GDB 05: NEED EV SCORING

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 
Justin Schultz D 4 17:41 1:25 4:55 24:02
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C 4 16:28 0:49 5:13 22:31
Taylor Hall L 4 16:20 0:04 4:30 20:55
Jordan Eberle R 4 16:02 0:45 4:58 21:46
Ryan Whitney D 4 15:02 0:41 3:38 19:21
Jeff Petry D 4 14:44 5:43 0:24 20:53
Nick Schultz D 4 14:06 3:50 0:01 17:57
Sam Gagner C 4 13:04 1:24 3:52 18:21
Ales Hemsky R 4 12:49 0:00 3:44 16:33
Ladislav Smid D 4 12:43 4:20 0:03 17:06
Corey Potter D 2 12:43 3:27 0:02 16:13
Nail Yakupov R 4 11:52 0:00 3:19 15:11
Mark Fistric D 2 11:14 4:03 0:00 15:17
Ryan Smyth L 4 8:20 3:38 2:54 14:53
Shawn Horcoff C 4 8:07 3:30 3:53 15:31
Magnus Paajarvi L 3 8:05 2:07 0:00 10:13
Eric Belanger C 4 7:33 3:58 0:02 11:34
Teemu Hartikainen L 3 7:02 0:00 0:31 7:33
Ben Eager L 1 6:18 0:00 0:00 6:18
Lennart Petrell L 4 5:22 3:15 0:00 8:37
Darcy Hordichuk L 1 1:11 0:00 0:00 1:11

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)

 

  Player  Team GP  G  A  P ESP  EV%
20 Loui Eriksson DAL 82 26 45 71 56 78.8
18 Martin St Louis TBL 77 25 49 74 58 78.3
2 Steven Stamkos TBL 82 60 37 97 72 74.2
13 Ray Whitney PHX 82 24 53 77 57 74
16 Jordan Eberle EDM 78 34 42 76 56 73.6
15 Marian Gaborik NYR 82 41 35 76 55 72.3
6 Phil Kessel TOR 82 37 45 82 59 71.9
4 Jason Spezza OTT 80 34 50 84 60 71.4
12 Marian Hossa CHI 81 29 48 77 54 70.1
8 John Tavares NYI 82 31 50 81 56 69.1
1 Evgeni Malkin PIT 75 50 59 109 75 68.8
14 Joe Thornton SJS 82 18 59 77 53 68.8
9 Henrik Sedin VAN 82 14 67 81 54 66.7
11 Erik Karlsson OTT 81 19 59 78 50 64.1
7 James Neal PIT 80 40 41 81 51 62.9
17 Anze Kopitar LAK 82 25 51 76 46 60.5
19 Jason Pominville BUF 82 30 43 73 44 60.2
5 Ilya Kovalchuk NJD 77 37 46 83 49 59.1
10 Patrik Elias NJD 81 26 52 78 45 57.6
3 Claude Giroux PHI 77 28 65 93 53 56.9

Now let’s take a quick look at how the Oilers produced at EV last year.

 

Player  GP  G  A  P  ESP EV% EV TOI
Jordan Eberle 78 34 42 76 56 73.6 14:24
Ryan Smyth 82 19 27 46 38 82.6 14:26
Sam Gagner 75 18 29 47 35 74.4 14:40
Taylor Hall 61 27 26 53 32 60.3 15:06
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 62 18 34 52 29 55.7 14:33
Ales Hemsky 69 10 26 36 27 75 15:25
Ryan Jones 79 17 16 33 24 72.7 12:06
Shawn Horcoff 81 13 21 34 21 61.7 14:03
Jeff Petry 73 2 23 25 19 76 17:59
Ladislav Smid 78 5 10 15 14 93.3 17:28
Ben Eager 63 8 5 13 13 100 8:29
Corey Potter 62 4 17 21 10 47.6 16:36
Ryan Whitney 51 3 17 20 10 50 17:49
Eric Belanger 78 4 12 16 10 62.5 11:11
Lennart Petrell 60 4 5 9 7 77.7 8:29
Magnus Paajarvi 41 2 6 8 6 75 11:56
Nick Schultz 82 1 6 7 6 87.5 16:55
Teemu Hartikainen 17 2 3 5 5 100 12:59
Darcy Hordichuk 43 1 2 3 3 100 4:20

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.

LINEUP

Hall-RNH-Eberle
Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-Horcoff-Petrell
Hartikainen-Belanger-Paajarvi

Smid-Petry
N.Schultz- J.Schultz
Whitney-Potter

Dubnyk

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. 

 QUICK HITS

  • 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?"

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • A-Mc

    Said it on JW’s post, but will say it again..i think Smyth needs some PP time plugged in front of the net. I realize the PP is going decently, but this would get Smytty going too. If/when they juggle the lines, I wouldn’t mind seeing Smyth with Nuge/Eberle or Nuge/Hall. Let #94 go do the dirty work and get to the net.
    You mustn’t chain up the mullet Coach K!

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Under Kruger, players earn their ice time! Should R. Smyth ever earn his, I’m confident that Ralph will adjust his opportunities. No one is holding Smyth back from doing the “dirty work” other then Smyth himself!

      Smyth didn’t begin last season particularly well either, the first 3 games he lead the Oilers in penalty minutes (21 minutes or more then one period out of nine). He improved his play from game 4 to about game 22 of the season and was a liability for the next 60 or so games….

      Management was critical of their veteran players last year and by all accounts Smyth is struggling once again…. struggling might be too polite.

  • A-Mc

    Random non-EV thought:

    Eberle needs to learn how do one timers. I know the PP is good but the ‘stop n snap’ thing he does is concerning. Teams/goalies will expect it, if they don’t already.

    • Smytty's Jibs

      I agree whole heartedly with this. I know exactly what you mean, and its been bugging me too for the past couple games.

      There have been about 5 instances where a cross crease pass has come his way, and instead of one timing it, he stops it. It was his signature last year to tap in the cross creasers… but he’s totally over thinking it this year. I’m sure he’ll figure it out, but its been frustrating to watch.

    • justDOit

      RNH and Eberle both possess that quick release and are able to get the shot away in the middle of a deeke. They’re also very accurate with that shot.

      You know that Kipper was expecting that shot from the slot in the Flames game, but Ebs still beat him. It’s not something you can ‘get used to’.

  • yawto

    Perhaps the thinking with Fistric is if he nails their guys the other team will come back and kill ours, so it is safer to try and play a run and gun game intead of hard hitting???

  • BigE91

    I’d rather see Yakupov go to the bench and pull out a basket of sour grapes and start eating them.

    Always entertained by Don but he still thinks its the 70’s or soemthing.