Nov 6, 2011, 12:59 AM EDT
The red-hot Edmonton Oilers dropped a 4-2 loss to the almost-as-hot Phoenix Coyotes tonight. So is this a reality check for the upstart Oil? Let’s take a look at some reasons why it might or might not be the case.
Their goaltending was human: Devan Dubnyk allowed three goals on 29 shots while registering a .897 save percentage on Saturday.
It was the wrong human: Sure, Dubnyk was the frontrunner to be the starter going into the 2011-12 season, but Nikolai Khabibulin has been the star so far (and certainly has more skins on the wall). One could argue that the Oilers shouldn’t worry until “The Bulin Wall” starts to show some cracks.
Offensive struggles come into focus: OK, it’s hard to beat up on a team for its limited offense when they haven’t been forced to fill up the net. Still, the Oilers need to improve on their average of 26 shots per game as their magic begins to wear off.
The kids are still more than alright: On the bright side, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to be a favorite for the Calder Trophy. He scored his sixth goal of the season with assists from fellow youngster Jordan Eberle and relative old man Ryan Smyth.
So what’s the takeaway from that quick exercise? My feeling is that the Oilers cannot expect their goaltending to maintain its unreal start, even if Khabibulin’s return to the NHL’s elite isn’t a mirage. That means Edmonton will need more offense from depth spots, especially if Nugent-Hopkins and other inexperienced players hit a wall.
The fact that their defense is seemingly competent – maybe even very good – is mind blowing, but the simplest numbers hint that their transformation has a chance to continue. If that holds true all season long, then Tom Renney deserves to be at least a finalist for the Jack Adams.
Long story short, it’s not time for Oilers fans to be too concerned, but they might want to put any over-the-top braggadocio on “pause” too.
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