Player grades: Edmonton Oilers lose the plot in final frame, fall 5-2 in Columbus

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Oilers 2, Blue Jackets 5

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This one had “trap game” written all over it, and sure enough, the Edmonton Oilers walked right into it.

Playing what amounted to a morning game in Columbus 40 hours after wrapping up a playoff berth in an emotional win over Colorado Avalanche, the Oilers were in position to win with a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Alas, they fell apart in the third, allowing 4 unanswered goals to fall 5-2 to the Blue Jackets.

The visitors had plenty of chances at the good end but lacked finish, while some sloppy coverage cost them at their own end of the sheet. So did a sloppy line change that cost the club a too-many-men penalty midway in the third, and wouldn’t you know? That was the one the Oilers could n’t kill after 25 straight successful PKs, as rookie Nick Blankenburg scored the game winner on an innocuous 48 footer through traffic, his first NHL goal from him. (The penalty seemed bogus on TV but was acknowledged by Jay Woodcroft as an extra forward (who he didn’t identify) jumping the boards on what should have been a very routine change.) Sloppy hockey, and on this day it cost them.

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The Oilers held the edge on the shot clock at 35-31, but couldn’t muster a single shot on net by a forward in the last 10 minutes of play. Our preliminary count of Grade A scoring chances here at the Cult of Hockey was 16 for Edmonton, 17 for Columbus (running count).

player grades

#2 Duncan Keith, 5. Quiet game, created little, allowed little.

#5 Cody Ceci,4. One decent shot when he jumped into the rush with McDavid. 4 mistakes on Grade A chances, however, including a bad pinch on the clinching goal though in his defense it came at a time in the game where chances had to be taken.

#6 Kris Russell, 4. Similar game to his partner Ceci, though with 6 mistakes on Grade A chances. Nothing egregious, but he could not disrupt the pass on the 2-on-1 that sealed the deal with 3:15 to play.

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#10 Derek Ryan, 4. Quiet game. Unable to contain Blankenburg’s point shot on the game winner and may well have tipped it.

#14 Devin Shore, 5. His first game in nearly a month. Played 7:43 at even strength where precious little happened (shots 3-1 Oilers).

#16 Derick Brassard, 4. Played 7:30 with 0 shots, 0 hits. His only impact on the game was a goalie interference penalty he took when he crashed into Elvis Merzlikins with a little help from CBJ d-man Vladislav Gavrikov. He had one good look from the slot off a Draisaitl feed but inexplicably decided to pass off and the chance disappeared.

#18 Zach Hyman, 5. The usual solid grinding, but missed the net on his best chances, including a breakaway that he put over the crossbar. Drew to penalty.

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#19 Mikko Koskinen, 5. Made a number of excellent saves, a couple of them with a little help from his friends the posts. Twice beaten by second chances from the lip of the crease, once on a well executed 2-on-1, and once on an outside shot that was heavily screened. 30 shots, 26 saves, .867 save percentage.

#22 Tyson Barry, 6. Oilers dominated possession when he was on the ice, to the tune of 16 shots for, just 2 against during his 17 minutes at even strength. Alas, the 2 against came in rapid succession late in the first, resulting in a dangerous rebound and a goal (the 1-1) with Barrie losing a battle on the sequence. He fired 6 shots of his own and earned his 32nd assist of the season on Draisaitl’s powerplay goal.

#27 Brett Kulack, 4. He too was beaten on the 1-1 sequence. He had his problems on the penalty kill, making one brutal turnover to Bjorkstrand right in from his own net (with a little “help” from the ref who was right in Edmonton’s crease for unknown reasons). He later he was unable to defend the goalie screen and may even have contributed to it on the game winner. He missed the net on his own best chance after a good setup by Draisaitl.

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#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Had a strong game, dangerous on the attack, hustling on the back check. Officially involved in 6 Grade A shots by the Oilers and that doesn’t include a handful of sweet dishes to teammates who missed the net with their shots. Lashed home his 55th of the season on a perfectly-placed one-timer, that extended his club record to 24 powerplay goals, after first drawing the penalty himself. 12/20=60% on the faceoff dot.

#37 Warren Foegele, 5. Quietly solid in a two-way role. Not much happened at either end of the sheet in his 12 minutes of action.

#44 Zack Cassian, 4. Played just 6:29 while spending way more time than that in the penalty box (officially 12 minutes, unofficially 17:17 after his misconduct for abuse of officials was extended by an 8-minute stretch without a whistle). This after being decked by Carson Meyer with a tough but clean open ice check. The goal scorer scooted right past him to deposit an uncontested rebound on the 2-2. He had 0 shot attempts, though he was the only Oiler to be credited with 2 hits.

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#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. Won a battle in the build-up to Kane’s goal, but lost one on the 1-1. Robbed at close range when he couldn’t get any air under a great McDavid feed. He had a dangerous tip from close range. Exposed on the 4-2 when he was positioned as the high forward when Ceci pinched but decisively lost the foot race that followed resulting in a wide-open 2-on-1. Drew to penalty.

#71 Ryan McLeod, 7. Flying all afternoon, transporting the puck well. Played 10 minutes at even strength during which time the Oilers outshot the Blue Jackets 7-0. 0 shots of his own from him, as he fired over the crossbar on his one (great) look from him. He did pop one puck free for a good Hyman chance, and set up the same winger for a breakaway shot that missed the target, Strong on the PK as well, especially one sequence where he carried the puck the full length of the ice and killed some time deep in the o-zone.

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#75 Evan Bouchard, 4. Had 3 outside shots but not a lot of offensive magic. He made a wretched pass directly to Bjorkstrand that resulted in an easy empty netter than put this one away.

#91 Evander Kane, 7. Opened the scoring on a wicked wrist shot 3 minutes in, the first of 7 shots he fired on net in this one. Somehow he was credited with 0 official hits despite crushing Blankenburg deep in Columbus territory, which perhaps explains how CBJ officially outhit EDM 21-8 in this one. He did not have his finest hour passing the puck.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 5. Made a couple of good passes leading to dangerous looks, but didn’t have so much as a shot attempt off his own stick. He lost a battle deep in the o-zone that started the sequence of pain on the 4-2. Took another in what has been a series of chintzy penalty calls of late that makes one wonder how long the 11-year vet will need to play before he starts to get those “veteran calls” that NHL refs are (in)famous for.

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#97 Connor McDavid, 7. Set a new career high with 118 points by earning primary assists on both Oilers goals, extending his lead in the scoring race to 4 points. Unable to solve Merzlikins on a couple of excellent looks of his own. Lost positioning on the 2-2 on which the 2 Oilers defensemen got outnumbered around their own net without enough / any help from the forwards. Chipped in on 9 Grade A chances for, 2 against. He fumbled the puck a couple times down the stretch, and missed Kane with a pass when the winger was alone in front. Took a retaliatory penalty going to bat for Kassian, which isn’t quite the way things are supposed to work.

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