Get the latest summer forecast and weather knowledge from Cindy Day
Want to become a member? Check out the benefits here.
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19: August 11, 2020
Hockey coaches are paid to think small picture, the old cliches — period by period, shift by shift, face-off by face-off, get the puck in deep — trying to win games in 60 or 65 minutes or in the skills contest shootout, but they all like to break down the 82-game season, too.
Segments. Usually a down and dirty 10 games.
Often trying to get at least 12 points out of every 20 available to make the playoffs.
But there’s also defensive goals, usually not giving up many.
And that’s where the Edmonton Oilers are having trouble, why they’re 5-4-1 over each of the last two 10-game segments after a 7-2-1 start. The Oilers went into Thursday’s NHL games still the surprising big dog in the Pacific but Arizona Coyotes are nipping at their heels because the Oilers may have hit their water level the last 10 games — twice with two-game winning streaks, but no more.
And defensively, disturbed coach Dave Tippett doesn’t like what he sees.
First 10 games, 24 goals allowed.
Second 10 games, 30 goals allowed.
Third 10 games, 35 goals allowed.
First 10 games, only one time where they gave up four or more goals.
Second 10 games, three times.
Third 10 games, five times.
So, nine times out of 30 games, four or more. And the Los Angeles Kings, who’ll be here Friday night, might be the 29th-ranked NHL team but they have five goals both times they’ve played the Oilers. They fell 6-5 here Oct. 5 and whipped the Oilers in L.A. 5-1 two weeks ago.
In the first 10 games, only L.A. scored four or more goals, in Game 2. In the second 10, Florida got six, St. Louis got five at Rogers Place and San Jose six at the Tank.
In this past 10, Dallas won in OT 5-4 here. The Kings laid a beating on them in L.A. Nov. 21. And in three of the Oilers last four games, they’ve lost by at least three goals, to Colorado, Vancouver, and Ottawa. Slippage for sure, even if the Oilers are arguably the surprise of the NHL season.
“We have to get a grip on this,” said Oilers winger Sam Gagner.
“We have to shut things down better. In the first 10 games, teams were having a tough time getting any chances against us and we have to get back to that … it’s all about having five guys on the same page,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, still unsure when he’ll be back after undergoing a procedure on his hand.
Tippett addressed the goals against in a team meeting before an optional skate Thursday. “All coaches break things down into segments, five games or 10,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “It’s similar to how we’ve done it in the past … with Tip, he’s defence oriented. Our goals against has to come down to where it should be. Last 10 games we’re still over .500, which is a positive, but the goals against is too high.”
Nugent-Hopkins debunks the theory that Tippett is strictly a defensive coach.
“I wouldn’t say that. He wants the team built from defence out, though. We’re at our best when we are outworking the other team and I’d say that’s his mentality. He wants structure and pace.”
The Oilers have had the ability to bounce back after stinkers like against the Senators, who had played the night before in Vancouver, had lost five in a row, and could have been tired but really played just three lines against the four-line Oilers.
“We’re in a good spot, still in first place but we have to fix some things,” said Zack Kassian, who skated Thursday as he gets over back spasms but might not be ready until Buffalo is here Sunday.
“There’s too many of the two good games, one bad one, or three good games, one bad one. We have to get more consistent, especially after Christmas, when the game and league locks down. It’s tougher to win games and get chances.”
Tippett pointed out the goals against to the players Thursday, especially the last 10, which started with a 6-2 walloping of Colorado but Dallas with five, LA with five, Colorado with four, Vancouver with five and Ottawa with five is “too many. I know all the numbers and we went through all the numbers today. They realize our goals against has gone up, and that’s a good thing. They realize we have a problem.”
“We need the staple of our game to be how we played in San Jose, in Las Vegas in Arizona on the last trip … we just have to do it more,” said Tippett.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019