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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Maple Leafs @ Oilers: Depth Scoring Needed

The Oilers were not supposed to have a scoring depth issue this season. Last year, in the first 12 games of the season, the Oilers were 8-3-1 and outscored the opposition 36-32, but they were outscored 24-21 at 5×5.

However, they were winning due to great offensive production from a small group of players and excellent special teams.

Here were the forward goal totals through the first 12 games. I used 12 games (14.6% of 82 games) because that is the closest equivalent of eight games (14.3%) of this 56-game season.

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James Neal: 10 (3 at 5×5).
Leon Draisaitl 9 (6).
Connor McDavid: 6 (3).
Zack Kassian: 3 at 5×5.
Joakim Nygard: One at 4×4.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: One on the powerplay.

Six forwards had a goal for a total of 30 goals and 15 were at 5×5.

The defence chipped in with six goals. Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear had two, while Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Manning had one. All six came at 5×5. RNH only had two assists at 5×5 through 12 games last season, but he did have 1-6-7 on the PP. The Oilers PP was red-hot to start the season, clicking along at 33.3% with 11 goals on 33 chances. The PK was equally good, allowing only five goals on 37 kills (86.5%)

— This offseason, Ken Holland signed forwards who had more proven offensive potential than last year’s depth forwards. Excluding the guys who scored early, here was the rest of the forwards who played early in the season.

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The other forwards in those 12 games were:

Jujhar Khaira (12 GP), Markus Granlund (11), Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan (10), Patrick Russell and Alex Chiasson (9), Josh Archibald (8), Nygard (6), Gaetan Haas (5), Colby Cave and Sam Gagner (2).

This year’s group includes Kyle Turris, Dominik Kahun, Jesse Puljujarvi, Archibald (8), Kassian (7), Devin Shore (6), Chiasson (5), Tyler Ennis (4), Khaira, Nygard, Neal (3) and P.Russell (1).

Which group would you expect more goals from?

— This year the Oilers are 3-5 and have been outscored 29-23. They’ve been outscored 14-19 at 5×5. Here is the forward goal totals.

McDavid: 5 (3 at 5×5)
Draisaitl: 4 (1 at 5×5)
RNH: 4 (two at 5×5)
Kailer Yamamoto: 3 at 5×5
Kyle Turris: 1 at 5×5
Devin Shore: 1 shorthanded
Josh Archibald: 1 in empty net.

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Seven forwards have goals for a total of 19 goals and 10 have come 5×5.

The defence has chipped in with four goals. Adam Larsson has two while Darnell Nurse and Slater Koekkoek have one. All have come at 5×5. The powerplay is at 17.9% with five goals on 28 chances, while the penalty kill is at 76% allowing six goals on 25 kills.

— Last season the Oilers averaged 3.00 goals/game and 2.66 goals against/game through 14% of the season. This year they are averaging 2.87 goals/game and have allowed 3.62 goals against/.game. So they are scoring less, allowing more, the PP is struggling and so is the penalty kill. Not a rosy outlook if you are the Oilers.

— Not much has changed in terms of offence. They have six forwards with goals (not including empty-net goals) compared to six last year. But the off-season moves were supposed to improve the depth scoring.

— I don’t blame the GM or head coach that Kahun (101 min at 5×5), Kassian (98), Puljujarvi 88), Turris (85), Archibald (76), Shore (45), Chiasson (38), Ennis (37), Neal (29), Nygard (27), Khaira (20) and Patrick Russell (9) have combined for one 5×5 goal in a total of 653 minutes.

— At some point players need to finish. I know the goals against has to come down, but we have discussed at length the need for that to improve. Of course it does, but today I want to look at offensive production.

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— We expect players to make good defensive reads and plays, so why not ask the same offensively? I know it is more difficult to score than to just be in the right position, have good stick placement, body position or make the right read, but many of these players were brought here to at least contribute offensively.

— The Neal-Turris-Kassian line has only played one full game together, and they created many quality chances last night (maybe they will score tonight). But none went in. They missed the net on two of their best chances. They need to bear down and bury those chances. They had some great chances in the second period when it was 3-2. Score on even one of those chances and the Jets are more deflated, while the Oilers bench is energized. It didn’t happen, and then the team fell apart defensively in the third.

— Turris has played a total of 115 minutes. He has 10 shots and one goal.
Kahun has played 108 minutes. He has 15 shots. No goals.
Puljujarvi has played 104 minutes. He has 25 shots.
Kassian has logged 102 minutes, but only has seven shots on goal.
Archibald has skated 98 minutes and has six shots. One goal into an empty net.
Chiasson played 64 minutes. Five shots.
James Neal has only played three games, and one positive is he has seven shots in 37 minutes. But he has to bury that backhand opportunity in Winnipeg.

— The only positive for the Oilers is that their depth scoring should emerge at some point. Their 6th-12th forwards scored 68 goals in the final 59 games last season. It wasn’t great production, but it was much better than the one goal they scored in the first 12 games. The odds say it will improve, but it is on the players to make it happen — now.

Kahun, Puljujarvi, Kassian, Neal, Archibald and Chiasson have all scored double digit goals in an NHL season. It’s about time they show up offensively.

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