of the year, on a give-away I will dissect in a minute. Then, they surrendered a power play goal on a brutal (brutal) call against Benoit Pouliot. You could argue that those two factors, alone, decided the game.

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6. I did not like the way Brandon Davidson made his way off the ice, after being violently cross-checked to the ribs, and sliding into the boards. I’ll be willing to bed that the stick-on-ribs contact was the source of the injury, as Davidson was not loving his trunk on the way off. Todd McLellan confirmed as much, post-game.

5. I have a hard time blaming the offence, despite the 5-1 score. After all, the Edmonton Oilers out-shot the Avalanche 40-29, and out-attempted them 70-47. I do not break down scoring chance stats like the excellent David Staples does, at The Cult of Hockey, but I’m positive the gap was significant.

4. Anders Nilsson probably played his worst game of the year, tonight. 3 of the 5 goals scored by Colorado need to be stopped by an NHL goaltender. And he failed to give his team timely saves when the Edmonton Oilers needed it the most, specifically that 3-nothing goal, after the Oilers had peppered Varlamov at the other end.

3. Here is an indictment of the Corsi stat for defenceman, if there ever was one: Justin Schultz had a Corsi of 76 on the night! 76!! That, from the worst player on the ice for either team. He was directly responsible for the 1st goal (missed the puck AND his man on the blue-line) and the 4th (terrible clearing attempt). I saw some debate on that 1st goal. Yeah, O.K., the Nugent-Hopkins pass was not good, fair. But the D-man HAS to take either the puck or the man. He HAS to.

2. Taylor Hall was nearly magnificent tonight. I say “nearly” because at the end of the day, the Av’s goaltender was simply better than Hall was. But I don’t say that as a criticism. Far from it. Taylor Hall was in on 37 plays toward the Avalanche goal, and had 8 shots in 21:30 of ice-time. Leon Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell were good, too, so not to take too much away from them…but I might have looked good wuth Hall tonight. What a player. That all he has to show for that kind of effort is one assist is a nit of a shame.

1. It’s not often that I talk about a non-Oilers player in this slot, but Semyon Varlamov was other-worldly tonight. He was better than his counterpart at the other end of the ice. He was the best player on his own team. And he was better than the significant offensive talent that was bearing down on him all evening. Really, this should have been a 5-4 game. But lets give credit where credit is due. That was a spectacular performance by Varlamov, and worthy of our admiration…even if it was against our guys.

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A fair bit of the good gained during that excellent Edmonton Oilers home stand has been frittered away on this road trip. Not fatal blows, necessarily. But at this point, the Oilers aren’t just losing, again…they’re frustrated. And sometimes, that can be worse.

The Monday game versus Winnipeg now looms larger, still, in light of the result tonight. If they Edmonton Oilers want to stay close until Connor McDavid gets back, they need that win. Desperately.