The Oilers are the NHL’s second-most penalized team in the league post-All-Star break, behind only Philadelphia.
“It’s a little bit of lack of discipline and a little bit of frustration creeping into our game,” said Matt Hendricks. “As silly as it sounds, we’re trying a little too hard. We’re taking too much risk offensively. We’re getting a lot of penalties in the offensive zone or the neutral zone where we’re trying to go on the offensive at those times. Obviously, you’re going to get the defensive zone ones to try and stay in position. A guy beats you to the net and you take a hook, a trip or something to try to negate a scoring chance. But it’s the ones in the offensive zone, when they’re not necessary, that are the ones that really seem to sting.”
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan has talked a lot recently about needing to cut back on those infractions. The Oilers players know it too.
“We address it, as a group. We talk about it,” said Hendricks. “Todd’s example in the game last night is it’s something that has to happen. We know the individuals who are taking the penalties don’t want to. I’m beyond guilty of it too, just like everybody else is. You have to be a smarter player and that’s how you learn from it. There has to be a little repercussion.”
The players have to take it upon themselves to correct bad habits that have led to these mistakes and penalties.
“I think, for me, it’s work ethic,” said Jordan Eberle. “You’ve got to keep your feet moving and not getting your stick in there and giving the ref a chance to call a penalty. It’s such a fine line though because you don’t want to start playing soft. You don’t want to be scared of taking penalties and start not using your body and not using your stick like you can. It’s tough to get around that, but at the same time it’s just keeping your feet moving and not give the ref a chance to call you when you’re using your stick in there.”
The Oilers hit the ice for Wednesday’s practice with a new, albeit temporary, teammate. Eight-year-old Kohen joined the Oilers as part of a Make-A-Wish day. He signed an official contract to become an honourary Oiler for the day.
“It was a special day for him and really a special day for us,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Kohen is a young fella that had a wish come true today to become an Oiler for a day. He epitomizes really what a perfect Oiler is so we were happy to sign him to a contract. He’s tough, he’s got courage, he’s resilient, he inspires others and I think he had that effect on our group today. We had a pretty upbeat practice after a loss and I’d say he played a big part in it.”
The Oilers players had smiles to match Kohen’s.
“It brightened our day too,” said Matt Hendricks. “He’s been through a lot. It’s the dog days of the season and you’re coming into practice and bodies are beat up and a little weary. You’ve seen what he’s been through throughout his short life, eight-years-old, we’re happy he came out today. It was a lot of fun.”
Kohen led the team stretches, scored a couple goals and even scrapped with Darnell Nurse. All while his family watched from the stands.
“So much joy. So much hardship, first of all, with what they’ve gone through,” Hendricks said of Kohen and his family. “Then to see him living his dream. He probably could have done a thousand other things, but he chose to be with us at practice. We embraced it as a group and as a team and I know he had a heck of a time today. Hopefully it puts a smile on his face for a while.”
“It kind of lightened the mood for sure,” said Jordan Eberle. “Obviously, he’s been through quite a bit and to give him a chance to come out and meet some of his heroes and skate with the guys, I think he really enjoyed it and we definitely enjoyed it too.”
The Oilers have hit the ice for Wednesday’s practice at Rexall Place. There is a new skater among the team, with the Oilers brass inking an honourary Oilers player to an official contract this morning.
In partnership with Make-A-Wish, the Oilers have added Kohen Flett for today’s practice. Kohen is a young boy battling Low Grade Glioma.
As for the Oilers, Matt Hendricks has been elevated to the Connor McDavid line. Zack Kassian is still absent (illness), as is Eric Gryba, who left last night’s game.
Nilsson played in two games for the Condors, both wins, posting a 2.01 GAA and .935 save percentage.
Laurent Brossoit played just one game for the Oilers on his call-up, stopping 32 shots for a .970 save percentage. He has played 26 AHL games this season, recording a .921 save percentage and 2.70 GAA with a record of 14-8-3.
It was an odd-feeling night in Rexall Place on Tuesday. The game seemed to drag on with numerous penalties, a lengthy goal review and subsequent challenge, as well as equipment issues.
“It’s the longest game I’ve been a part of,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan, hyperbolizing for effect.
It was hard for the Oilers to get in a rhythm from the start.
“It was a long night,” said McLellan. “It mentally tested us to stay with it. I thought our guys did not a bad job. Their team did too. Their team is a much more mature group than ours. Some may have experienced that. Our guys actually stuck through it mentally fairly good. It wasn’t ideal if you’re a five-minute player or a 20-minute player. It’s not ideal.”
The top-end forwards likely felt it the most, seeing their ice time limited due to penalties.
“That’s not ideal, especially if you’re a guy who doesn’t kill penalties or that type of thing,” said Taylor Hall. “It’s hard to keep your focus and that type of thing. For us, that’s hockey. That’s gonna happen sometimes and you’ve got to be ready when the puck drops. I thought we did a good job of being ready when the puck drops. I thought we did a pretty good job of staying in the moment, keeping the game close and they had two empty-net goals and they beat us by two, so figure it out.”
The game lasted two hours and 43 minutes, rather lengthy for a regulation finish.
The Oilers have relied a lot of the Connor McDavid line for their offence as of late with Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell not putting up their usual numbers. On Tuesday night, there were perhaps some positive signs as both Draisaitl and Hall scored their first goals in a number of games.
Draisaitl scored his first since February 4, and Hall scored his first since January 18.
“First of all, I thought they were responsible defensively,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I thought they played in straight lines better. I thought they got rid of some of the fancy stuff and just got pucks to the net. Leon coming down, shooting up and pulling up. Then Taylor scoring on a rebound. They were dangerous the whole night. Maybe they’ll get some confidence and they’ve found a recipe again that allows them to have success.”
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan has talked about his team’s propensity for taking penalties as of late. Pre-All-Star break, the Oilers had taken the fifth fewest penalty minutes in the league. Post-break is a different story. They have taken 125 penalty minutes in seven games, the second most in the league.
That trend continued in a 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, as they took three minors and allowed one PPG.
“It’s not rare for our team right now,” said McLellan. “We just addressed it yesterday, and it’s unacceptable. We can’t keep marching to the freaking penalty box time and time again because of those penalties. We slashed a guy’s stick out of his hands early. Then we reach in the third. It doesn’t work that way.”
The Oilers went down a man on the blueline in their Tuesday night game against the Anaheim Ducks. Eric Gryba left the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return. There was not much of an update provided post-game about the d-man, other than he will be evaluated in the morning.
“He’ll be day-to-day,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I think we’ll evaluate him in the morning, but obviously he’s a pretty tough customer. If he couldn’t come back it probably wasn’t a good sign.”
Laurent Brossoit made 32 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Saturday. The performance was impressive enough that seeing him play again soon would not be surprising.
However, the Oilers are going to “run with” Cam Talbot for the time being, leading to the need to make a decision on Brossoit. Is it better for his development to sit and watch Talbot, or is it better for him to return to the AHL and roll as the number one?
“I thought LB was excellent last game,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I think that he’s got a real bright future in the game. I think he will play in the NHL for a long time, as the years go on. We’ll have to look at his development. Talbs is going to run some games here now for a little while.”
Anders Nilsson has been hot in two games played down in Bakersfield. He made 37 saves in his AHL season debut against Ontario, then followed it up with 21 against San Jose. Both games were wins for the Condors.
“We’re going to play Cam,” said McLellan. “We’re going to play Cam a fair amount, as long as his level of play goes up. Now we’ve got to figure out what do with LB. Do we want him watching Cam, or stopping 35 shots a night? We’ll have to make that decision.”
Laurent Brossoit made his season debut on Saturday night with Cam Talbot feeling under the weather. Talbot came to the rink and observed Brossoit’s performance, in which the 22-year-old goalie made 32 saves.
“He was great,” said Talbot. “Very steady, he was calm, controlled his rebounds, very calm out there and really kept his composure for a young guy. Especially when it was on such short notice when you’re going to get the start. Sometimes that can play with your mind a little bit, but he handled it great mentally and gave us a good outing and gave us a chance to win.”
The Oilers lost the game to Winnipeg 2-1 in a shootout, but Brossoit was solid for the home team and helped them secure a point by keeping them in the game until Matt Hendricks scored the equalizer to send it to overtime.
In limited exposure to Brossoit, Talbot sees the makings of a good NHL netminder.
“He’s just so calm,” said Talbot. “When you’re a young kid, sometimes you want to do a little too much. But he just plays square, plays patient, lets the puck come to him. He’s a big kid, really athletic. He’s able to make those first saves and get to the rebounds when he needs to. I think he’s got all the tools to be a good goalie at this level.”