Same old song and dance for the Oilers in Vancouver
By Rob Soria
To steal a quote from New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra, the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks sure felt like "deja vu all over again". Despite jumping out to an early lead, Dallas Eakins' crew still found a way to blow three different two goal advantages and were frankly lucky to even get this one into overtime. While on paper this group may be improved, clearly closing out hockey games continues to be major problem.
Edmonton - October 12, 2014 - On a night in which the Edmonton Oilers jumped out to an early two goal advantage against a Vancouver Canucks side that came out of the gate as flat as a board for their home opener, Dallas Eakins’ crew still found a way to allow their Pacific Division rival to take home two points in what was a 5-4 shootout loss.
After taking the game to the Canucks for much of the opening twenty minutes of play, the Oilers were in chase mode for the rest of the night and found themselves in midst of steady march to the penalty box. Even with that being the case, this team had a 4-2 lead with just over half a game to play and all the momentum in the world following Jesse Joensuu’s shorthanded marker at 8:36 mark of period number two.
And yet if it were not for the play of netminder Viktor Fasth, this one would have never even reached overtime. Now did the Canucks benefit from a missed call on what was an obvious glove pass that led to Vancouver’s second goal? They most certainly did but again the Oilers bounced back from that non-call to regain their two goal advantage but as they have on far too many occasions over the last couple of years, they were unable to deliver when it mattered most.
The top line of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were a complete no shows over the final two periods of play and Benoit Pouliot took yet another ill-timed offensive zone penalty, something he specialized at with the New York Rangers in 2013-14, mere seconds after watching Nugent-Hopkins and defenceman Dan Hamhuis drop the mitts in what was an rather unexpected tilt.
Not surprisingly, it took the Canucks all of forty-six seconds to pot the equalizer, courtesy of Linden Vey and his ever NHL goal. Just like that, goals from Joensuu, Nail Yakupov, Mark Arcobello and Brad Hunt, also the first of his career, and Edmonton were on their heels. Vancouver continued to push but Fasth shut the door and gave his team a chance to pull this one out but they ultimately were unable to get the job done.
While Ryan Miller struggled early, the Nucks No. 1 netminder righted the ship and proceeded to not only make a huge stop off Hall to keep the game tied but also held the fort again during a late power play chance for the Oilers. With the win Miller improved to a perfect 8-0 against Edmonton and has started his Canucks career with back-to-back victories.
It was a rather uninspiring performance from Hall, who seemed to be far more interested in trying to run over guys wearing Blue and Green rather than being the difference maker he is on most nights. In the end, Chris Higgins was the only one to find the back of the net in the shootout and in the blink-of-an-eye…Edmonton already finds themselves in the basement of the Western Conference with none other than the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Obviously, it is a little early to be worrying about the standings but with their upcoming schedule featuring games against the Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Canucks and a date with Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning, if they are not careful, this could snowball on them in real hurry.
Many seem to be hanging their hat on the fact the Edmonton Oilers appear to be better than they were in 2013-14 and that it is just a matter of time before they get over that hump and start winning hockey games. While that is all well good, using that as some sort of measuring stick is not acceptable.
Sorry but going out and showing marginal improvements from what we saw during the first year of the Craig MacTavish - Dallas Eakins regime is not good enough. Blowing leads is nothing new for this group and until they learn how to closeout hockey games...all that other stuff doesn't really matter.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org