Two games into the Edmonton Oilers regular season it has quickly become clear that one piece of unfinished business from the off-season is haunting this club. And it is threatening to derail the year…in October.
The top pairing of Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson have been…o.k. The bottom pairing of Kris Russell and Evan Bouchard has actually been encouraging, thus far.
But there is a hole in the donut. And it is the 2nd pairing.
Darnell Nurse was not good at all in Game #1 in Gothenburg, and “just o.k.” against the Boston Bruins in a 4-1 loss Thursday night. Don’t get me wrong. I like Nurse a lot. He may some day be a $5m NHL D-man. But judging by how he has moved the puck so far in this young season, he isn’t one yet.
But Matthew Benning has been…well…bad. Both nights. He was -3 against the Devils, and then followed that up with an equally shaky performance in Boston, even if the numbers were marginally better. Benning was absolutely scorched on the 1-1 goal. Yes, it was an all-star move by David Pastrnack. But Benning was caught flat-footed and did little more than wave at the Bruins sniper as he danced past. More unfortunate adventures followed, right up to and including the empty netter by Patrice Bergeron. Benning threw that one up right up the gut and right onto Bergeron’s tape. To be fair, the game was over by then. But the play was emblematic of Matt Benning’s fortunes.
All of this may come off like I don’t like Matt Benning. Not true at all. In fact it actually pains me to write this. But the fact is…for the 2nd consecutive season, Benning has come out of the gate not looking like an NHL D-man. And while his defensive lapses have showed up on the scoreboard, the distinct lack of transition from this pairing is contributing in a bad way to the Oilers pop-gun offence. So its double the headache. And with so much riding on this tough, early part of the Oilers 2018-19 schedule? That is a real problem.
Here’s the thing, though. The coaching staff last season lost confidence in Benning early on, and look how things turned out then..for the player and the team. To bring in “the D-man whisperer” in Trent Yawney only to give up on a bright, young player like Benning after just 2 games …read more
Source:: Edmonton Journal – Sports