Dark days for Edmonton Oilers as team drops third straight game
'Obviously we didn’t play well tonight, not anywhere near what I think our abilities are,' Todd McLellan says
"It's always darkest before the dawn" is a nice, if not terribly original, song lyric by Florence and the Machine. But that doesn't make it true.
For Edmonton Oilers fans who suffered through the team's third-straight loss Saturday night, it's actually darkest when you don't really have any freaking idea when, or if, dawn will finally break.
A third straight loss — this time by a lopsided score of 6-1 to the Ottawa Senators — doesn't make for much of a streak. But six points lost in the standings in October is six points the Oilers won't have when invitations to the playoffs get handed out come April.
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- Young but not restless, Edmonton Oilers regroup after two straight losses
At this early stage of the 2017-18 regular season, the Oilers are a team with promises to keep and miles to go before they … well, Robert Frost fans will know the rest.
The Oilers defence has been suspect all season.
The offence has, at times, been non-existent.
You get the feeling that sunrise will eventually come for this team.
But many more games like the one the Oilers played Saturday will start to keep fans up at night.
Lights went out early
Coach Todd McLellan said he thought his team gave a better effort Saturday but again got outplayed.
"Obviously we didn't play well tonight," he said. "Not anywhere near what I think our abilities are. A lot of it was just fundamentals. Fundamental passing, fundamental board work, the penalty kill was poor."
The Oilers turned the lights out on themselves early in this one, when they were held without a shot for the first seven minutes and change.
That, despite the fact that Milan Lucic dropped his gloves just 48 seconds into the game and fought a spirited bout with Senators defenceman Mark Borowieki. The scrap was about all the home fans had to cheer about for what seemed like the longest time.
New defenceman Yohann Auvitu, who saw his first regular-season action in an Oilers uniform Saturday, got an early welcome just over six minutes in, when he tried to tie up Mike Hoffman in front of the net. The Senators winger worked his stick free and flipped home the first goal of the game.
Halfway through the period, the Oilers were being outshot 9-1 and soon Derek Brassard added a goal to make it 2-0 for the Senators.
It took 17 minutes before the Oilers managed some sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
They finished the first period down 3-0 and the darkness was almost total.
'You look for bright spots'
Yet even on the blackest nights there were glimmers of light.
McDavid's best moments of the night came in the second period, when he showed about 20 seconds of sustained brilliance in the offensive zone, playing keep away with the puck and creating a good scoring chance.
Kailer Yamamoto shone on the top line.
With Leon Draisaitl out with an eye injury, the rookie kid showed plenty of speed and proved he can play at a high level.
During one early power play, Yamamoto showed good vision and soft hands with a cross-ice pass right to Connor McDavid that led to a scoring chance.
Later, with a little more than 10 minutes left in the third and the Oilers again on the power play, Yamamoto broke in from the Senators blue line and flipped a beauty pass that McDavid couldn't convert.
After the game, the coach said the 19-year-old was one of the best players on the ice.
"You look for bright spots on a tough night, and he would be one of them," McLellan said. "He had an impact on the game offensively and he didn't hurt us defensively."
The game was well out of reach before the Oilers finally scored.
With the teams playing four-on-four midway through the third, a point shot from Adam Larsson beat Senators goalie Mike Condon on short side to make it 6-1.
That finally gave the capacity crowd something to cheer about.
McDavid and Yamamoto got assists on the goal.
On Coach's Corner Saturday night, Don Cherry took the Oilers coach to task for calling out his star players earlier in the week.
After Monday's 5-2 loss to Winnipeg, McLellan called out his team for not being competitive enough and questioned the work ethic. Without naming anyone, the coach said his star players "have to be superstars every night, on both sides of the puck."
On his popular segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry said it was clear McLellan was talking about Oilers centre Connor McDavid.
"Here's a kid, 20-year-old kid's got the weight of the world on his shoulders and you're pointing at him [saying] the reason they lost is because of him.
"You cannot do that."