Youth, Penalty Kill Doom Edmonton Oilers in Loss to San Jose Sharks
The Edmonton Oilers showed last night why they should be a Jekyll and Hyde act for the remainder of this season. Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz both scored their first NHL goals–both on the power play–and Taylor Hall muscled his way through the San Jose Sharks‘ defense for a goal of his own, but otherwise, the young Oilers squad simply could not keep up with the Sharks, who put up six goals in the first period and coasted the rest of the way.
Welcome back to the NHL, Baby Oilers: This is not the AHL anymore.
By skating and scoring at will in the first period, and going 3 for 5 on the power play, the Sharks exposed what has long been known to be Edmonton’s two big weaknesses: defense and goaltending. I mentioned in yesterday’s preview that the Oilers, on paper, had a chance to come out and dominate or lay an absolute goose egg, and they did the latter. Devan Dubnyk let in a couple of soft goals, but for the most part he again had no help from his defense. Justin Schultz botched assignments and took unwise risks, and Yakupov is still having trouble figuring out how to help the team when he doesn’t have the puck.
Half of the time, it looked as though the Sharks were skating through cones for all the trouble they had getting through Edmonton’s “defense.”
Yes, this is a young group and terrible games like this are going to happen. It is easy to see why Edmonton games should be exciting this year, even if they will not always be victorious, and there is every chance that they will come back and put up six goals or more themselves when the Los Angeles Kings come to town on Thursday. This is the same team that beat the Chicago Blackhawks 9-2 and 8-4 last season after all, and had multiple games where they scored six goals as well, so we know they can score in bushels when things are clicking.
The question, however, is how their penalty kill and defense are going to perform this year. They shut out the Vancouver Canucks on five power play chances Sunday night, so anything can happen, but last night’s loss is a humbling reminder that this talented squad is still very young, and has a lot of growing to do before they can play with the NHL’s elite.