As if the announcement of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being shutdown for the remainder of the season and headed for shoulder surgery wasn't enough for fans of the Edmonton Oilers to digest for one day. This team decided to take it a step further, clinching their seventh consecutive season without an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite yet another goal off the stick of Taylor Hall, the free-falling Oilers dropped their seventh game in eight outings, this time by a score of 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks. A two point night from winger Nick Bonino and the first goal from defenceman Cam Fowler since March 21st, 2012, was more than enough for the Pacific Division leading Ducks.
The loss, coupled with victories from the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets, not only eliminated Edmonton form post-season play but also dropped them into thirteenth place in the Western Conference, a point behind their provincial rivals. It is actually quite staggering to think, just how far the Oilers have fallen, in such a short time frame.
Back on the evening April 3rd, Edmonton held down eighth place in the West, with just twelve games to play. Since then, this team has posted an appalling 1-7 record and now find themselves a mind-numbing ten points out of the playoffs...with four games still remaining on the schedule.
Edmonton came out and played one of their better first periods in recent memory, with Hall scoring his team leading fifteenth, on their first shot of the game, but a late Mike Brown high-sticking penalty would change all that. With all of five seconds remaining in the opening frame, the Oilers managed to; 1)lose a faceoff, 2)blow a defensive zone coverage, 3)give up a god awful rebound and 4)watch Fowler flip home his first of the season. They accomplished all that, in just over three seconds.
Not exactly the way you would like to end a period that you pretty much dominated but should we really have expected anything less from this group? From that point on, it was all Anaheim. Goals from Kyle Palmieri and Corey Perry sealed the deal and proved to be far too much, for a side which has far too many passengers.
Thanks to a quirk in the NHL schedule, these same two teams will face-off for a second consecutive night at Rexall Place. Look for veteran netminder Nikolai Khabibulin to get what will likely be his final start in an Oilers uniform, while the Ducks will turn to the second half of their goaltending tandem, in Viktor Fasth.
While the thought of playing meaningful games during the month of April was looked upon as a positive step for this organization, the results have proven it to be something completely different. In a sense, it may be a blessing in disguise.
This lineup's shortcomings are obvious and have been for some time. Now it is up to management to actually go out and finally address them.