The Oilers were dropped by the Penguins last night 2-1 in overtime and thus finished their road trip with a 1-1-1 record. Cam Talbot has broken free from his early-season struggles, but the team still can’t seem to find a way to put the puck into the back of the net.
A few minutes into the third period, Ian Cole opened the scoring with a seeing-eye shot from the point that got by a screened Cam Talbot.
With under three minutes to go in the game, Connor McDavid came up clutch. The Oilers badly needed a goal, and the captain delivered with a snipe over Matt Murray’s shoulder. It was McDavid’s first goal since scoring a hat trick in the opening night win over the Flames. I can’t stress enough how badly this team needed that goal. The team ended up losing, of course, but losing 2-1 in overtime is better for the morale than getting dropped shut out.
In overtime, after exchanging a couple of rushes, the Penguins iced the game. Evgeni Malkin drew Oscar Klefbom towards him, opening the ice up for Phil Kessel to snipe the winner past Cam Talbot. There was no way Milan Lucic was going to catch Kessel on this play.
Phil Kessel, two-time Stanley Cup Champion...— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 25, 2017
And tonight's OT game-winning goal scorer. ? pic.twitter.com/VsOKJJHfe2
The Penguins outshot the Oilers 44 to 30 in all situations and 34 to 26 while at even strength. Interestingly enough, the Oilers had 54 shot attempts at even strength to Pittsburgh’s 46, but the Penguins did a very strong job of keeping a lot of Edmonton’s shots to the outside. That changed in the third period when the Oilers cut down the volume of shots they took and began generating more high quality chances. In the third, Pittsburgh controlled the shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, and shots on goal, but Edmonton still generated more scoring chances than they had in the previous periods. That’s to be expected as the Penguins went into a bit of a shell to protect their 1-0 lead.
Overall, I think this was a fairly evenly played game and the numbers tend to agree.
- Having Leon Draisaitl back made a huge difference for the offence last night. I mean, the team still only scored one goal, but Draisaitl’s presence made the team deeper and the McDavid line more dangerous. He played the first two periods with Caggiula and Letestu and the trio was solid, then, in the third, Drai got moved up to McDavid’s wing and the two started to generate chances like they always do. I’m usually an advocate for splitting McDavid and Draisaitl up because it makes the team’s attack more balanced, but based on how difficult a time the Oilers have had scoring goals thus far, they need to be put together.
- Cam Talbot was rock solid again. His shaky start to the season is very clearly in the rearview mirror at this point. I don’t think you can blame him for either Ian Cole’s point shot goal or Kessel’s overtime goal. He certainly gave the team a chance to win last night.
- I thought Darnell Nurse played his best game of the season last night. He and Kris Russell were largely rock solid in the defensive zone and the pair owned the best shot attempt and high danger chance differential of any Oilers defencemen last night. I would give this pair another look together.
- The Oilers have scored 15 goals this season. That’s dead last in the NHL. As WheatNOil aptly pointed out on twitter, a big part of that comes down to an unsustainably low shooting percentage. As down on the Oilers are you are right now, the reality is there is no way the team is going to shoot five percent in all situations like they are right now. This highlight is an example of what poor on-ice shooting percentage looks like. There are a lot of things done well on this play, the setup, the positioning by Lucic in front of the net and Letestu at the side, the pass by McDavid, but then Murray sprawls across the crease to make an absurd save. It’s frustrating, but you have to trust the process, eventually these will start to go in.
- Sticking with the same theme of underlying numbers suggesting the Oilers are better than their record indicates, I’ve seen a few people mention that the team could be suffering from a similar issue as the L.A. Kings of recent years. For those who haven’t followed, the Kings between 2014-2017 (not so much now that they’ve switched coaches) were notorious for posting phenomenal possession numbers and terrible goal numbers. They were the epitome of why Corsi doesn’t measure everything. The difference between the Oilers and Kings is that L.A.’s system had them taking low percentage shots from all over the ice, and as a result, their expected goal figure, which is derived from the quality of shots being taken, was always poor. Edmonton, according to Corsica, has the highest expected goals for percentage in the NHL right now because they not only get a high volume of shot attempts, they also get them in higher danger areas.
- One final thing I noticed when digging through some numbers is Edmonton’s power play. Through eight games, the Oilers have converted on 15.4 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage, whereas last season, they scored on 22.9 percent of chances. The interesting thing is that the Oilers have only been given 26 power play opportunities this season, which is tied for third fewest in the league so far. A key part of this team’s success last year was scoring on the power play and they simply haven’t had a high volume of opportunities to do so this season.
Source: NHL.com, Official Game Page, 10/24/2017, 7:30pm MST