Youth, Nerves, Porous Defense Doom Edmonton Oilers in Loss to Calgary Flames

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Battle of Alberta is back. The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames squared off on Saturday to renew their decades-old rivalry in their quest for bragging rights in the province of Alberta, and the Flames were the big winners, even though they only won by one goal. Edmonton’s youth and shaky defense were the big stories here, and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future.

For the second time in a week the Oilers struggled to win a big-ticket matchup because they couldn’t handle the pressure of a situation and couldn’t keep themselves calm and collected. After getting destroyed in their home opener against the San Jose Sharks, the Oilers looked nervous and uncertain on enemy ice as the Battle of Alberta began. The season is young, and of course some of the youth–namely Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins–have been here before, but throw in others like Teemu Hartikainen, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz, Ladisalv Smid, Jeff Petry and Devan Dubnyk, and the Oilers were certainly lacking in the experience department.

Dubnyk couldn’t make enough big plays when his defense let him down (a worrying if not surprising trend that has already developed throughout the team’s first four games), and the ease with which veterans like Mike Cammalleri and Jarome Iginla worked the defense to set up goals made the Oilers’ defense look downright silly at times. Even Smid, who is usually solid, was turned around a few times and looked unsure of his decisions.

It is difficult to tell from one game to the next just what the Oilers have here and whether they should be making any moves to try and win this season, or ride it out and wait until the summer to make moves so they can gear up for a coming out party in the 2013-2014 season. This roller coaster ride has already had a number of dizzying ups and downs, and with the youthful inexperience of this team and their thin defense and goaltending situations, you have to assume the rest of this season is going to pretty much the same way.

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