Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back To Reality

It was nice while it lasted but the Edmonton Oilers four game win streak was destined to come to an end and come to end it did on Wednesday against the high-flying Nashville Predators. While the 4-1 scoreline frankly flattered the team wearing Orange and Blue, they still had every chance to stretch their run to five straight despite putting together what was simply a dreadful opening twenty minutes of hockey. 

The combination of another solid period from Ben Scrivens with a ton of “puck-luck” left the Oilers in a scoreless game heading into the first intermission, despite being outshot 11-3 and almost never having the aforementioned puck. They nearly opened the scoring early in period two after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins beat Pekka Rinne on an odd man rush but the crossbar kept the puck out. 

Unfortunately the Oilers tendency to give up goals in bunches would once again come into play and put them behind the eight-ball before the midway mark of the second. An ill-placed rebound off the pad of Scrivens and a half-hearted backcheck from Jesse Joensuu led to Craig Smith opening the scoring at 6:23 and Nashville wasted little time in putting their foot on the opponent’s throat, as they would double that lead all of 1:23 later. 

After Ryan Ellis out muscled Leon Draisaitl in front of the Predators net to break up a potential scoring chance, Peter Laviolette’s side pushed the puck up ice and turned what appeared to be absolutely nothing into an easy tap in goal for Taylor Beck. Much like Smith’s opener, a couple of blunders from the Oilers led directly to 0-0 game turning into a two goal deficit in the blink of an eye. 

Jeff Petry made life far too easy on Colin Wilson, allowing the talented youngster to gain the blueline and give him all day to find a streaking Beck for what essentially turned out to be the backbreaking goal on the night. To make matters worse, David Perron followed Joensuu’s earlier example with a half-hearted backcheck of his own and just like that, Scrivens was fishing the puck out of his net. 

While Taylor Hall would finally get the Oilers on the board and beat Rinne midway through the third to break the goose egg, the goal was sandwiched in between two more from the Preds…the first coming courtesy of a Shea Weber bomb twenty-four seconds into the third and the other off yet another odd man rush and the second of the night from Smith. 

From start to finish, it was not the effort or outcome that Dallas Eakins and his coaching staff were hoping for but expecting this team to essentially run the table on their current homestand was never realistic. While the loss dropped Edmonton to 0-5-1 against Western Conference teams for the season, one would think with the Vancouver Canucks coming to town on Saturday night to close out the Oilers run of seven straight on home ice, that streak should be coming to an end. 

If this team comes out and losses to the Canucks for the third time in three weeks, it would essentially make their four game win streak meaningless. If you can’t find a way to get points from the likes of Vancouver, Nashville or the Calgary Flames, especially in your home barn, good luck with trying to staying in the playoff picture for any length of time. The pressure is now squarely on this group and we are about to find out what they are made of. 

Oil Notes: Eakins said during his post-game availability that both Luke Gazdic and Viktor Fasth were ready to come off the injured list. Gazdic will be assigned to Oklahoma City on a conditioning stint, while Fasth will take Richard Bachman’s spot on the bench as Scrivens’ backup on against the Canucks. 

With Edmonton about to embark on a five game road trip that will see them face the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and Nashville over an eight day stretch, the thirty-two year old netminder could not have picked a better time to return to action. 

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