Cult of hockey player grades_ darnell nurse scores first career goal to cap oilers’ comeback, but wild have other ideas _ edmonton journal

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Edmonton Oilers’ Darnell Nurse celebrates his first


NHL goal in the third period of an game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 4-3. Jim Mone / Associated Press

Oilers 3, Wild 4

It was a strange, back-and-forth game in Minnesota which saw the Edmonton Oilers score three consecutive goals at one point but give up deuces at both ends of the night to fall short to the Wild, 4-3 in regulation.

It was an uneven effort from the visitors that ultimately caught up to them. The Oilers scored in each period but had major lulls in all three frames where they were in chase mode for extended intervals. When they finally did gain possession of the puck, it seemed they were happy enough to punt.

The Wild came out hitting, with Chris Porter and Matt Dumba landing the two biggest hits of the game on Taylor Hall and Lauri Korpikoski respectively, the latter sending the Finn to the quiet room for a time. Other than taking a pointless retaliation penalty after the Dumba hit, the Oilers had little pushback on the physical side, landing just 10 hits total on the night. But they did push back where it counted, crawling out of a two-goal hole to get back in the game. But once the visitors got the lead on Darnell Nurse’s first career goal, they fell back into a shell, and the Wild were all too happy to bring the play to them. Inevitably, bam! bam! two goals in 43 seconds on defensive zone breakdowns. The Oilers eventually recovered for a decent last gasp, firing 4 shots on net and 4 more that were blocked in the final 60 seconds. But in the end it was a third consecutive regulation loss, during which time Oilers scored 9 goals but couldn’t manage a single standings point due to an all-too-familiar problem — crummy defensive play.

There were some promising moments from some promising Oilers, but a few too many brain cramps for my liking. Todd McLellan has been harping on game management since Game One, and he’s got a bunch more footage for the next film room session. They can look at defencemen who can’t make a clean pass in their own zone, wingers who can’t get it out along the boards, centres who are beaten to the net front. Todd McLellan nailed it in his post-game scrum when he commented, “I can live with mistakes, but not the same ones over and over and over again.” Hear, hear.

Game summary& Event summary(NHL. com)

Detailed game stats (naturalstattrick. com)

Individual contributions to scoring chances,

log & summary (David Staples) Player Grades

The following are the player grades for the Oilers, with 10 being a “perfect” game, 9 extraordinary, 8 great, 7 good, 6 above average, 5 average, 4 below average, 3 poor, 2 terrible and 1 deserving of almost instant demotion. Compiled by Bruce McCurdy.

#2 Andrej Sekera, 4. Was slow to cover Tomas Vanek on the second Wild goal, a PP tally scored by Marco Scandella on a ridiculously easy give-and-go that left both Sekera and his partner Fayne waving at air. The veteran duo got thumped by all shot metrics. Sekera was the more effective of the two, managing 4 shots on goal himself while blocking 3. Had consecutive second-period shifts that lasted 1:20, 2:15, and 1:10 as he and Fayne had all sorts of trouble clearing the zone, whether paired with the McDavid line or the RNH line. The long-change bench is only 100 feet away, but it seemed like 100 miles at times.

#4 Taylor Hall, 6. Got absolutely smoked by Porter in the early going but took his lumps and bounced back to play a decent game. Scored on his only shot of the game when he came of the bench as the extra attacker on a delayed penalty and promptly cashed a rebound. Had trouble getting his shots through otherwise. Made a lovely play in the offensive corner to rag the puck before finding Pakarinen for the 2-2 goal.

#5 Mark Fayne, 2. A tough night all the way around. Got smoked by nearly a 2:1 margin on all even-strength shot metrics (Corsi +11/-21, Fenwick 8-14, shots 5-9). Was a culprit on 5 scoring chances against at evens and 2 more on the PK. This from a guy who’s not here for his offence. Deflected the first goal past his own goaltender, then got caught standing still as Scandella blew right past him unmolested to redirect the second from close range. He and Sekera looked like the lions on the library stairs on that one, and about as fast.

#10 Nail Yakupov, 6. A strange game. Set up Edmonton’s first goal to extend his point streak to 6 games, and was frequently dangerous, as his team-high 4 shots and 9 shot attempts attest. But made a number of bad decisions with the puck, with one cross-ice pass to nobody coming 170 feet the other way to end up in Oilers’ net. Had trouble navigating the offensive blueline, either coughing the puck or causing offsides. Was part of Edmonton’s most dangerous line all the same, and was involved in 8 scoring chances.

#12 Rob Klinkhammer, incomplete. The Oilers’ lack of physical response was in no small part due to the absence of the banging winger, who went down awkwardly on a first-period forecheck and eased his way to the bench and down the tunnel with a leg injury. Appears set to join Jordan Eberle and Matt Hendricks on the Nuge’s Injured Winger List.

#16 Teddy Purcell, 4. Struggled to clear the puck along the defensive wall too often for my liking, including one dreadful sequence where he was beaten both coming and going and was ultimately bailed out by a splendid Talbot stop. Brought little to the table offensively, with just 1 shot and 1 scoring chance contribution. Perhaps his most representative contribution was a play where he stole the puck only to cough it right back up.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 7. Did his cause a world of good with a very solid first outing. After a slightly tentative start he found the range in the final two frames, keeping the front of the net clear for the most part and winning some battles in the corner. Made a couple of nice rushes, gaining the zone before smartly peeling back on the first, then capping the second with a hard shot that tipped off a Wild defender and caught the top corner behind a surprised Devan Dubnyk for his first career goal. Was on the ice for the 3-3 goal minutes later but was outnumbered in front by two Wild players, the second of whom tapped it home. Had a team high 3 hits — which is to say, 30% of his club’s hits — fired a couple shots and blocked a couple.

#26 Iiro Pakarinen, 5. Got the perhaps-unenviable task of Nuge’s Winger after Klinkhammer’s departure, and showed good and bad. Scored his first of the season with a quick shot off a Hall feed that also caught a shin pad on its way into the net. (There were no fewer than four goals, two at each end, that benefitted from a weird deflection off an opponent.) Had his issues defensively though. The Oilers got thumped by all shot metrics with Pakarinen on the ice.

#28 Lauri Korpikoski, 4. Was handed a gift 2-on-1 when Dumba stumbled at the point, but he and Purcell utterly botched the play with a pair of dreadful passes and, not surprisingly, no shots. Got drilled in the head by Dumba a while later and left the bench for the remainder of the first. 1 shot, 0 hits, and precious little impact on the game.

#33 Cam Talbot, 5. Made a few nice stops, notably a superb glove grab off a Jason Zucker rocket and a pad stop of a bang-bang play after Purcell got owned on the wall. Hard to point a finger at him on any specific goal, two of which were deflected off teammates on their way towards goal and the other two which were poorly defended. Was saved by his posts a couple of other times. 28 shots, 24 saves, .857 save percentage are uglier numbers than his night’s work warranted, so gets a bare passing grade. Your mileage may vary.

#42 Anton Slepyshev, 5. Did OK in a very limited role (just 7:36 TOI), during which time he was a little bit of a physical presence with 2 hits, including Edmonton’s best of the night. His size and physicality are unexpected given the prior scouting reports on this player, and he’s applying both to earn occasional fourth-line minutes. No shot attempts.

#51 Anton Lander, 4. Did lots of good things, including a team-best 10/16=63% on the faceoff dot, a very good shorthanded chance, and contributions to 3 other chances at even strength. Beaten to the net-front on the winning goal however. Still looking for his first point of the season ten games in.

#55 Mark Letestu, 4. I barely noticed him, truth be told, and neither did the stat sheet which was a wall of zeroes other than a mediocre 3/7=43% on the dot. Played just 4:34 at evens as McLellan cut down to three lines early. Oddly, led Oilers forwards in ice time on each special team.

#62 Eric Gryba, 2. To quote my notes: “62 stripped behind net”; “62 brutal pass into skates, turnover in D-zone”; “62 suicide pass -> 28 drilled in head”; “62 retaliation penalty”. That’s all in the first eight minutes of the game! Gryba was in the box for said (marginal) retaliation penalty when Minny scored the 2-0 goal. Did make a minor contribution to Edmonton’s first goal, but made the blunder of the night on the game winner two periods later when he held the puck behind the Oilers net for about ten steamboats while Minnesota cleared the zone on a delayed offside, completed a full line change, and then redeployed the forecheck, at which point Gryba slapped the puck up the players’ bench side directly to a waiting Wild. From there, into the net she goes. It was the second game in a row Gryba made a serious blunder on a crucial goal, enough to draw criticism from McLellan in the post-game scrum, not by name but unambiguously by situation. Zero hits and precious little physicality (other than that penalty) on a night the Oilers could have used a little pushback. Definitely not his night.

#67 Benoit Pouliot, 6. A solid game on Edmonton’s best line, contributing to 8 scoring chances for and 0 against while posting solid shot metrics. A strong foil for McD-Yak on this night, doing some good work both in open ice and in the tough areas to keep the puck moving north. Earned an assist on Nurse’s goal. Made a fine pass to send McDavid in alone late in the third. Played a few ticks short of 20 minutes, his highest number of the season by nearly 3:00.

#77 Oscar Klefbom, 6. His 22:08 led all defenders in ice time. Adapted fairly well to the switch to right defence, and to the new partner in Nurse after a steady diet of Justin Schultz the last 60 or so games. On this night he was the best of the Oilers’ RD and it wasn’t particularly close. 5 shot attempts, 2 blocks, an assist on Nurse’s goal and an unlucky bounce off the shaft of his own stick that deflected straight to the goal scorer. Was involved in 4 Edmonton scoring chances, just the 1 against, all in the third period.

#88 Brandon Davidson, 5. He was one of three Oilers (Gryba, Lander) to be overwhelmed down low in the cascade of chaos that followed Gryba’s bad turnover, and that moment might be the takeaway for many observers. This one saw lots of good things from Davidson, which were backed up by some tidy on-ice shots metrics (Corsi +16/-8; shots on goal +8/-4). He was involved offensively, activating deep into the zone a couple of times, and contributing 4 shot attempts, including a very decent shot from the point in the last minute with Talbot on the bench. Got caught one time when McDavid’s pass didn’t get through and he was called for a nebulous hooking penalty on an emergency check that prevented a jailbreak. But I for one don’t mind a d-man who will pinch in behind McDavid occasionally. He was the one defender who managed to keep his shifts of reasonable length — his longest shift of 1:05 was the 25th longest of the defence corps as a whole. Did I mention there was trouble with the long change?

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 4. 21½ honest minutes with precious little to show for it. Offensively was credited with no shots and no points (though he may yet get a scorekeeper’s review on Pakarinen’s snipe, where he put the puck deep for Hall to win behind the net). Defensively he was caught out by Ryan Suter who snuck behind him to tap in the 3-3 goal.

#97 Connor McDavid, 8. He was nothing short of unbelievable in the first period, when he put on a handful of dazzling stickhandling and skating exhibitions where he beat multiple opponents while somehow keeping ahold of the puck. One such sequence was rewarded when he won possession in his own end with a deft touch, drew a tripping penalty in the process, but carried on in the continuation to burst deep into the zone and feed the puck to Yakupov in the slot, with Hall ultimately cleaning up the garbage. Came on gangbusters down the stretch, barely missing the tying marker when he broke in, deked Dubnyk, but didn’t have quite enough room to beat the post. He chipped in on 4 Edmonton scoring chances in the last 5 minutes to finish with a team-leading 9 on the night, vs. 1 mistake on a Wild chance. Had by far the best shot metrics of any Oiler: Corsi of +29(!)/-17 and shots on goal of +14/-6 during his extensive even-strength ice time, vs. +22/-36 and +9/-17 respectively when he was on the bench. Even managed a respectable 7/14=50% on the dot. Played 22:19 overall to lead not only the forwards but all Edmonton skaters. That didn’t take long! Related at the Cult of Hockey:

McCurdy: McDavid passes 9-game test with flying colours

Staples: Oilers need a puck-mover; can Darnell Nurse help?

Cult of Hockey debate: Willis, Staples and McCurdy on what Justin Schultz brings

McCurdy: Darnell Nurse recalled by the Oilers

Staples: Is help on the way from Bakersfield for the injured Oilers?

Willis: Player grades – Connor McDavid’s tying goal disallowed in 3-2 loss

Follow Bruce McCurdy on Twitter

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