GDB 72.0: HOME ICE ADVANTAGE – Looking for offence

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GameDay

The Oilers haven’t scored a goal at home in 123:03. Brandon Davidson scored at 16:57 of the third period versus the New York Islanders — the Oilers’ final shot of that game — and since he raised his arms the Oilers have fired 75 shots on net without scoring.

Mike Smith blanked the Oilers 4-0 on Saturday, stopping 44 shots, and James Reimer made 31 saves last Tuesday in the Sharks’ 3-0 victory. The Oilers had some quality chances, many from their top skilled forwards, yet they’re fired blanks.

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Smith and Reimer did play well, and not getting any bounces over two games will happen, but the Oilers are once again near the bottom of the NHL (28th) in goals scored.

It is time to look deeper than just blaming a lacklustre D corps as the reason the Oilers’ offence is struggling.

The powerplay has struggled for the majority of the season. While many want to simply blame the coaches, which is just cherry picking instead of looking at the problems, the reality is the players on the ice need to take some of the blame as well.

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They are 4-for-50 over their last 19 games. Leon Draisaitl, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot scored the goals. Connor McDavid has two assists, Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Letestu and Justin Schultz have one, while Andrej Sekera has been the most productive, picking up three PP assists.

Sekera leads the Oilers in PP points, which is incredible considering how often his shots hit opposing shinpads, but it illustrates the weakness of the Oilers PP players.

They don’t have a bonafide shooter. They rarely gets shots from the flank (on the outside from up high), and if Sekera doesn’t shoot, no one else does. Just watch where Roman Josi, Shea Weber and Ryan Ellis shoot from on the PP tonight. Klefbom isn’t a great puck transporter, yet, but he has a good shot and often he gets it through the top PK guy and on goal. He should help next year, but acquiring a shooting defender will be a top priority for Peter Chiarelli this summer.

The other element I see lacking when the Oilers are set it up is simply game experience. McDavid and Draisaitl will be elite PP players in the future, but they aren’t there yet, although McDavid is very, very close. He should be the least of anyone’s worries and his skill alone will make the PP better in the future.

Hall has never been a great PP player. He is more productive at ES, which is highly valuable, and his game is better at high speed compared to the PP where the play slows down. He is a decent PP player, but not a dominant one like Niklas Backstrom, Patrick Kane or Evgeni Malkin, who set up on the half-boards and run the PP. He is a driver at EV, but is more of a complementary player on the PP.

Eberle is their most accurate shooter, but he doesn’t have a hard shot from the outside nor does he a possess a great one-timer. He has been very effective on the PP in the past, and with passers like McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins he can bury cross seam passes. Lately, he seems to be over stick handling the puck. He gets it, and instead of releasing a quick shot, he makes one extra stick handle. He is most effective on the PP when he shoots quickly.

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Mark Letestu is one of the smartest players on the PP. Watch how often he finds the open seam and gets a great scoring chance. He sees the play develop and be finds the openings, but he simply doesn’t have the high-end finish. The reality is you don’t replace him with Nail Yakupov, because Yakupov doesn’t have the awareness to find those holes. That isn’t a knock on him, because many of the young forwards don’t slide off checks as well as Letestu on the PP. Only a very few have the skill to score on the PP — Letestu helps on draws and gets many chances, but it is hard to rip a player for simply not being an elite finisher.

I’ve read people ripping the coaches for using Lauri Korpikoski ahead of Nail Yakupov lately, and most are analytics people, which surprises me considering Korpikoski has the second best powerplay points/60 on the Oilers at 4.90. Only McDavid is better at 5.23. Yakupov sits at 2.18. He has three PP points in 83 minutes, while Korpikoski has four points in 49 minutes and scored one second after the PP expired vs. Minnesota on Thursday.

Korpikoski isn’t flashy, but successful powerplays are rarely all flash. He has good body position. He can win battles in the corner and he goes to the net. He is better at a slower game than Yakupov.

Once the PP is set up in the offensive zone, the success or failure rests mainly on the players. The coaches’ responsibility is helping them on zone entries, and ensuring they know what type of offensive and neutral zone PK forecheck the opposition is doing. There have been some games where they’ve struggled in those areas, no doubt, but when I watch the PP closely I don’t see system breakdowns very often. Much of their lack of success lately has been due to missing the net.

The last two games the PP has actually looked good. They had some great looks against the Coyotes, but couldn’t finish. However, I still believe the two units need to be more aggressive, assertive and simply match the work ethic of the opposition’s penalty killers.

McDavid, Hall, Draisaitl, Eberle and now Nugent-Hopkins (only his second game) have enough skill to be better than 8% on the PP the past 19 games. Adding Maroon as a legit net front presence will help, and a lack of PP success often impacts players five-on-five. Most skilled players “eat” on the man advantage.

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Kane has 32 PP points. Backstrom 28, Malkin 27, Benn 26 and Seguin 24. They gain confidence scoring on the man advantage, and it helps them at EV. Right now the Oilers forwards are living off their EV success, which is a credit to guys like McDavid, Hall and Draisaitl. Hall  has as many EV points as Crosby, tied for 5th in NHL, and one more than Benn, while Draisaitl is tied for 18th in EV points and McDavid has a ridiculous 27 in 34 games.

They have shown they can produce at EV, but their attention to detail on the PP needs to improve. For McDavid and Draisaitl it will come with experience. RNH and Eberle have proven before they can be productive on the PP, and I believe the onus is more on them in the offensive zone than it is the coaches. Hall has never been elite on the PP. He can work on improving it, I’m sure, but he is better at a fast pace than when the game slows down.

The PP will improve when they get a better shooter on the backend, but I firmly believe this group can be more productive. The past few games they’ve had some good looks, but it is up to them to bury them. They should watch Letestu and see how he finds the openings, because if they see what he sees and feels on the PP, they will finish off more of the great chances.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From On the Forecheck

Feel free to copy and paste Oiler’s season ending summary from the past seven years or so. Team gets high draft pick, team spirits go up, team realizes it isn’t any good, team loses, team gets another high draft pick, repeat. It’s beating a dead horse, but their perpetual state of ineffectiveness despite being stocked with talented players is really a marvel to behold.

Over the summer Peter Chiarelli has some decisions to make. Will any of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle be shipping out in favor of players that more fit the team’s need? If something like that happens, is Leon Draisaitl going to be able to help the center depth along with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews?

Some really thought this was the year that Edmonton was going to take a step forward, but most of the was the McDavid hype. Even though he missed a large chunk of the season and torpedoed his Calder trophy chances, (thanks, Philly) he is really all he’s cracked up to be. He actually makes the Oilers worth tuning in for, which is something they haven’t been able to claim in years. Mark my words, sometime down the line McDavid is going to pull a move against the Predators that makes Pavel Datsyuk’s 200 ft goal look like child’s play.

LINEUPS…

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Patrick Maroon will play with McDavid and Eberle, while Iiro Pakarinen gets a shot with Hall and Draisaitl. I could see Pakarinen and Kassian switching lines at some point. Kassian has more skill, he just needs to make better decisions than he has recently. He needs to rediscover his consistency. 

Laurent Brossoit gets the start in goal.

Oilers lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

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Predators lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

TONIGHT….

Changes

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Predators had their 14-game unbeaten streak snapped in Vancouver on Saturday. Earlier this year the Blackhawks won 12 in a row and then lost two games. The Anaheim Ducks won 11 in a row, then lost in OT and have lost two more in regulation. Tampa Bay won nine in a row and then lost three straight. Will the Preds bounce back or continue the trend of at least two wins after a lengthy run? I say they buck the trend and win 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Shea Weber rips a slapshot that hits an Oilers player and sends them hobbling to the bench.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Letestu scores a PP goal.

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  • IronX

    Nashville quite weak at left wing, quite weak at right wing, not amazing at centre….

    Eberle for Ellis + second? Even Eberle for Ellis straight up I’m happy.

    Hall and Davidson for Josi?

    Nuge for Weber!?????

    All of the above????? (Wouldn’t happen but one deal of these would be sweat!)

    Yeah Chia! Do it!

    Oilersnation : let the trashing begin and all of you “core” lovers tell us how we don’t trade these bums and blah blah blah…. The fact of the matter is that if we don’t build around McDavid, we are screwing up our only opportunity to get out of the basement and into the promise land.

    Build around McDavid or bust.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Don’t think there are many people saying we should keep Hall, Nuge and Eberle. We need defence and the consensus seem to be that people would trade eberle+ for some D help.

      Just have to wait and see what Chia does this summer. Getting a team to give up their #1 d-man is probably the hardest thing to do in the NHL. Might have to settle for some top 4 d-men in the range of Sekera and then hopefully develop klefbom or Nurse into the #1.

  • Oil City Roller

    All right Oilers, do yourselves proud and lay a big fat steamer on the ice. The rest of the league is considering changing the entire draft to try and thwart your never ending turd pile. Now is not the time to give up. Show this league just how shameless you really are.

    Salvation through humiliation.

    • Namudi

      Them changing the draft lottery was the reason we have so many first overalls. Back when Chicago and the pens were tanking the last place team gets the first were lucky at the lottery. Can’t blame the oilers for the nhls mistakes

  • Seanaconda

    Slightly off topic but will the coaches challenge be able to be used during overtime during the playoffs?

    The oilers weren’t allowed to challenge during overtime earlier in the season. But they are making such a big deal out of the new cameras so im wondering if they will change that.

    • Seanaconda

      Not playing alot may affect his game. When he came back the first 2 times right after starting in the ahl he looked good. These 2 games after being on the bench he hasn’t ‘t looked as sharp.

      • Cain

        Hard to argue that…so send him down.

        If he’s not ready, he’s not ready. These soft goals are SOOOO tiresome and kill any momentum. Might as well have Scrivens or Nilsson back in there..

        Very tired of excuses for horrible goaltending.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Just how lucky are we that the colour guy on Oiler broadcasts knows SO much about hockey that he can tell McDavid what he shoulda done. HOF announcing!

  • Seanaconda

    Neal has embarrassed lots of goalies with his shot. Brossoit may not be ready yet but this could be a good learning experience/motivator.

    Rookie goalies/every single goalie have bad games I’m not too worried yet. Heck talbot has already strung together a few bad games in a row this year. But he turned it around but people were screaming bust at the time hahah.

  • OTOF2

    “Feel free to copy and paste Oiler’s season ending summary from the past seven years or so. Team gets high draft pick, team spirits go up, team realizes it isn’t any good, team loses, team gets another high draft pick, repeat. It’s beating a dead horse, but their perpetual state of ineffectiveness despite being stocked with talented players is really a marvel to behold.”

    I find it funny that almost everytime there is a comment on this site regarding the Oilers ineptness that someone replies assuming it is a flames fan. Well I have news Oil fans, it’s not only flames fans laughing at you, the entire hockey world is laughing.

  • GK1980

    3-2 5 minutes left. Might as well start the post game blog. These guys still don’t get it. They can’t drive a game or control it. I guess this is too far to go yet. Brutal D coverage again.

    Brosoit should have had the 2nd goal though. Drai is looking better which is positive.