Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oilers win another but the waters remain rather muddy

It certainly wasn’t pretty but the Edmonton Oilers found a way to send 16, 839 home from Rexall Place with a smile on their collective faces on Monday evening courtesy of a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. 

Taylor Hall scored a pair goals to lead the way upfront, this despite Edmonton going 0-for-8 on the man advantage and being badly out shot on the night. However, while the shot clock may have read 28-17 for the visitors it was not as though the team in Orange and Blue were outplayed. 

Netminder Viktor Fasth turned aside twenty-seven of the twenty-eight pucks fired his way, including sixteen of seventeen in period number two, but was not called upon to make nearly as many difficult stops as he was during his exhibition debut against the Calgary Flames. 

With the win the Oilers improved to 3-2 on the pre-season, with another three games to come over next five days. This next stretch will definitely be tough for Dallas Eakins’ group to get through but there are more than a few players who either need to kick their game into gear or just start getting some reps leading up to next Thursday’s season opener against their provincial rival on home ice. 

After picking up assists on both of Hall’s goals, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins now leads the club in scoring with four points in three games and looks to be ready to go for the start the season. Obviously the same applies to the guy wearing No. 4 on his back, as well as Benoit Pouliot and David Perron who have both shown fairly well to this point in the pre-season. 

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the trio of Jordan Eberle, Teddy Purcell and Nail Yakupov , who have all bordered on being completely invisible on each and every night they have dressed. Add to that the somewhat uninspiring efforts we have seen from both Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander, who are supposedly in a battle for centre ice spot on this roster, and suddenly we have a large number of Oiler fans wondering if we could see a repeat performance of the 2013-14 season. 

While at the other end of the spectrum we have seen Jesse Joensuu put together a solid pre-season for the second consecutive year and rookies Leon Draisaitl, Vladmir Tkachev and Bogdan Yakimov all playing well and making quite an impression on both the fan base and the Oilers coaching staff. With that said, what we see from a player in late September, be it good or bad, guarantees you absolutely nothing but one thing is does do, is confirm the Oilers have more than a few issues among their forward group for the coming season. 

The story is quite similar along the blueline, where fans were given the opportunity to watch the pairing of Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin do their thing against the Jets on Monday night but have also seen the likes of Keith Aulie and Martin Marincin struggle to find their game. Youngsters Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse have impressed, while Justin Schultz has arguably been the Oilers best player to this point in camp. 

We have yet to see Jeff Petry do much of anything, after hurting his shoulder during what was his first on-ice session, and Andrew Ference hurt his arm over the weekend in Saskatoon though it does sound as though it will only be a minor setback. On top of that, Ben Scrivens has played all of forty minutes to this point in camp, though both he and Fasth will see the lion share of action from here on in. 

With the start of the 2014-15 National Hockey League campaign just over a week away, the Edmonton Oilers clearly have a lot of stuff to figure out and for their sakes…let us hope they get it under control prior to October 9th because right or wrong…expectations will be extremely high for Dallas Eakins’ crew from the moment the puck is dropped. 

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