The Edmonton Oilers made changes to their forward lines and defensive pairings following a 3-6-1 record through October. With these lineup changes, many hoped that this would translate to a better performance to kick off November.
However, the changes didn’t translate Wednesday, and the Oilers dropped another game, a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Edmonton unable to find the win column, and with the team not clicking on a complete level, it’s improvement or changes moving forward.
Right now, the team is not boasting strong numbers. Their 68.3 percent success on the man advantage ranks second-worst, and they surrender around 3.3 goals per game. Not only that, Edmonton’s offence is lacking on all levels; their average of 2.2 goals per game is the worst in the league and the man advantage isn’t producing with just 12.3 percent success on the power play.
Looking at Wednesday’s loss to Pittsburgh, there were some positives. The penalty kill looked a bit better and had a very strong 5-on-3 kill against one of the league’s most dangerous power plays. However, at the end of the day, the PK surrendered two power-play goals. Edmonton was also undisciplined and took four penalties on the night. The Oilers power-play also managed a goal but was just 1-for-5 on the man advantage.
Oil On Whyte Edmonton Oilers: Did they dodge a bullet by losing out on Jacob Markstrom?
More headlines around FanSided:— NHL free agency: Top 3 best and worst signings so far — NHL: Which Canadian teams have improved and who hasn't? — NHL power rankings: Grading each team's offseason — Edmonton Oilers: Where does Ken Holland go from here? — Edmonton Oilers: Does Tyson Barrie make Adam Larsson expendable?
Room for Improvement
The team made changes to their power-play and forward lines, however, success must also rely on individual performance and accountability. Some players, like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, are giving their full effort and contributing plenty.
However, other forwards aren’t stepping up to the plate, and the Oilers are not getting the scoring or production they need from their lines beyond the top-six. Not only that, some players will find themselves out of position, which can take away scoring opportunities.
On the blue line, the Oilers need to see more physicality and aggression, as well as better gap control and coverage. At times, Edmonton’s defenders will appear out of position, and they will not only lose sight of the puck but also of who they have to cover.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins showed great two-way ability against the Penguins and was aggressive and prominent on the backcheck. He stayed with his man and also used his speed and skating to move his legs and follow the play well, which ultimately helped Cam Talbot.
This is the kind of defence that wins hockey games, and the Oilers must see this from all of their players. Not only that, every forward should be involved in the backcheck, and Talbot shouldn’t be left out to dry.
Lastly, Edmonton needs to stay consistent. They will seem to have control over the game and will be dominant with the puck, but sooner rather than later, they let off the gas and run out of fuel. They need to maintain their effort and level of play throughout the entire game, or else, they will lose their rhythm, which ultimately leads to better chances for the opposition.
As the Oilers enter November, they need to find their game and fast. Though it is still early, a month has nearly passed, and Edmonton has just three wins to show for it. And ultimately, in the long run, these games will be difference-makers later on, especially if the team is on the verge of a playoff berth.
If they want to contend for a Cup this season and prove their worth, they’ll have to start winning games now; from this point forward, each match-up is critical. However, if this current team cannot find success, then it may be time to make some trades.