Friday, October 16, 2015

Game 4 - More Growing Pains

It was supposed to be a special night. The Edmonton Oilers facing off against the St. Louis Blues in what was not only Connor McDavid’s debut in his new backyard but also the final home opener over at Rexall Place. Despite delivering what was arguably their most complete effort of the season, it made little difference in the final scoreline. 

Third-period goals from Paul Stastny and Alex Steen proved to be too much for Edmonton to overcome, as Todd McLellan’s side fell to 0-4 on the year with a 4-2 loss on Thursday night. While Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Hall managed to slip pucks in behind starter Brian Elliott, the Blues managed to hold McDavid of the scoresheet for the second time this season. 

The Oilers power play continued to run cold, going 0-for-5 on the night and falling to 1-for-14 on the year. They have now gone thirteen straight chances without scoring and as we all know, the only time Edmonton did manage to light the lamp it came courtesy of a lucky bounce in their season opener against St. Louis. 

While it is still far too early to panic, the fact this club has scored five goals in their first four games is not exactly a good sign. Not having Jordan Eberle in the lineup has left a massive hole up front and let’s be honest here, scoring goals and creating chances was not supposed to be something the Oilers struggled with. After all, it was the other end of the rink which was supposed to be the problem...but that hasn't been how things have played out. 

The goaltending has been solid all year long. Cam Talbot continued his strong start to the season, stopping 25 of the 29 shots the Blues fired his way but the 28-year old still saw his record drop to 0-3. While Edmonton is still very much a work in progress, they continue to show signs of improvement in the defensive zone. Don’t get me wrong, the mistakes are still plentiful but they are nothing like previous seasons. 

Last night was a perfect example. A couple of plays in which players failed to pick up a man or tie up a stick and next thing you know, the puck is in the back of the net. On the whole, the forwards appear to finally be making a concerted effort in supporting the defence and it has made a world of difference. Again, far from perfect but definitely better than what we have seen in recent years. 

Transitioning the puck up ice remains an issue but the Oilers breakouts and zone entries have improved on almost a nightly basis. The next logical step would be for the offence to finally kick into gear. Even with Eberle being out of action, there is simply too much talent on this roster for them to not score goals. Taylor Hall’s third period marker was a beauty and one would think McDavid is going to have a break out performance in the very near future. 

My guess is we will see the flood gates open at some point this weekend. Be it against the Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks, don’t be surprised to see this group start clicking up front. Does that mean the wins will start rolling in for the Edmonton Oilers? Hardly but it should make for a more entertaining product and bring back some of that renewed hope and excitement most fans had heading into the season opener. 

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