Player Grades: Edmonton Oilers Lead, Lead, Lead Again, But Can\'t Stave Off Hungry Sharks

One night after the Edmonton Oilers held an opponent to a single goal but couldn’t score, they managed to hit the back of the net three times, only to allow four. The 2017-18 season in microcosm. 

The Oilers spent 35 minutes trying to overcome a one-goal deficit in Calgary, but could only hold a trio of one-goal leads for a combined 15 minutes against the persistent San Jose Sharks, who battled back, back, and back again before taking their only lead of the night to end the game in overtime. Three times the Oilers scored early in a period only to have the Sharks tie the score by mid-frame each time.

In addition to their own three goals, Edmonton had plenty of chances to score a few more. They had seven odd-man rushes and failed to convert a single one of them, while the Sharks twice converted a 2-on-1, with old Oiler killer Logan Couture making the telling pass each time. Couture also scored the game’s lone powerplay goal on one of four San Jose PPs, while the Oilers only had one such all night long, and that for barely a minute. Same old, same old for the club that lags a distant 31st in the NHL in powerplay opportunities despite having the league’s top foul magnet in Connor McDavid. File it under unsolved mysteries, serial crimes division.

While the Sharks outshot the Oilers 40-28, this was a close game by scoring chances, as judged by The Athletic‘s Jonathan Willis along with the Cult of Hockey‘s own David Staples. San Jose held a slim 20-19 advantage overall and the clubs dead even at 11-11 in Grade A chances (>log

and >summary

). Fitting then that the game would go to the extra period, where a single mistake/opportunistic play would decide things. 

Postgame podcast

The Edmonton Oilers lost another close game, this one in overtime to the San Jose Sharks, but there were a few positive notes, such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on McDavid’s wing. David Staples and Bruce McCurdy of the Cult of Hockey dig into the game, as well as a RNH for Mike Hoffman trade rumour.

Player grades


#2 Andrej Sekera, 4. A quiet night, mostly spent chasing the puck; shots were 3 for, 9 against during his 15½ minutes at evens. Did make one quality play at the offensive blue line to keep the puck in and set up a scoring chance.

#4 Kris Russell, 3. Similar shots results as his partner Sekera. Was part of the screen that complicated life for Al Montoya on the Sharks’ powerplay goal. Was also part of the sequence of pain — literally — on the 3-3 goal, when he (unnecessarily, in my view) threw his already sore left hand in front of a shot that would have been better left for his goaltender, reinjured the hand, and enabled the reset that led to the scoring shot. Went down the tunnel and didn’t return.

#6 Adam Larsson, 7. Played a rock solid game, logging an even 25 minutes in ice time including 3:39 on the penalty kill. Led the defence corps in shot attempts (5), blocks (4) and hits (3) while finding time to take a couple of pounds of flesh from Evander Kane, who had drawn the ire of Oilers fans with a dangerous-but-uncalled hit on Matt Benning last time these clubs met. Larsson’s sneaky-dirty crosscheck of Kane in the third period repaid that debt.

#13 Michael Cammalleri, 4. Back in the bottom six on a makeshift line with Strome and Pakarinen. That group generated poor shot shares, while Cammalleri himself generated next to nothing personally (no shots on goal). He did his best work on the defensive side of the puck, notably a nifty steal on the backcheck against Chris Tierney to thwart a 3-on-1. But he has now gone 31 games without a goal. His new theme song should be Tool’s “Forty Six & 2”, given his overall stats as an Oiler: 46 GP, 2 goals.    

#16 Jujhar Khaira, 5. His line with Caggiula and Kassian also got smacked around by flow-of-play counts (3 shots for, 10 against during his nearly 13 minutes). They did have some good moments, especially early in the game. Khaira himself picked up an assist on Caggiula’s goal. Played a heavy game, finishing his checks (6 hits) but was unable to generate any shots and went just 3/10=30% on the dot. Strong on the penalty kill. His game is becoming more detailed and complete by the week.

#18 Ryan Strome, 5. Had a pair of glorious chances but couldn’t finish either, ringing iron on a 2-on-1 in the third, then getting robbed by Martin Jones after a superb set-up by RNH in overtime. Took an extra split second to get the shot away and Jones took it away from him. 5/11=45% in the faceoff circle, and simialrly just below the water line on various flow-of-play metrics.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 6. Played a monstrous 26:19 on the top pairing with Larsson, finishing the night +1 with a clean sheet on the defensive side of the ledger. 4 shots, plenty of skating.

#26 Iiro Pakarinen, 5. Played 10 minutes at evens, much of it in saw-off mode (just 2 shots for, 4 against, and no goals by either team). Did have one ugly neutral-zone turnover early, but did some sterling defensive work right in his own goal crease to help stave off the subsequent flurry. 2 shots, 2 hits, and a couple of clearances on the penalty kill. Made a terrific pass to Strome for a good shot, drove the net for the rebound only to be stone-cold robbed by Jones.

#27 Milan Lucic, 4. Made some things happen with seveal good scoring chances but remained snakebitten around the cage. Hit another post on what appeared to be an open net, and failed to beat Jones on a couple of other great chances which were less than they might have been due to a slow release. Had 8 shot attempts, 4 on net, to lead the team in both categories. Added 4 hits. But his bottom line was all-too-typical for his play throughout 2018: 0-0-0, 0 PiM, -2. Make it 23 GP, 1-1-2, 4 PiM, -18 (dash-eighteen!) since January 20. His slow coverage on the Brenden Dillon’s point shot was a big part of the problem on the 3-3 goal.  Some good signs, especially in a solid opening period, but he needs to find a way to cash.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 2. Not all bad, but mostly bad. Let’s start with the obvious: he was on the ice for all 4 San Jose goals and none by the Oilers. While he did chip in to 6 Oilers scoring chances on the night, he was culpable on 8 against, a lousy number, including direct involvement in all 4 of those goals against. Led the Oilers with 3 giveaways, a bad one leading directly to the first Sharks counter. Had another fine night on the dot (12/17=71%) but lost a key draw on the PK that led directly to a goal. Failed to fill the shooting lane and contributed to the screen on Montoya on the 3-3 goal, seconds after he had failed to get a pass through on a 2-on-1 at the other end. Finally, turned the puck over inside his own line on the game winner (officially, a takeaway by eventual goal scorer Tomas Hertl, but a key battle lost however you slice it). “2” is a harsh grade for his overall performance but the bottom line is results, and Leon’s were dreadful in this contest. 

#35 Al Montoya, 6. Solid performance from the backup gave his team a chance to win. Perhaps slightly culpable on Couture’s outside shot on the PP, a perfectly placed shot that tickled iron on the way in. Completely unsighted on Dillon’s third period tally from range that beat a screen of about six men before ever reaching Montoya. Made some fine saves and battled through traffic reasonably well. Was at his best when he robbed Brent Burns twice in rapid succession in OT, but had little chance a bit later on a well-executed give-and-go off a turnover. 40 shots, 36 saves. .900 save percentage.

#44 Zack Kassian, 6. Responded to some local criticism of his performance in Calgary the night previous with a decent showing, especially in the first period when his trio with Khaira and Caggiula had several excellent shifts. Was the centrepiece of the line’s one goal when he took Khaira’s feed below the goal line, held the puck before delivering a spinning backhand pass right on Caggiula’s tape for the quick finish. Later took an undisiciplined slashing penalty, an obvious call at a bad time even as his mates bailed him out.

#46 Pontus Aberg, 6. A decent showing in a dream apprenticeship with McDavid and RNH. Just the 1 shot on net but some decent passes, one of which led to a goal and earned him his second point as an Oiler. He further helped the cause by crashing the crease on Klefbom’s subsequent point shot, screening and shall we say “distracting” the netminder in the process. It was enough for goaltender interference to be challenged and (correctly, though barely) rejected as the incidental contact took place just outside the blue paint. Later got tabbed for a lame slashing call when he tapped an opponent’s stick at ice level. Needs to do more with this opportunity but it’s worth investing a few more games in the experiment.

#74 Ethan Bear, 5. Looks like an NHLer when his team has the puck, and an AHLer when the other guys do. His contributions to scoring chances of 4 for, 4 against reflect a high-event player on both sides of the puck, as do shots on goal of +11/-10 in 16½ minutes of even strength play. Got badly walked by Joonas Donskoi (who always impresses these eyes) on one sequence, but on another he battled the same man around the perimeter, won the puck, and cleared it. Showed off his best skill in the first when he recovered the puck near his own net, took one quick look and zipped a crisp 60-foot outlet pass right on to the tape of McDavid in the neutral zone. Early days, but he may be the best natural passer within the current D-corps. Lots to learn, but that is to be expected for any first-year pro playing in the NHL. 

#77 Oscar Klefbom, 7. Did a lot, gave some of it back, but extra points for playing his heart out in what was probably his home finale. Returning from a two-game absence, he supposedly has a temporary reprieve that will allow him to complete the upcoming road trip before facing a further “procedure” on his troublesome shoulder which will prematurely end his season. He, Bear and McDavid were the only three Oilers on the positive side of the shot clock during their respective even-strength minutes. He scored a goal on a long slapper that rang iron on the way in, bringing back memories of a similar shot that beat Martin Jones from range in Game Five of their series last spring — a series-turning goal, as it turned out. We saw more of the Good Oscar in the third when his point shot was tipped home by RNH to put Edmonton in front yet a third time. Was jumping up into the play frequently, passing with authority, and playing with passion. Did however have a few issues on the defensive side of the puck (contributions to scoring chances 4 for, 6 against), including a trio of “also-in-frame” appearances on Sharks’ goals. Did manage that rarest 0f feats when he drew an actual penalty to the other team when he got high-sticked in the middle frame.

#91 Drake Caggiula, 6. Had some decent moments on the attack, notably when he scored the opening goal on a sharp conversion from a low angle. No other shot attempts but a few nice passes. But took a careless high-sticking double minor not two minutes after the 2-1 goal that cost the Oilers an immediate equalizer.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. Looking real good in his first career trial at wing. Is meshing very nicely with McDavid, not that surprising since Nuge has always been a fine complementary player when playing with skill. Jumped into a hole at a perfectly-timed moment to take McDavid’s feed and burst in alone, only to be stymied by Jones. Later solved the ‘tender with a mid-air deflection of a Klefbom job, this after driving to the net front and right into the line of fire. Came within an ace of ending things with a brilliant pass to Strome in OT that led to a Grade A+ chance. Drilled Mikkel Boedker with the ol’ “sneaky shoulder” while in possession of the puck.  Led (or tied) the forwards in the following categories: shifts (24); SH TOI (1:59); shots (4); takeaways (2); blocked shots (1); goals (1); plus (+2). That’s a game with considerable breadth. Added a respectable 5/9+56% on the dot, splitting duties with his linemate McDavid (who was 4/12=33%). 

#97 Connor McDavid, 7. Was down a couple quarts from the driving force he was in Calgary 24 hours previous, even as this time he was rewarded with a couple of points, both assists where he fed Klefbom at the point. Still managed to lead his team in scoring chance contributions, with 7. Didn’t manage a shot on net himself, something that has happened just once previously all season, back in November. Did make a few nice feeds as usual, not to mention zone exits and entries as he always does, plus one dazzling display of solo puck possession in Sharks’ territory. Got sent careening into the end boards collarbone-first on a dangerous-looking hit by Justin Braun, only to have it deemed “no foul” by the ref looking right at it. Textbook boarding, but Oilers. Luckily, he got up, flexing a shoulder mind, but eventually there was no harm from the no-foul. Thankfully. Played 22 minutes on the night, on top of the previous night’s 25.

#98 Jesse Puljujarvi, 5. Among those burned on the first goal-against, even as he busted his butt in a failed effort to stop the jailbreak. Otherwise he had a decent game, firing 2 shots and contributing to 5 Oilers chances. No luck on the conversion end of things though. Had one of the games funner moments when he volleyball-spiked a puck to the end wall, needs to learn to pursue that puck himself however as the only guy on his team legally allowed to touch it.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

>STAPLES: McDavid dominates in Calgary, can’t buy a goal

McCURDY: Oilers just plain bad on the wings, no other way to put it

>STAPLES: How does Draisaitl’s contract affect Leafs’ young stars?

STAPLES: Todd McLellan on the hot seat, says NHL insider


Follow me on Twitter >@BruceMcCurdy 


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Player grades: Edmonton Oilers lead, lead, lead again, but can't stave off hungry Sharks
Edmonton Oilers player grades -- Oil finally net some goals but can't hold hungry Sharks at bay
Stories for May 2009