Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.
Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.
In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.
Some of the more choice quotes:
“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”
“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon Draisaitl–Taylor Hall line] that provides that.”
Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.
They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.
Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.
“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”
The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.
After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.
You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:
“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.
“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”
There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.
His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.
Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.
Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.
Exactly 366 days ago, Garret Sparks was tending goal for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
What a difference a year can make.
On Monday, Sparks — the 22-year-old netminder just recalled from the AHL Marlies — was the big story in Toronto, posting a 24-save shutout over Edmonton in his NHL debut.
Sparks’ debut came after the in-form James Reimer went down with injury and Jonathan Bernier struggled mightily to start the year. A seventh-round pick in 2011, Sparks was taken 189 spots behind the guy lined up across from him tonight — that’d be Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in ’11.
So yeah, Sparks might not be high on pedigree. But he’s certainly full value for what he’s achieved.
The former OHL Guelph standout went 8-2-1 with the Marlies this year, with a .938 save percentage and 1.90 GAA. Those numbers impressed the club’s brass and afforded him the chance to get a spot start against the Oilers.
And needless to say, it went well.
Leo Komarkov provided two-thirds of the Toronto offense on the night, scoring both the opening goal and insurance marker (into an empty net) to put him on 10 goals for the year. Komarov’s offensive outburst is nearly as surprising as Sparks’ emergence; prior to this season, the gritty Finn had never scored more than eight goals in a single NHL campaign.
Nazem Kadri scored the other goal for the Leafs, who are now 8-11-5 on the year.
As for Edmonton… well, the scoreline says it all. The club has just six goals in its last five games and has been shut out twice (the other occurred last Monday, in a 1-0 loss to the Caps). The defeat dropped the Oilers to 8-15-2, putting them right in the Western Conference basement next to Calgary, with 18 points.
It was a good night in NYC.
In Manhattan, the Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over the ‘Canes at MSG and, while that was going on, the Isles won their second straight with a victory over the Avs in Brooklyn.
Nice little Monday, that.
Let’s begin with the Rangers.
Heading into tonight’s action in arguably their worst slump of the season, the Blueshirts got goals from Mats Zuccarello, Oscar Lindberg, Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard to edge the ‘Canes. While it was hardly an oil painting — New York was out-shot 36-22 — the club will gladly take the win, and the positives that came with it.
Like the power play, that went 2-for-4 on the night with Zuccarello’s and Lindberg’s tallies. And the fact the club was able to withstand the loss of d-man Kevin Klein, who exited early in the first period — despite missing a steadying presence that plays over 21 minutes per night, the Rangers’ remaining five d-men (Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle, Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle and Marc Staal) all played at least 20 minutes save Yandle, who clocked in at 19:43.
Now, over to Barclays.
The Isles overcame Blake Comeau‘s game-opening tally in the first to win 5-3, thanks to a three-goal barrage in the final period.
Head coach Jack Capuano will no doubt be pleased with the balanced scoring across the board, as five different Isles found the back of the net: Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas and Mikhal Grabovski, with Cizikas’ goal proving to be the eventual game-winner.
The win was also sweet given it came with backup netminder Thomas Greiss in goal. The victory pushed him to an impressive 7-3-2 on the year, putting him in the conversation among the NHL’s top second-string goalies.
For the Avs, tonight’s loss will sting. It was another unremarkable outing from Semyon Varlamov (four goals on 27 shots, an .852 save percentage) and a forgettable night for three of Colorado’s best players. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene combined to go pointless on the night, with a minus-8 rating.
And yes, I just referenced plus-minus.
Update: As longtime and cherished PHT commenter bcislesman pointed out, I neglected to mention Wednesday’s Rivalry Night game on NBCSN — between the Rangers and Isles! Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty on it in the coming days. A reminder the game will be available on TV and via NBC Sports’ Live Extra at 8 p.m. ET.