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What is Wrong with the Edmonton Oilers?

Photos by Rusty Barton

What is Wrong with the Edmonton Oilers?

Sometimes the problem is blatantly apparent – the goaltending is awful, the coach has lost the room, the team is missing its best player… And sometimes it’s not.

On Saturday evening, the lowly Edmonton Oilers hosted the Ottawa Senators in the club’s first home game since December 16 – a span of 30 days. Playing the Senators for the first time since winning all nine times against their former all-Canadian North Division club in the COVID-condensed 2020-21 season, Edmonton got a different result than the +24 goal differential it experienced while playing Ottawa in the bubble (41-17).

“I’m not sure what to tell you, it’s been a long layoff coming in,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “We worked ourselves to a 3-1 lead and gave it away. I wish I had an answer. We were rolling along and got a couple of chances early and don’t finish them and we gave up a 2-on-1.”

The Oilers actually gave up the first goal of the game to the Sens – a Josh Norris power play tally – before tying the game up with a man advantage strike of their own. Cruising to a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes, nothing could have prepared Edmonton for what occurred in the final frame.

Adam Gaudette got his third of the season just 2:41 into the period, before Alex Formenton’s seventh tied the game two-and-a-half minutes later. Artem Zub gave Ottawa the lead with a long-range snipe, before Darnell Nurse wristed what he thought was the game-tying goal past Matt Murray.

With Cody Ceci in the box for high-sticking Norris, the offender paid the ultimate price as he watch Norris collect his second power play goal of the game – and 16th goal of the season – just one minute later from the penalty box. Zach Sanford sealed the deal with 58 seconds remaining on an empty-netter, giving Ottawa its fifth goal of the period, and its 11th win of the season, 6-4.

“It’s not really how we drew it up, but that’s how hockey goes sometimes,” Norris said. “I think it was a lot of fun and the guys enjoyed it. We have to clean some things up, but that’s hockey and it’s the way the game goes sometimes. We kind of thrived on that and it was great to get the win.”

The win was Ottawa’s first victory over Edmonton since December of 2019. For the Oilers, it was the team’s sixth-straight loss.

“We’re just finding ways to lose,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “We did a lot of good things in the game, but there’s some areas; we took a penalty early in the game and gave up a goal, we took a penalty late in the game and gave up a goal, and there were some things in between. Lots of things we’ve been talking of trying to do, we did, but ultimately, we’re finding ways to lose games.”

After starting the season 9-1-0, the Oilers have gone just 2-10-2 in their last 14 games, which has included two separate six-game losing streaks. Edmonton is now just 1-6-0 in its past seven home games, while suiting up at home for the first time in a full calendar month.

If winning games after long layovers is not working for Edmonton, something will need to change, as the team next sees game action on Thursday, when the red-hot Florida Panthers roll into town. If things don’t change for the better, serious personnel adjustments may need to be made.

Leon Draisaitl (54 points) and Connor McDavid (53 points) are on the verge of being chased down by Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau (53 points) and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin (53 points) for the league lead. The Oilers’ duo have just three combined points in their last three outings. Connor McDavid has just one assist in that timespan.

Oh, and making things worse for Edmonton is the fact that both the Pacific and Central Divisions will likely be sending four teams apiece to the playoffs, meaning four teams from each division will also not qualify. The Oilers are currently sitting at 18-15-2 on the season for 38 points, well behind fourth-place San Jose (42 points).

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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