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Crunching Playoff Numbers

Cam Talbot has back-to-back shutouts, and he only had to stop 39 shots in the process.

The biggest improvement all season for the Oilers has been their team defence. It started with re-vamping their entire right-side, adding Adam Larsson, Kris Russell and Matt Benning, and having a healthy Oscar Klefbom all season was a major boost as well.

The forwards have also become more aware defensively, and the past two games have proved the Edmonton Oilers are more than Connor McDavid.

I’ve argued this all season, but many still believed McDavid was the only reason the Oilers were a playoff team. It was an insult to Talbot, the defence and even the rest of the forwards. The Oilers are better now because they have many competent players, and most importantly, they have them spread throughout the lineup, not just up front.

Hockey is the ultimate team game. The best forward on a team plays between 20-22 minutes a night. McDavid has played 20:41/game in the playoffs, which is lower than his regular season of 21:07. He is a dominant player and he is their best player, but to win in the NHL you need a good TEAM, not just one elite player.

The Oilers defensive play in the past two games has been excellent, even better than I expected they could play. They’ve shut down the Sharks. Talbot hasn’t had to stand on his head, like he did in game one.

Talbot faced more shots in game one, 44, than he is over the past 120 minutes. The entire team has bought in, and while last night’s game wasn’t nearly as exciting as hockey should be, in the playoffs winning is all that matters, and the Oilers deserved full marks for their victories in games two and three.

The Oilers are proving they are just as comfortable in a defensive, patient game as they are in a run-and-gun, exchange-chances-all-night style of game.

FUN WITH NUMBERS

  • In 2006, #34 Fernando Pisani was the unexpected hero. He had an unreal playoffs, scoring 14 goals and 18 points in 24 games. The next ten years were a disaster for the Oilers and Oilersnation. But now, after a Decade of Darknessr drought, #44 Zack Kassian has emerged as the unexpected hero (34+10=44). Kassian’s performance in game two was the most dominant game I’ve seen any Oilers player have all season.  No one was looking for Pisani to dominate in 2006. No Oilers fan could have dreamed the next 10 years would be so painful, and early in these playoffs no one would have expected chants of Kass-I-An to rain down or for him to have both game winners. The unexpected is what makes the playoffs so fun.
  • Curtis Joseph leads the Oilers with five playoff shutouts. He had two in the opening round in 1997 versus Dallas (game two and five), then he had back-to-back shutouts in games six and seven versus Colorado in 1998 and added another one in game two of the second round versus Dallas. Bill Ranford has three (round two in 1990, and rounds one and two in 1991), Talbot and Grant Fuhr (game one 1984 Cup Finals and game three in opening round 1989) have two while Dwayne Roloson (game six versus SJ in round two) and Jussi Markannen (game six Cup Finals) each had one in 2006.
  • Joseph has the record for longest playoff shutout streak at 166:54. He had 43:40 in game five versus Avs, then shutouts in game six and seven, and then 3:14 of game one in second round versus Dallas. Talbot is currently at 120 minutes.
  • The Oilers have had 14 shutouts in their playoff history, and they’ve only been shutout five times. Game one in 1983 Cup Final versus NYI, game two Smythe division semi-final versus Vancouver in 1992, game three versus Dallas in 1998 second round, game two of 2000 opening round versus Dallas and game two of the 2006 Cup Finals versus Carolina.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the Oilers with eleven shots on goal. Mark Letestu and Kassian have nine, Oscar Klefbom has seven while Patrick Maroon and McDavid have six. The Oilers only have two 5×5 goals in the series thus far. As good as they’ve been defensively the past two games, you’d like to see them generate more EV scoring chances and goals.
  • Leon Draisaitl looked much more engaged after he was moved to centre. He has the puck more and he has to skate more, which is good for his game. I thought he had a tough game one, but was much better in game two and last night he looked very comfortable down the middle. It is a great option to have if they want to move him to the middle, but I also understand the allure of playing him with McDavid, because they were so dominant all season. I think both options are fine for next game, and Slepyshev is a good enough skater and has enough skill to be a complementary winger for McDavid for a few games if Todd McLellan decides to keep him up there.
  • I would start game four with same lines which finished game three. The Oilers could have a major mismatch with Draisaitl and red-hot Kassian vs. the Sharks 3rd D pair or 3rd and 4th lines.
  • The biggest concern for San Jose has to be that McDavid, who led the NHL with 71 even strength points, has yet to score an EV point this series. Eventually he will produce at EV and with the Oilers already halfway to four wins without him scoring 5×5 that doesn’t bode well for the Sharks.
  • I don’t see any reason to put Jesse Puljujarvi in the series right now. I like Slepyshev better (today, not long term), and the playoffs are about winning, not developing. The Oilers would have to suffer a few injuries for me to consider putting in an 18-year-old rookie.
  • The shift chart for Jordan Eberle in the final five minutes of a playoff game, with the Oilers protecting a one-goal lead, illustrates how far he has come defensively. McLellan really trusts him. He had three shifts in the final 4:57.
  • How did Klefbom miss the empty net by that much? It didn’t come back to haunt the Oilers, but you can’t miss a wide open net by two feet in the final 90 seconds of a playoff game! He has to bare down and bury that shot. You don’t need to pick the top corner. Just rip it home right into the middle of the yawning cage.
  • I’m all for hits in the playoffs, but the person counting Sharks hit seemed a bit lenient. I re-watched the first frame and I did not see close to 30 hits. I would love to see more consistency in stat charting across rinks in the NHL. They need consistency on what is considered a hit, blocked shot, shot etc.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • geoilersgist

      He needs his son watching him live for at least game 5 at home. He plays his best when his boy is watching him. I do however agree he seems to be off though.

      • Spydyr

        I agree with your statement about him playing better with his son in attendance but that is no excuse it is the playoffs pick up your game not have it fall off.

          • Gravis82

            regarding moving Kassian up…it makes no sense. So now he gets the top pair every minute? The Oilers are barely succeeding because they have scoring outside of McDavid. If anything, they should play Pouliot and Slepeshev with McDavid and put all the other good people on the other three lines.

            Also, it’s weird that I am saying this. But I am almost positive lander would be an upgrade over DD. Or even an upgrade over letestu. Neither seem to be playing that well right now.

          • mb

            Just because a player hasn’t scored does not mean he is not contributing. Near the end of the game Eberle got smoked by Burns taking 1 more stride with the puck to get it over the red line before he dumped the puck into the sharks zone. That is a huge contribution in a 1 goal game.

          • DannyGallivan

            Kass is exactly where he should be…playing on the 3rd line against 3rd line opposition. Moving him up would put him against SJ’s top two lines. He is a better player (shot and skating) than he gets credit for but he is not a top line player. Let him continue his success where he is.

  • MaxBoost

    I had some trouble believing that the Sharks had 30+ hits in the first period as well. They were playing hard and finishing checks, sure, but I feel like if you compare games 2 and 3 first periods, the Oilers would have done more damage in game 2. I might have to do with the “size” of the hits but I agree with Gregor, there is some inconsistency there.

  • geoilersgist

    Hits has to be one of the worst stats tracked. I recall reading something in the last couple of years that showed how the Stars had a crazy differential between the road and at home. Classic NHL is all. They don’t really care that much.
    Couldn’t agree with you more JG on the respect this team gets. All people talk about is McDavid and completely ignore the rest of the team. Regardless of what happens during these playoffs I hope people realize this entire team is good.

    • I find it funny that if McDavid doesn’t dominate and the oil still win, the sportsnet panel really struggles to compliment the Oilers… it really pains them (kypreos and hrudey especially) to have to find something good to say about the team. Meanwhile, the leafs/flames get a moral victory and the panel is tripping over themselves pumping their tires.

      • MaxBoost

        And that’s why the rest of Canada has such a hard time cheering for the Leaf’s. Once they are out the panel will bring out the shooting charts and fancy graphics and in depth analysis for the rest of us

      • Space Pants

        Hrudey still won’t compliment the Oilers, but he has started to compliment Talbot. I think Kypreos is coming around. He did pick the Oilers to win the series.

      • Hemi

        This has been the rule of coverage of Canadian hockey teams going all the way back to the Original Six. The Laffs & Habs are the darlings of the media. It has been a pet peave of mine for what seems like forever. CBC, TSN & SN are all the same…..Laffs, lots of coverage, Hans next and the remaining five Canadian teams get the scrapes. Just adds to my ongoing hate for all things Toronto & Montreal.

        • DannyGallivan

          The reality is that a third of the country’s population is in the greater TO MO area and they are both in the playoffs. Broadcasting is a business. Unfortunately for us, its just that simple.

  • Did anyone else have cringe worthy flashbacks when Kelf missed the empty netter? So many 1 goal leads turned into Losses over the years. All was forgiven after the buzzer went but I’ve never been more upset over a missed empty net.

    • Jaxon

      I think he may have been trying to avoid the San Jose defender who was closing in and cutting off the angle to the net. I’m not sure Klefbom could​ see a lot of net from his perspective. and missing the net was a better option than giving it up to that defender, so I don’t fault him to much for that.

  • Slipknot 8

    I hope the coaches pulled Klefbom aside and gave him the long hard truth talk!
    That is a mental decision that cost teams games and sometimes players don’t recover and could bring a team down, especially an inexperienced team.
    That was a brutal decision from your best defencmen, especially with both McDavid and Slepp right there.
    On a positive note, each game the Oilers make mistakes it’s great learning experience and with the exception of the first two games of penalties they seem to be adapting very well.

  • nuge2drai

    Leave the lines the same.

    Top line is a powerhouse. Kassian is providing depth scoring.

    If DD starts to struggle on defence, which he hasn’t… consider bringing Lander in.

  • giddy

    When did “weather the storm” become the new catchphrase for Edmonton’s play? I see it all over Twitter, ON, HF, and even the guys on the Sportsnet panel are saying it.

  • OilCan2

    #44 ZACK KASSIAN (10-34=44) They just disallowed all those goals to get this stat to line up!!!

    TMac is going to really mess with the other coaches minds with his line blender option. I say throw a third bunch of lines out for the pre game warm up tomorrow and then something totally different for the starting line up. Then switch back to the normal rotation. Or not.

    Marleau & Thornton are both UFAs this July. We could be watching their last swim around the Shark Tank Tuesday.

  • giddy

    Oh, one other thing: interesting reading the fearthefin comment section. I don’t claim that the Oilers are the best team in the league, or anywhere near it, but they’re certainly in the top 10, maybe even top 8 in the league. But the amount of Sharks fans who claim that the Oilers are blatantly no good is ridiculous and makes me wonder whether they even watched the Oil dummy their team three straight times in the regular season (including the game where LUCIC of all players got a natty hatty), or if they noticed the Oil won 12 of our last 14 games (almost all against division opponents), or that the Oil finished with over 100 points (and the Sharks didn’t)?

    I understand the Oilers have established a long winded precedent of sucking, but that ended months ago. This is a good Oilers team. Not sure how anyone could debate that fact. Sharks are also a good team. This is good playoff hockey where anything could still happen in the series, but boy I’d love to see the Oilers straight up slap the taste out of the Sharks’ mouth with a big 5-1 victory with all EV goals, just to give everyone a little more insight that this seriously isn’t the same Oilers as a few years ago. Like Gregor said, McDavid had the most EV points in the league. He isn’t going to be held off the EV score sheet for long.

    • 3 Little Birds

      I just went over there to take a read, and they have 165 comments for the last game. The website looks awfully familiar. Kinda funny how some people on there are talking about blowing up the team, firing the coach and getting a new GM. If they have a decade of darkness, they will move in the second year.

      • Ronr68

        San Jose should think about moving on from Thornton, Marleau etc. They’re old, and it’s showing. They are both 37 this year. That’s pretty long in the tooth for your top players. Besides, they’re a losing organization. They should have won a cup with that team at some point, but it never happened.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    “He has to bare down and bury that shot.”

    What would it mean, to “bare” down? Git nekkid and then shoot? Couldn’t he just bear down instead?

  • Connor'sGotHart

    Kassian is in a zone right now and should not be moved anywhere if he is producing . Keep Draisaitl there for game 4 and if needed Drai can always go back with Connor. It’s much harder for San Jose to defend if they are split up.

  • I’m glad Slepyshev is finally getting some credit by putting him with McDavid. He’s been a quiet warrior with speed and skill. I like these well-distributed lines and great to have centres who can move around the line up. Kassian statistically has been playing above a 3rd line role which is why he should stay there. Sharks can’t handle him.

    Maroon-McDavid-Slepyshev
    Lucic-Nuge-Eberle
    Caggiula-Draisaitl-Kassian
    Pouliot-Desharnais-Letestu

    My only concern is the Nurse-Benning pairing. If the playoffs are about winning and not development, why are they being put into more difficult zone situations. They’re not getting the puck up the ice effectively and often get hemmed-in. They got lucky on many occasions and with help from centres.