January 28 2013 01:14PM
In four games the Edmonton Oilers have a whopping two goals while playing 5-on-5. Jordan Eberle scored one v. Vancouver and Taylor Hall potted the other against the Sharks. NHL.com says they have four goals at EV, but two of them came with an extra skater in the final five seconds of the game, Nail Yakupov v. LA and Sam Gagner v. Calgary, so to me those are 6-on-5 goals and come with an EV asterisk.
The Oilers have played almost 165 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey and they have a paltry two goals, and to make matters worse they've given up nine at even strength.
If the Oilers are going to stay competitive in the western conference they need to start scoring at EV, and their top line needs to produce more.
Many of you might be wondering why I said the first line needs to score more at EV, when they have the only two goals, but when you break down their minutes, Eberle, Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are getting the most EV icetime. Of course the 2nd and 3rd lines need to be much better than they have, but if Ralph Krueger continues to dish out icetime like he has in the first four games the Oilers success will rest on the shoulders of their best players.
Which is how it should be.
|Player||Pos||GP||ES TOI/G||SH TOI/G||PP TOI/G||TOI/G|
No one can suggest Krueger isn't playing his best players the most. You all wanted the kids to play 20 minutes a night last year, and now they are doing that.
They have been very good on the powerplay with 6 goals on 22 opportunities, 27.3%, which is tied for 5th best in the league. If the Oilers can find a way to start scoring at EV the games will become much easier.
Obviously the Horcoff and Gagner lines need to do more EV, and I wonder if Krueger will look at switching them up, but ultimately this team will start winning consistently once their top line become more effective at EV. The good news for the Oilers is they are 2-2 in four games, despite little production EV.
Eberle has shown he can be productive at EV. Last season, 73.6% of his points came at EV, which was 5th best amongst the top-20 scorers in the NHL. (The first column shows were they finished in league scoring)
|18||Martin St Louis||TBL||77||25||49||74||58||78.3|
Now let's take a quick look at how the Oilers produced at EV last year.
You will notice that the top-line was the most productive at EV, but the Oilers got some solid production from Ryan Smyth and Sam Gagner.
I expect the Oilers top line to carry the bulk of the offence, but until the 2nd and 3rd lines show up it is going to be difficult to win.
So far Smyth, Horcoff, Hartikainen, Paajarvi, Hemsky, Gagner and Yakupov have zero points 5-on-5. Gagner and Yakupov did score with an extra attacker on the ice late in games, but as a pure EV tally those seven forward don't have a sniff through four games.
If the Oilers are going to put any sort of win streak together, the entire team needs to show some sort of pulse offensively during five-on-five play.
I'm a tad surprised Fistric is out considering how well he has played on the penalty kill. Krueger said the Potter is in because he doesn't want guys sitting around very long. He also juggled his 3rd and 4th lines, and is hoping that Hartikainen and Paajarvi can find the chemistry they had in OKC.
The Avalanche is struggling to score with only nine goals in four games. The Duchene/Parenteau duo has looked good with both of them scoring a pair of goals, but the Avs really miss Ryan O'Reilly. Greg Sherman is standing firm on his stance that O'Reilly won't get much more money, if any, than Matt Duchene.
Gabriel Landeskog won't play tonight, but the Avalanche didn't want to say why he was out. Some are assuming he has a concussion, but the Avalanche, like most teams, didn`t want to say what his injury was. Rumblings suggest he injured his leg and head during the hit.
- It is very early and it's only been four games, but Ryan Smyth has looked a half a step behind so far this season. He's been solid on the PK, but at EV he hasn't generated much. He was very productive at EV last season, and the Oilers desperately need him to get back on track. He didn't play during the lockout and at his age, not playing for almost eight months could be contributors to his slow start.
- Krueger addressed the Oilers EV scoring woes by saying they need to be more composed and cut down on their turnovers. He also preached patience, since there hasn't been a training camp and some players haven't played in eight months. Many don't want to accept the latter, but in many cases the difference between guys who were playing and guys who weren't is pretty obvious.
- The Oilers have been shorthanded 13 times in the first period so far this season, most in the NHL. It is hard to get any sort of momentum five-on-five early in a game when you are killing off that many penalties. Toss in their PP time in the first frame and that likely has played a factor into their dreadful EV scoring.
- The Oilers will make a decision regarding Nikolai Khabibulin tomorrow according to Krueger. He has been practicing and if he feels good he will go on the road trip as the backup and Yann Danis will return to OKC.
- Theo Peckham is on a conditioning program right now, and I'd guess that when they feel he is in game shape they will send him to OKC on a conditioning stint, and place Ben Eager on the IR to free up a roster spot.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will score two goals EV and win 4-3. Horcoff scores his first off the season.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are the only team in the NHL who has yet to score the first goal of the game, so obviously they will score first tonight. Why, because they scored first in five of the six meetings with the Avs last year.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nail Yakupov scores the go-ahead goal with four minutes remaining. His celebration is very subdued compared to his knee slide; however, just after he scores he pulls a cherry out of his sock and crushes it with his skate. When asked after the game if the cherry represented Don Cherry he asks, "Who is Don Cherry?"