Catastrophic defensive pairing lets Oilers down in SCF.
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Catastrophic defensive pairing lets Oilers down in SCF.

A catastrophic defensive pairing has cost the Oilers many times in the playoffs, and it isn't getting any better.

Jonathan Larivee

The Edmonton Oilers have a big problem on the blue line.

Much has been made about the poor play of Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, especially relative to the size of his massive cap hit of $9.25 million per season, and rightfully so. Nurse has not had a strong showing over the course of the playoffs and in fact has been on the ice for more than half of all goals scored against his team during their 2024 Stanley Cup playoff run.

Nurse has been on the ice for 26 of the 50 goals scored against the Oilers in the postseason.

Nurse is also on pace to set a record for the lowest plus minus ever during a single Stanley Cup playoff run with the Oilers defenseman currently sitting at a plus minus rating of -15. The all time record is currently held by Paul Reinhart, a record that dates all the way back to 1963, with Reinhart having established the record with a plus minus rating of -16.

As bad as things have been for Nurse himself however, they have been even worse when he has been paired alongside Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci. In fact Nurse's numbers take an observable dip, even in these playoffs, whenever he is on the ice alongside Ceci on the blue line.

I'm sure given the information I've already provided it will come as a huge surprise to learn that both Nurse and Ceci were on the ice for both of the Panthers goals in Game 1, excluding the empty netter.

You would be hard pressed attempting to defend what exactly Nurse was trying to do on the Panthers second goal.

As much as the pairing itself has been criticized, some of that criticism is now being directed at Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch for continuing to go back to this pairing in spite of its lack of success on the ice. 

It seems clear now that this cannot continue, and it will be interesting to see how Knoblauch and the Oilers adjust for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.