The Edmonton Oilers stunk in Week 5. There’s just no other way to put it. In the final three games of their recent five-game homestand, they played with virtually no energy and very little sense of urgency and yet somehow ended the week 1-2-0.
Outside of a great final thirty minutes versus the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday and Taylor Hall‘s hit on the Minnesota Wild‘s Cal Clutterbuck that resulted in his two-game suspension the game before, it was hard to suggest that the Oilers were trying very hard.
Their opponents were all beatable on paper. They had already beaten the Los Angeles Kings earlier in the season but looked lethargic in a 3-1 loss on Tuesday. As per the usual, a mediocre Wild team looked like Stanley Cup contenders in defeating the Oilers 3-1, and before Jordan Eberle finally got the Oilers on the board against the Coyotes late in the second period, it was looking like this would surely be another loss for the club.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk did his best, but much like every other Oilers goalie of the past five years or so, he seems to be snake-bitten and destined to lose to the Wild every time he plays against them. You can only do so much sometimes before your offense finally has to do their part. Nikolai Khabibulin was a monster in two starts, saving 34 of 37 shots in the Oilers’ loss to the Kings before stopping 34 of 36 against the Coyotes and getting his first win of the season.
Between possible fatigue on Dubnyk’s part and a rested Khabibulin being slightly fresher, there are signs of a short-term goalie controversy brewing in Edmonton. This will be interesting to watch because Khabibulin will be prime trade bait at the deadline if he keeps playing well and if the Oilers are out of contention by April. Dubnyk still figures to be the man long-term, but for now, it might be best to have the two trading off the rest of the way just to help keep each other from getting burned out.
Offense came from a few different parties this week, but as has been the case for most of the season, no one really stood out. This continues to be a worrisome trend for the Oilers, who boast an obscene amount of young talent. Sam Gagner, Hall, Eberle, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky are leading the way offensively, but outside of Gagner and Hall, there really hasn’t been much consistency from anyone on this club. You also have to wonder why the Oilers continue to play an ineffective and likely injured Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; this season probably isn’t going anywhere, so you shouldn’t be sacrificing his health and future for the present.
The defense…well, they’re porous as always, so there’s not much to report here. They look shaky game in and game out. They make bad passes, they cough up the puck, they pinch when they shouldn’t and they leave Dubnyk and Khabibulin to fend for themselves constantly. It’s ugly and likely won’t get better until next season.
The Oilers are a very middling team right now, and the nine-game road trip they begin tonight in Chicago will determine how the rest of the season shapes up for them.