Sometimes the Edmonton Oilers have it — like in a 6-1 rout in Nashville Tuesday — and sometimes they look like they need three guesses to tell you what colour the puck is.
Thursday in Philadelphia was another glaring example of the latter.
A bewildering start to the season continued at the Wells Fargo Center, where Edmonton suffered its second ugly loss in four games, falling 4-1 to the host Flyers.
For a team that was supposed to hit the ground running, all the Oilers have done so far is hit the ground. It’s hard to explain how a team with expectations as high as Edmonton’s, who worked as hard leading into training camp as the Oilers did, are 1-3 with 17 goals against in four games.
No wonder head coach Jay Woodcroft, his team out-hustled badly in two of its four starts, dropped an F-bomb in his post-game interview.
“(Effing) not good enough, excuse my language,” spat the coach. “I thought our game lacked urgency. I didn’t see second and third efforts in all areas of the game, up and down our lineup.”
Nope, they weren’t effing close to being good enough. There was not much of anything to like about this one. There was very little compete, not much urgency, almost zero finish and just enough big mistakes to bury them for good.
“Not good,” sighed winger Warren Foegele. “We simply just got out-worked. They wanted it more than us and you can’t win a game if you don’t want it.”
The Oilers look like a team right now that thinks it’s better than it is. Whet they need to be reminded of, if they haven’t clued in already, is that regardless of how much skill you have, games are still won and lost by outworking the other guys.
And, in two of four games (8-1 to Vancouver in the season opener and now this egg), they haven’t been able or willing to match the opposition’s intensity.
“We know we have a standard to play toward and we’re falling short right now,” said Woodcroft. “It’s going to have to get fixed quickly here.”
Edmonton trailed from start to finish, falling behind 1-0 in the first period, then 2-0 and 3-1 in the second after giving up a short-handed goal at 18:29.
Any hope that the high-octane Oilers might launch a furious third-period comeback died four minutes in, when Cam Atkinson walked past Evan Bouchard and scored on the breakaway to make it 4-1.
It capped a horrendous night for Bouchard, who also served up the soft giveaway that set up Atkinson’s first of the night and was minus three in a 4-1 game.
It was a rough night for everyone. Even Connor McDavid, who didn’t have a shot on goal and served up the turnover that led to Sean Walker’s short-handed back-breaker.
“Obviously not very good, not what we’re looking for,” said McDavid. “I think we all have another level to get to and we have been there all season.
“Lucky for us it’s only four games, but having said that it’s been four games. It’s time to put our best foot forward and start playing good games.”
Jack Campbell started both games of the two-game trip and will come home with a split after giving up four goals on 33 shots. He was good, not great, and will give way to Stuart Skinner when the Oilers return home Saturday against Winnipeg.
But this game was lost a long way from the goalie. Something in the Oilers’ heads needs to snap to attention while this is still a manageable blip in the season. The longer it drags out, the more they risk letting it drag them down.
Instead of playing as though teams are going to get out of their way because they’re the Oilers, they need to realize it’s going to be the exact opposite. All year. So they should start getting used to it.
“It’s hard to win in this league,” said McDavid. “Really hard. It takes everybody and it takes everything you’ve got. We have to get back to that.”
LATE HITS — The only change from the Nashville game was Vincent Desharnais replacing Philip Broberg on the third pairing with Brett Kulak … Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was also minus three on the night. Evander Kane has one assist and is minus five through four games on the top line.
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