I don’t think this is news to anyone who’s been watching the games, but the Oilers need to get more from the EberNucic line.
While it’s all well and good that the second line has been relatively effective on the defensive side of the ice, the Oilers desperately need them to put some pucks in the net. Between the three of them, only Lucic has a playoff goal and that came way back in the first game against San Jose — that’s not good enough. Fortunately, Edmonton has been getting contributions from their bottom six that have helped them win games. Those goals shouldn’t really be counted on but rather viewed as the cherry on top of the sundae.
Gregor had some great points about these three guys in his latest article and I wanted to break them down a little bit further (quotes will be indented).
It is obvious that McLellan wants more from Eberle, and Eberle wants to do more as well. “It is frustrating. The good thing is we are winning games, and up until tonight we hadn’t been giving up much defensively, but…” said Eberle. The fans are frustrated with Eberle, as is the coach, and so is the player. The harsh reality of the playoffs is he needs to show up soon. At the very least, he needs to create some quality chances and be emotionally involved in the game.
Of the trio, Eberle has been the most disappointing to me. Ebs ended the year on a goal scoring streak but hasn’t been able to get much of anything going in the playoffs. Eberle has one lonely point through three games against the Ducks and has mustered only four shots in the three games. For a guy that is expected to produce offence, he’s not even firing the puck as much as you would expect from a guy that’s supposed to score goals.
Clearly, Eberle’s confidence has been shaken because he doesn’t look like the same player that ended the year on a high note. Todd McLellan has clearly noticed the drop in play as Eberle is averaging less than 15 minutes of ice time so far in the second round of the playoffs. While I agree that Eberle’s defensive play has improved it’s not nearly good enough to be able to balance out the lack of offensive production.
McLellan said it was Eberle’s first time here, but it isn’t for Milan Lucic and I believe those two both need to do more. Lucic needs to get more physically involved in this series. He has shown he can find ways to contribute without scoring points, but we haven’t seen that this round and didn’t see much of it in round one.
When Milan Lucic signed his contract last summer it was his playoff experience that was going to be one of the biggest adds to a team that was starving for some experience. Well, now that we’re in the second round, it’s time for Lucic to cash in on that experience and start being the straw that turns the drink. Outside of Game one against the Sharks, a game in which Lucic got a goal and an assist, he’s been more or less invisible. That’s tough to do for a man of his size.
As Gregor pointed out (above), Lucic is the kind of guy that is still able to contribute even if he’s not putting up points, but he hasn’t been doing that. Aside from his big hit on Cam Fowler in Game 1, we haven’t really seen the human wrecking ball that Lucic can be. When he’s playing like a juggernaut, Milan Lucic is very effective and an imposing figure to play against. We need to see that guy come to life in Game 4 because the 13 shots on net (playoff total) aren’t getting it done.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can’t finish. He has had some great looks. He’s skated very well this series. His edge work has been outstanding, none better than the chance he created last night in the second period, but once again he couldn’t score. You hope this is just a funk for RNH, but considering how many good looks he has had the past few seasons and not finished, you wonder if he’ll be able to score 25 goals? If I’m the Oilers, I’m asking him to work on his accuracy and faceoffs this off-season.
Of the three, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has arguably been the best and most consistent player on this line throughout the playoffs. Nuge has done the Gord’s work in shutting down the other team’s best players, and he has been recognized for it, but he also needs to find a way to contribute on the scoreboard. To his credit, RNH has registered two assists so far against the Ducks, leads the team in shot on goal, and was a big part of Pat Maroon’s goal last night. If Nuge can shake his snake bite then his points total could catch up to his fine defensive work.
Nuge continues to struggle is in the faceoff circle, where he’s rolling along with a brutal 42.1%. That means that the Oilers are chasing the puck more often than not when Nuge takes the draw and it’s making him spend too much time defending rather than moving the puck the other way. If I’m Nuge, I’m locking myself in a room until I can figure out what I need to do to win more draws. If he can do that, then he should be able to get his offence going rather than spending so much time defending.
TL;DR – BE BETTER
At the end of the day, these are three $6 million players that are expected to produce and are not doing that at a level that we need them to. While EberNucic have been relatively effective in their own zone, that’s only half of the story. They need to figure out how to produce more offence and they need to figure it out ASAP Rocky. The Ducks are a deep and experienced team, and if the Oilers want to close them out then they’re going to need more than one or two lines going. And they’re going to need them going at both ends of the ice.