The Edmonton Oilers are 7-4 in their last eleven games.
They outscored teams 41-33.
They outshot them 390-310.
Their 5×5 CF% was 52.2 (567-519).
Their 5×5 FF% was 53.8% (430-370).
They were +30 in scoring chances for/scoring chances against.
It has been their most consistent stretch of the season, and some are wondering if it has to do with Todd McLellan running Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the middle.
After an ugly 3-1 loss in Buffalo, where Draisaitl and RNH were playing together, McLellan pulled out the McBlender and switched up his top three lines.
Mike Cammalleri played with McDavid and Milan Lucic. Drake Caggiula and Ryan Strome flanked Draisaitl while Nugent-Hopkins centred Patrick Maroon and Anton Slepyshev.
Those lines were the same for a few games, but on November 30th versus Toronto, McLellan moved Jesse Puljujarvi to the top line, Cammalleri went to Nugent-Hopkins’ line with Maroon, Draisaitl’s line remained the same while Jujhar Khaira returned to the lineup and skated with Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian.
Khaira produced three points in three games and was promoted to Draisaitl’s line in Montreal and has stayed there for the past six games. Letestu and Kassian have had a rotation of Slepyshev, Walker and Caggiula on their left wing, while McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins’ lines were the same until last night when Cammalleri got the night off and Caggiula was promoted.
The lines have been fairly consistent for the past eleven games. Players who played well — Khaira — were rewarded, while players who struggled had to earn their ice time or had a seat in the pressbox for a game or two. There is healthy competition for ice time now.
The changes worked. The Oilers are scoring more at even strength, but the three scoring lines didn’t emerge how many expected.
Here are the Oilers forwards point totals in the past eleven games.
Name G A PTS EVP OTHER
McDavid 2 10 12 9 Two PP points
Lucic 4 6 10 7 Three PP points
Letestu 4 5 9 6 Two SH goals
RNH 6 2 8 6 1 PP and 1 SH goal
Draisaitl 2 6 8 6 First two PP points of year
Kassian 3 4 7 5 Two SH points
Maroon 3 3 6 6 Best game of stretch last night.
Khaira 3 3 6 6 Nine games played
Puljujarvi 4 2 6 6 Nine GP
Strome 3 2 5 5 Best game last night as well.
Cammalleri 1 4 5 4 Nine GP
Caggiula 0 2 2 2 Eight GP
Slepyshev 0 1 1 1 Five GP
Walker 0 0 0 0 Two GP
Pakarinen 0 0 0 0 Two GP
McDavid led the way. Lucic has played very well during this stretch as has Nugent-Hopkins, but the biggest surprise has been the production of Letestu and Kassian. Those two have been excellent. When two of your fourth line players are producing like they had it is a huge bonus. Khaira had three of his six points playing with those two.
The defence is chipping in as well. Matt Benning (2-3-5), Darnell Nurse (0-5-5) and Kris Russell (1-4-5) each had five points while Oscar Klefbom had 1-2-3. Benning and Klefbom rebounded nicely at 5×5 going +7 and +6 respectively. I know it isn’t the best stat, but being on the ice for more goals for than against is always a positive, especially when earlier in the season Klefbom was on the ice for too many goals against.
The Oilers 5×5 play has been excellent, and so as their shorthanded scoring. They scored four SH goals in the past eleven games, but the rest of the special teams were brutal.
NOT SO SPECIAL TEAMS…
It is amazing the Oilers are 7-4 in the past eleven when you look at how poorly their special teams units performed.
The PP was 4 of 34 (11.7%) and the penalty kill was 23 of 33 (69.7%).
The powerplay was 20% on the season prior to this winning stretch, while the PK, has somehow managed to get worse.
The PK was 74.3% in their first 23 games, yet instead of improving is has somehow gotten worse. This is the biggest issue on the team and the fact it isn’t improving — this has been an issue for 102 games, dating back to last season — needs to be addressed. The Oilers have allowed 69 PP goals in 293 kills (76.4%) dating back to last November. Without question the team has no confidence on the PK. They’ve tried different formations and nothing is working. And that is why I believe something is getting lost in translation between Jim Johnson (PK coach) and the group.
I’m sure a lack of continuity is a small factor, but it’s not like the Oilers are using a variety of rookies on the penalty kill. This is one of the worst stretches of penalty killing we’ve seen in the NHL since 1980. It is not just a bad stretch. It is a major issue and the organization needs to address it. Something needs to change.
I’m not nearly as concerned with the powerplay. It was 20% prior to this 11-game slump, and I have more confidence in the abilities of their offensive players to move the puck quicker. Their zone entries on the powerplay are actually quite good compared to the rest of the NHL, but they struggle once they set up. Their issue isn’t getting in the zone, rather what they do once they are there. They need to move the puck quicker and I won’t be surprised to see the PP rebound in the future and get back to a 20% clip.
If the Oilers had four more PP goals they would be at 21% and sitting in sixth in the NHL. They aren’t that far off.
However, for the PK to even be 16th in the NHL they would have allowed ten fewer goals. They have allowed 30 on 111 kills. They’d need to eliminate 1/3 of their goals just to be middle of the pack. They are not close to even being average. I believe this is a much more concerning issue than whether or not Letestu is on the first PP unit over Puljujarvi.
I like Puljujarvi, but his stick is too long. He misses too many good chances in tight on his body. I think he is developing very well. You can see his confidence growing, and I think he has only reached about 70% of his potential. He is still filling out his massive frame and I only expect he will become even more of a challenge. I think he will be a load to handle when he is 22 and has the strength to control his frame. I have no problem with McLellan bringing him along slowly right now. The powerplay issues will be solved when McDavid, Draisaitl and Lucic are playing up to their PP potential.
But the PK needs an overhaul. Three weeks ago I wrote it was killing this team and since then it has gotten worse. Something needs to give.
The Oilers put Oscar Klefbom on the IR today and they recalled Anton Slepyshev and put Nathan Walker on waivers. With Klefbom going on IR they didn’t have to waive Walker, so I wonder if we see Andrej Sekera activated from the IR before Thursday? He has been skating with the team, taking contact drills and his goal was to return by Christmas. So the 21st would be right on schedule.
The Oilers also traded Greg Chase (seventh round pick in 2013) to Florida for future considerations. Chase had 17 points in 17 games for Wichita in the ECHL. If Walker is claimed, and there’s a good chance Washington reclaims him, then the Oilers will suddenly be at 47 contracts and have lots of room to make a trade or two.
MONTH OF GIVING…
Thank you to Mike and Brent for their great bids and to Al Prokop at the Blackhawk Golf Club and XIX (Nineteen) restaurant for the awesome packages.
Day 13: Package #1 Website Design from Genicoll Visual Communications
- Brochure style, information based, mobile-responsive WordPress website.
5-10 Web Pages.
Built with the customizable Divi Theme with photos and graphics from their extensive library.
Social media links to existing accounts.
Basic site maintenance training manual.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau
Package #2: Tee It Up.
- 10 rounds of golf at the Ranch Golf and Country Club (hole 8 above) with a power cart for each round and use of driving range before every round.
- One round of golf for three people with their Head Pro Shawn Piercey.
- One round of golf for two with GM Murray McCourt and Kevin Karius from Global TV. This is a spirited match and usually involves some friendly “wagering.”
Thanks in advance. All proceeds go towards Santas Anonymous