On Sunday, the Colorado Avalanche handed the Edmonton Oilers their fourth loss in a row thanks to a 4-1 drubbing at Rogers Place.
Edmonton is now 8-8-1 with 17 points, good for a tie with the Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific. The Oilers have scored a respectable 46 goals, with Connor McDavid in on nearly all of them to start the year.
The team is 5-5-0 in their last 10 games and the 21-year-old captain from Richmond Hill has 23 points, but he’s been a minus player the last three games.
And against the Avalanche, it was a team exercise in horrible hockey.
“They outworked us, were faster to pucks. They scored four goals and we only scored one,” said defenceman Oscar Klefbom. “They played good today but we were not even close to where we need to be. Especially after we’d lost three on the road. This was a big setback.”
It’s hard to argue with that, but one has to imagine that there’s more to the setback than just the one tattered effort against Colorado.
The setback against the Avalanche comes after Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto were sent down to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Both players impressed in training camp, but finishing was an issue and they were dumped Saturday. This despite the Oilers looking rather shrill down the right side.
“They’ve got a good thing going down there,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said of the AHL affiliate. “They’ll play top minutes and have a number of touches that we want. It’s about going down there with the right attitude and getting your confidence back.”
How to get a “good thing” going on the Oilers is another matter and that’s where the focus really lies.
Consider goalie Cam Talbot, who allowed three goals on 15 shots Sunday before getting chased from the net to cheers from the local crowd. He boasts a .895 save percentage and a 3.09 goals against average, losing seven of 13 starts.
Or consider Milan Lucic, with just two little goals in his last 63 NHL games. He skated just 11:35 against Colorado, ice time suggestive of his mercifully abridged role. He did assist on the Oilers’ single goal, however.
But the game – and the Oilers’ recent history – was about control. Edmonton never had it and has fought hard to get it as of late. You could argue that sometimes teams don’t get bounces, but there’s more to it than that. Something has to give, has to break wide open, and it will undoubtedly come down to intangibles.
What’s going wrong? Lack of sweat, lack of might, lack of control. The Oilers look so good on paper it’s not funny, but it’s not panning out on the ice. And as fast as you can put things together, things can fall apart again.
Edmonton has a shot to build beyond the setback Tuesday when they host an uninspiring Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.