It was a good effort by the Edmonton Oilers against the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins but the result was a familiar one, yet another loss. Evgeny Malkin’s powerplay marker was the difference in a 3-2 Penguins win that left the Oilers 1-5 and one to start the season. The team’s brutal start can be pinned on a number of things but poor goaltending and team defense definitely stand out.
It has been a disastrous start to the season for Devan Dubnyk. He was expected to take the next step after putting together a pretty solid campaign last year. His confidence seemed shaken by a poor opening night and it’s gone downhill since. He has a miserable save percentage of .829. With Dubnyk’s struggles, veteran Jason LaBarbera has gotten the call in their last two contests. The Oilers must decide soon whether Dubnyk is their guy and can return to form, or whether it’s time to start exploring trade possibilities for an upgrade.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins is already off to a rough start in his first season, the losses continue to mount and he’s already caused some controversy by making talented young forward Nail Yakupov a healthy scratch on two occasions. Yakupov has yet to register a point in five games. When you look at the stats for offensive minded forwards Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins they are sitting at minus seven, minus seven and minus seven respectively in the plus-minus category. That’s a sign of not being defensively responsible and their point production isn’t making up for those shortcomings. Justin Schultz may be a talented offensive defenseman but his play inside his own end this season has taken a couple of steps back.
Despite the gloom and doom, there have actually been some bright spots. David Perron has produced in his first season in Edmonton leading the team in points, veteran Boyd Gordon is also off to a solid start with four goals. Andrew Ference seemed like a solid choice to be their team Captain entering this season, and he will need to use that leadership and experience to hold the group together in these very troubled times.
The Oilers have talked about being on the cusp of having a breakout campaign with all of their young talent for a few seasons now. However, unless there’s a vast improvement between the pipes and in their defensive zone coverage, the heightened expectations may not be realized.
Rick LaFitte is an NHL Writer for Rant Sports