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Game Notes Devils @ Oilers: Coaching To Score

The best coaches find different ways to connect with players. It is much easier to get their attention when the team is winning or an individual is playing well. But the good coaches earn their stripes when individual players are slumping and they work with them to rediscover their talents.

Right now Dave Tippett is earning his coaching degree in coaching. The list of players struggling offensively is long, but Tippett seemingly loves the challenge of helping them play their way out of a slump.

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1. Tippet was asked his approach or secrets to coaching players who are struggling offensively.

“Keep coaching them. Every player is different. Some you have to prod a little bit, others you have to tell them they are doing good things and it will come. We chart a lot of different things that can help players. Help them in a good way or in a real way, where in they think they are playing good, but they aren’t playing as good as they think. While other guys who are down on themselves, but they are actually creating stuff, so if they stick with it hopefully the puck will go in. Every player is different and it is my job to find the approach that works with them.”

2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has one goal in 17 games and it came on the powerplay. Tippett discussed the play of his second line centre.

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“He has had some opportunities. Again, we chart a lot of that stuff, and he’s around some opportunities, but not much is going in. Not much is going in for him, and not much for Nealer (James Neal) other than early, so he’s been quiet now too. When you aren’t scoring and your wingers aren’t scoring…nobody is scoring (chuckles) and that’s kind of where we are at.”

Tippett charts all scoring chances for and against. He has a very in-depth system. He re-watches every scoring chance and charts who was involved in making it happen. When he talks with players he is armed with a lot of data. Sometimes a player is hard on himself thinking he isn’t doing much, but Tippett will show him charts and videos suggesting he is creating quality chances and to stick with it. The opposite is also true, where a player will think he is playing well, and Tippett outlines why that isn’t the case.

3. For Tippett, scoring chances are the most important. And he is very diligent in charting them. Of course he wants players and lines to score, but if goals aren’t going in at the very least he wants to see a line creating them. He admitted he needs to see more from his second line of RNH, Neal and Alex Chiasson.

“Sometimes you might not even score, but you have to be dangerous. The other team has to know you are in the game. That’s where that second line needs to have a bigger impact in the game. You might not get the results you want, but the other team has to say, ‘That line was good tonight or we need a different matchup against that line because they are playing in the offensive zone a lot.’ We haven’t had enough of that.”

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They need to have an impact in the game to the point where they are generating momentum and putting the Devils on their heels tonight.

4. Connor McDavid could tie Dale Hawerchuk for 12th fastest player in NHL history to reach 400 career points if he picks up two points in his 305th career game tonight. In fact he needs two points in his next six games to be the 13th quickest in NHL history. Here are the top-12.

PLAYER                        TEAMS                                    AGE/Days           GP            G              A           
Wayne Gretzky        Edmonton Oilers                           20-335               197           151          252
Mario Lemieux         Pittsburgh Penguins                     22-067               240           170          233
Peter Stastny           Quebec Nordiques                       27-046                247           138          262
Eric Lindros              Philadelphia Flyers                       23-351                277           179          221
Mike Bossy              New York Islanders                       24-012                283           226          174
Sidney Crosby          Pittsburgh Penguins                    22-057                292           134          266
Bryan Trottier           New York Islanders                      22-239                296           148          252
Kent Nilsson             Atlanta/Calgary Flames               27-090                298           171          229
Jari Kurri                   Edmonton Oilers                         24-165                300           171          230
Denis Savard           Chicago Blackhawks                     23-036                300           128          272
Teemu Selanne        Winnipeg Jets/Anaheim Ducks    26-203                304           189          211
Dale Hawerchuk       Winnipeg Jets                              21-333               305           162          238
Connor McDavid      Edmonton Oilers                         22-298                305           136          262

It is ridiculous to note Wayne Gretzky averaged over two points/game to reach 400 points in his first 197 NHL games.

5. McDavid will be the fifth youngest player to reach 400 points trailing Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux. He’ll be the third Oiler on the list, most of any team. Despite all the recent losing, Oilers fans have been blessed to watch some of the best offensive players in the history of the NHL.

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6. Since entering the league in 2015/2016, McDavid leads the NHL with 398 points in 304 games. Patrick Kane is second with 397 points in 342 games. The rest of the top ten include:
Nikita Kucherov 390 points in 326 games.
Sidney Crosby: 380 points in 332 games.
Brad Marchand: 359 points in 319 games.
Blake Wheeler: 342 points in 343 games.
Johnny Gaudreau: 339 points in 332 games.
Alex Ovechkin: 338 points in 341 games.
Artemi Panarin: 336 points in 336 games.
Leon Draisaitl: 332 points in 331 games.

7.  Leon Draisaitl and McDavid each have 136 goals (ninth most in the NHL) over the past four years and 17 games. McDavid is fourth in EV goals with 110 behind Ovechkin (120), Kane (117) and Jeff Skinner (113). Draisaitl is third in OT goals with nine, trailing Jonathan Toews (10) and Brad Marchand (11).

8. The Oilers are 3-1 against top-seven teams in the NHL defeating the Capitals, Islanders and Canucks and losing to the Blues. But they are 2-3 v. bottom-seven teams in the NHL losing to Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota while defeating the Kings and Devils. They need to be better against bottom teams like the New Jersey Devils tonight. The Devils sit in 27th place in the NHL with 12 points, but they have played the fewest games in the NHL (14). They are 4-6-4 overall, but 4-2-2 in their last eight and they have been to extra time five times this season, and needed a shootout four times.

9. The Oilers need to build off a good start. McDavid scored early against Arizona and St.Louis, but then they sat back and the Coyotes and Blues took the lead and controlled the first half of the game. I give Edmonton credit for coming back and dominating the third periods, but that is a recipe for losing. They need to maintain a good start tonight and not let New Jersey into the game as easily as the did Arizona and St. Louis.

10. Corey Schneider will likely start after McKenzie Blackwood played in Calgary last night. The Devils goaltending is a major weakness. In nine starts Blackwood has an .888sv% with a 3.13 GAA. Schneider is much worse with a 4.71 GAA and .847sv% in five starts. He has allowed seven, six, three, four and two goals. It would be inexcusable to allow him to stonewall them tonight.

11. There is a lot of talk surrounding the contract status of Taylor Hall. Devils GM Ray Shero wants to sign him, but I see no reason Hall signs a deal during the season with the Devils. The big decision for Shero will be to keep him and hope he signs after the season or trade him before the deadline. I fully expect it will be the latter. The Devils will get a decent return, and many teams will come calling. Hall is in the final year of a great value contract with a $6 million cap hit. Teams will be able to make a deal to get him under the cap for this season, and then the team who acquires him will have a few months to introduce him to their organization with the hope he might re-sign. I will be stunned if he signs an extension with the Devils during the season.

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