Saturday saw another close game, but another loss for the Edmonton Oilers. This time it was Edmonton falling short in a 4-3 decision for the Ducks in regulation time. It was a game the Oilers dominated for most of the afternoon, but another game where the Oilers gave it away with costly mistakes made by a blue line that is struggling. Edmonton’s downfall was leaking goals against, and when mixed in with the fact goaltender Lukas Dostal stood on his head for the Ducks, it meant the Oilers couldn’t even rely on a loser point where they probably deserved one. Dostal absolutely earned the first star of the game award.
Dostal Was Unreal for the Ducks
In just his eighth NHL game, Dostal stole this one for Anaheim. There were times the Ducks tilted the ice, but for the most part, it was the Oilers who dominated the offensive zone. Anaheim consistently took bad penalties, which the Oilers made them pay for twice. However, Dostal stood his ground, making 46 of 49 saves and shutting down Edmonton’s top four on four other power play attempts. He led the Ducks to a much-needed and somewhat surprising victory.
It’s not that Stuart Skinner was bad for the Oilers, it was just that Dostal was that much better, and the Oilers didn’t have an answer for the man between the Ducks’ pipes. One could argue the Oilers never should have been in this position, having needed to have at least capitalized on a few of their many Grade A scoring chances, but credit should go where credit is due, Dostal had a fantastic afternoon.
Bouchard and Nurse Strike Again
Like Darnell Nurse did in the game against the St. Louis Blues, he struggled on Saturday. That said, he wasn’t the Oilers’ worst defender. Evan Bouchard is likely going to take a lot of the blame for the loss against the Ducks on Saturday afternoon. He made two costly mistakes, first turning over the puck at the blue line on a lackadaisical pass and giving Ryan Strome a breakaway that put the Ducks up 3-1. Then, after Edmonton came storming back to tie it, his second mistake was his screening his own goalie and allowing the Ducks to get the fourth and winning goal of the game.
The Oilers are creating their own losses by having their minute-munching defenceman consistently make mistakes. This was never more evident than on Saturday afternoon as the Oilers badly out-shot the Ducks 49-17 in the game and 23-2 in the third period. These are mistakes these players simply cannot make if Edmonton expects to win. Somehow, the coaching staff is going to need to go back to basics with both Bouchard and Nurse to limit these turnovers and ultimately these losses.
It’s a lack of focus that seems to be crippling both players. Defense coach Dave Manson needs to find a way to get through to these two, and others.
Woodcroft’s Line Juggling Worked
Head coach Jay Woodcroft switched the lines for the Oilers partway through the second period and it seemed to work. There were some players that found chemistry with each other, namely Dylan Holloway and Jesse Puljujarvi. So too, splitting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl up seemed to energize the entire bench. Evander Kane was a guest during the second intermission of the Sportsnet broadcast and said that sometimes players simply want a different look and that it motivates guys to get on their horses and get going. That seemed to be the case for the Oilers, even though they weren’t able to get the game-tying goal toward the end of the game.
It will be intriguing to see how Woodcroft deploys the lines in the next game. The Oilers will head to Nashville on Monday and Dallas on Wednesday, before coming back home to play Vancouver on December 23. Needless to say, Edmonton could use three wins to go into the Christmas break on a high and feel confident about their game. More than that, they need to cut down on goals against because they can’t clearly can’t keep trying to outscore their mistakes. That strategy just isn’t working.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.