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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Can’t Score if You Won’t Shoot

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take,” Wayne Gretzky.

The Edmonton Oilers had one shot on goal in four minutes of powerplay time last night. They trailed 3-2 and went on the PP with 3:43 remaining in the game. They had a glorious opportunity to tie the game on the man advantage, but registered one shot. And that shot came on quick transition through the neutral zone, when Connor McDavid sped in on the defence and got a shot off. When the Oilers were set up in the offensive zone they could not muster one measly shot in two opportunities.

At some point the powerplay needs to contribute. It hasn’t scored in eight games. They haven’t scored in their last 16 opportunities.

The powerplay is not improving. It isn’t generating a lot of shots or chances and getting stoned by the goalies.

It is stagnant.
There is no urgency.
It is too methodical.
It has become very predictable.

Sty Aziz had a great analogy.

The Oilers are wonderful at passing the puck. They can move it around the perimeter with the best in the league, but when it comes to penetrating the defence or creating an odd-man advantage they haven’t been able to accomplish much.

The Oilers are 16.6% on the season, but even that number is flattering. Prior to this eight-game drought, the Oilers scored five goals in a three game span vs. Vegas, St.Louis and Dallas. They went 5-for-9. One of those goals was scored by the 4th line late in the blowout win over Vegas.

In their other 25 games the Oilers PP is only 11.1%, scoring seven goals on 63 opportunities. That is abysmal when you consider they know how to score 5×5.

Leon Draisaitl scored a shorthanded goal last night. He now has more SH points than PP points. How is that even possible?

He has played 10:44 on the penalty kill. He has played 59:58 on the PP and he has zero points. Not one goal. Not an assist. Nothing.

He led the Oilers in powerplay points with 27 last season.

The Oilers coaches need to do a better job. Change the formation, change the personnel, but the reality is the players have the biggest impact.

“We have lots of creative freedom on the powerplay,” Mark Letestu told me last week. “We have some base formations and a few set plays, but ultimately it is up to us players to score. We need to shoot more,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean Jay Woodcroft and the staff get a free pass. The PP has struggled all season, except the aforementioned three-game stretch, but I haven’t seen much change. They switched Matt Benning and Oscar Klefbom a week ago, but that hasn’t helped. They haven’t scored a goal since switching the units. They moved Draisaitl to the second unit for a brief time, but then he was only getting about 30-40 seconds per PP so they put him back on the top unit.

The Oilers weren’t fancy last season. They got pucks to the net and Milan Lucic and Draisaitl scored from in close. Lucic had eleven PP goals while Draisaitl had ten.

They have combined for ZERO PP goals this season. Seriously.

Lucic has been guilty of too many “hope” passes on the PP this year. He passes it blindly to the slot hoping a teammate will get it. Not great. But that isn’t the main reason he has no goals. The Oilers haven’t moved the puck around crisp enough to force the penalty killers out of position, which would help them win rebound battles, or even get deflections.

They are too stubborn, and the most perplexing aspect of the powerplay struggles is how the players are producing at 5×5. Usually skilled players gain confidence from getting “easier” points on the powerplay. But not this year.

The Oilers have the 8th most 5×5 goals in the NHL. They finished 8th in 5×5 goals for last season as well.

Their powerplay is not helping them this year. It is a hindrance.

I realize they have other issues. They’ve given up too many goals, especially on the penalty kill, but today I’m focused on the woes of the man advantage.

I keep reading how people want Mark Letestu off the first unit. Sure, make a change, but why he is the main culprit? He is tied for the team lead in PP goals with three. He his tied for the team lead in PP shots with 18.

Player                 PPTOI           PP SHOTS          PPpoints
McDavid             81:23              13                        7 (3 goals)
Klefbom              79:46              18                       2
Letestu               75:34              18                        5 (3 goals)
Lucic                   65:04              8                         2  (no goals)
Draisaitl              59:58               6                         0
Maroon              55:09                5                         3
RNH                   49:04                10                       4 (3 goals)
Strome               47:28                13                       3 (2 goals)
Benning             29:09                 9                         1
Caggiula            19:22                  5                         1 (goal)

Why not start RNH’s unit with Strome more often? Strome shoots more frequently than any forward on the man advantage.

The first unit isn’t getting it done, and if it annoys them that the second unit gets to start the PP more often, then maybe that wakes them up?

The first unit hasn’t got it done. Draisaitl hasn’t had one shot in the past four games. He isn’t getting more involved, so switch it up.

Something has to change, and the coaches need to make some tough decisions. At this point, they should explore every option. Some might cringe, but maybe try Kris Russell again. He had four shots and two points in 16 minutes of PP time early in the season. It can’t get worse than it has been the past eight games. The powerplay hasn’t accomplished anything.

Try Jesse Puljujarvi if need be. Mike Cammalleri possibly.

It is insane to just keep going with the top unit as is. It isn’t improving.

It’s not like they are getting stoned by the goalie. Brian Elliott, outside of the McDavid save, wasn’t tested.

Whoever is willing to shoot, and capable of getting it on net regularly, put them on the PP.

At this point, every option should be on the table, because the powerplay has been underwhelming for the entire season.

MONTH OF GIVING

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  • It’s not just the powerplay. It’s when the team is on the powerplay that the greater issue is most obvious. 8 games out of ten I’ve watched this season this group has been entirely uncommitted to doing what it takes to win. I don’t know what the deal is but they have become the most disconnected “team” I’ve seen in a long time. Yeah we probably have 3-4 players who wouldn’t start on a competitive team but it’s more than that. Passes are sloppy, desire is almost totally lacking and the sharpness you expect to see at this level is almost always absent. These are guys that to the one had to be the best of the best to make it to the NHL? It’s just killing me to watch.

  • BTL

    Why doesn’t Nurse even get a sniff of powerplay time? I see Klefbom sucking the life out it, he is a reluctant shooter, buoyed by his inability to find or create shooting lanes. Nurse has more points (10 vs 7) and equal shots (75 vs 78) compared to Klefbom, with ZERO powerplay minutes/game (0:05 vs 2:57). Nurse is by far the best Oiler d-man at walking the blue-line to create shooting lanes and appears to be a willing shooter; isn’t that what you want from your point-man on the powerplay?

    • Leichs

      Because our coaching staff is a mess and they seem to take forever to make the obvious changes. Definition of insanity:
      Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

  • GK1980

    This whole season has been a disaster. Very disappointing. Not sure what happened to this team but the decade of suck is still hanging around the dressing room.

  • madjam

    The major problem with Oilers is the gap between GF and GA (goals against ) . The GA has risen to states of decade of doom . Overall team defence and goaltending are the major culprits, as offence remains closer to last years start . Sekara is sorely missed while Talbot having a tough time finding consistency . We do not have the talent in overall players as yet to outscore our defensive lapses most games . Get defence working in positive territory again( goal differential) and offence should also follow with an upward trend .

    • Big Nuggets

      Goals against is a pretty vague category. 5 on 5 the team plays pretty well so I dont think it is team defence. Weak goaltending and a terrible PK seem to be the culprits. as well as some nights that the team just doesnt show up.