From the outside looking in, a person would think that if you throw the skill the Oilers have on the ice, scoring with the man advantage would be easy. At times this season the PP has looked good. I would say it has been very streaky.
As of Saturday night the Oilers’ power play percentage is at 18.8%. That puts them at 13th in the league. They are a full ten percentage points higher at home, 23.7% compared to on the road, 13.8%.
I think for the Oilers to have long term success their power play needs to get into the top ten in the NHL. This will make teams less likely to be physically aggressive against them. Those physical games are the ones the Oilers are not currently in a position to handle.
In the blowout victory over the Avs the Oilers went three-for-seven with the man advantage. Just a quick look at the stats would suggest that the PP was rolling. I don’t think it was. These goals were scored off the rush or by a great individual shot or effort. It was not from a good entry, set up and finish.
I know what you are thinking "They scored three goals, so how can you complain about that power play?" I felt it wasn’t sharp and to be honest got lucky. Fast-forward to Saturday night overtime loss to the Flames. The Oilers go zero-for-six on the PP. It was the difference in the game and the luck they had against the Avs was nowhere to be found.
They did hit the post a couple of times at the end of the first period but can anyone really remember a point on any power play where you thought the Oilers really were in a groove, where they looked dangerous and organized coming up the ice?
As It Stands
The first unit consists off an umbrella setup at the top with Nuge and Eberle on the flanks and J. Schultz in the middle. Perron is in front. Hall or Yakupov are in the corner for low plays. There is always the threat of skill doing something great and a goal being the result. Some kind of structure will still produce goals when the skill isn’t at full power.
I don’t think Nuge or Eberle are in the right spots for their skill set. Both have good, dangerous shots but not one timer material from above the tops of the circles or higher. It just isn’t in their toolbox right now.
A quick glance at the list of top power play units in the NHL shows they all have defencemen that can pound the puck from the blue line. Dangerous power play units start will good shots from the point. A couple of passes down low to get the box moving. A quick pass to the point, drag to the middle and boom. The puck is on the net. This is the most basic pp set up and the most proven to have success. All other plays in the slot and down low are set up through good hard point shots.
The Oilers do not have a consistent shooter from the point that is a threat to score or create big rebounds in front. The opposing teams to not give those high guys a lot of respect so they can cheat low. This does not open the box up for the Oilers. When the box opens up the Oilers are dangerous with their dangerous passing through it for open looks at the net.
The result is the Oilers spend quite a bit of time on the PP working the puck around the outside of the box, a box that is kept tight because of a lack of blue-line shots. Eventually a puck is bobbled, the PK attacks, the puck is down the ice.
I think J. Schultz needs to get more aggressive with shooting from the blue line. He has thirty-two shots this season but many are off the rush or sneaking in the from blue line. He has the mobility to create an open lane for himself to the net from the blue line.
To get these looks J. Schultz needs to be at the right point. Put Nuge on the half wall on his side. Hall down low. Perron in front. I would then put Yakupov on the left point.
I know this takes Eberle off the first unit. It isn’t his play; it is that he is a righty and I want all the forwards except Perron (because he is in front) to be a threat to shoot.
Nuge can be a threat to shoot off the wall. If he slides it down to Hall a quick pass back is a one-timer from the slot. All four players are passes he can make. The easiest is the back hander up to Schultz.
Hall can jam or take the puck hard to the net from the corner on his forehand. It is a strong move even if he doesn’t score his aggressiveness will cause a rebound that can be slammed home.
Yakupov I want sliding in from the point. He can go back door, which often causes the net front defenceman to lose focus for a second. I would also want him sliding into the high slot. He can be a passing option there with his quick release. By sliding into that area he will draw one PK forward down with him. This will open up some room for J. Schultz to drag the puck to the middle and shoot. Creating a double screen, high and low, that Justin can shoot from.
Perron can just do what he does; I don’t need to explain that!
In the end J. Schultz needs to get more pucks to the net, plain and simple. Successful and consistent power plays start there. The low plays will open up from there.
Oh no Thornton
I will defend fighting in the NHL but I can’t defend this play. It just should not happen. I played with Shawn. He is a straight shooter and he must have really been worked up to get to this point. He will be suspended a pretty long time for this one.