Adios. Arrivederci. Au Revoir. Adeus. Auf Wiedersehen. Sayonora. Do Svidaniya. Annyeong.
In any language, the Edmonton Oilers waved goodbye, so long and farewell to the Calgary Flames in the NHL Pacific Division playoff race Monday night before the first full house in the Saddledome in two years.
The Flames, entering a five-game-in-seven-night torture test, are now 12-0-1 at home of late and ELEVEN points ahead of their currently out-of-the-playoffs and sinking fast provincial rivals.
Being 11 points back of 34-14-7 Calgary with their now pedestrian 30-23-4 record and 25 games to play, not only almost certainly means they’re not going to catch Darryl Sutter’s now runaway train it leaves them chasing the big picture game like they have in now 40 games this year when they managed to give up the first goal of the game.
And it’s not just where the Oilers are now at in the standings versus the Flames, it’s where they are against the other teams in the Western Conference playoff scramble.
Todd McLellan’s Los Angeles Kings found themselves in almost the exact same game as the Oilers in Boston Monday — down 2-1 late. The Kings scored with 26 seconds remaining to tie the game and won it in overtime.
The Oilers, who return home to play Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals Wednesday and the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Saturday, have now lost three in a row including a loss to bottom feeder Chicago in overtime at the end of a five-game road trip and returned home to lose to cellar-dweller Montreal.
Edmonton fans experienced no joy in ‘Out-of-Town Scoreboard Watching Season’ since they left Rogers Place Saturday.
The Oilers needed to see L, L, L, L, L, L and L up on the out-of-town scoreboards and instead watched Calgary and Los Angeles put up two Ws each and Vegas, Anaheim, Vancouver and Dallas all win their games as well.
At the end of the evening Monday Edmonton (.561) was seven points back of Los Angeles (.612), and four points back of Vegas (.596) as well as behind wildcard positioned Dallas (.609) and Nashville (.600).
The 3-1 Edmonton loss was an easy game to analyze.
Calgary’s best players out-played Edmonton’s superstars as Hart and Art Ross Trophy winners Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held off the score sheet and alleged Olympic-calibre defenceman Darnell Nurse had a miserable night.
And Edmonton once again lost the battle of special teams, their bread and butter in their 16-5 start to the season.
While the Mikko Koskinen once again gave up the first goal of the game, the much-maligned goaltender also was between the pipes for a 2-0 deficit to start the game. But in this one he was without blame and actually was one of the few Oilers that played well.
As fascinating as the first goal stat (the Oilers are 17-0 when they score first), the most compelling stat this season might be the one Brian Swayne produced post-game Monday night after the Oilers went 0-4 on the power play and gave up a goal on the penalty kill.
In the Oilers first 22 games they were a plus-19 on special teams. In the last 35 games they are a minus-20.
After going undefeated in their first five under new head coach Jay Woodcroft Edmonton has only won two of the last eight. And you’d now have to figure are highly unlikely, even if they get on a real heater, to catch the Calgary Flames for one of the three Pacific Division playoff spots.
Woodcroft obviously now has to find a quick fix.
But mostly this is now on Edmonton’s pair of superstars and co-stars like Nurse to emerge to lead the way and get the Oilers back on track again.
Draisaitl was brought to the interview room after the game and didn’t mention that it was the Oilers seventh game in 13 days in seven different cities — their sixth in the last 10 — but did point out that not having Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljuvarvi in particular has had an effect. The Oilers are 2-7-2 in the last 11 games the team played without Nugent-Hopkins in the line-up.
“You’re not going to win many games when you score one goal. We’re obviously missing some guys but every team goes through that so it’s not an excuse. But those are key minutes, right? Nuge played 20 minutes a night. It’s hard to replace a guy like that. It’s hard to replace 16 or 17 minutes from Pulljuarvi. But we have to find a way to get points regardless.”
Nugent-Hopkins and Puljuvarvi won’t be back in time to stop the bleeding. Draisaitl, McDavid and Nurse are going to have to get it done.
“You can’t expect Brad Malone to come in and score three goals tonight. That’s on Connor. That’s on me. That’s on our top guys that are getting paid to create.”
Flames coach Sutter probably read it best.
“I don’t think their top guys were at the top of their game tonight. Their top guys looked tired. Look at their schedule. They were on a long trip and go home and play one game and then they come here. It’s hard on players and those guys play big minutes all the time.”