The Oilers return home for a brief-two game homestand after a rough 2-3 road trip where they allowed 19 goals in five games. Edmonton surrendered three goals at 5×5 in all five games. They are now 30th in 5×5 goals against. Only Seattle and Chicago, an expansion team and team with the worst defensive system I’ve seen in years under former head coach Jeremy Colliton, have been worse.
— To say Edmonton needs to tighten up defensively at 5×5 would be generous. Swiss cheese has fewer holes than the Oilers defensive play right now. On the road trip every player took their turn struggling defensively. The bad news is one or two lineup changes won’t solve the problem, but the good news is the entire team should feel shame and be holding each other accountable.
— On the road trip Duncan Keith (7), Evan Bouchard, Cody Ceci, Kailer Yamamoto and Derek Ryan (6), Leon Draisaitl (5) and Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, and Warren Foegele (4) were all on for four+ goals against.
— If you value xGF%, the only ones who were above 50% on the road were Jesse Puljujarvi (54.9%), McDavid (54.6%), Draisaitl (54%), Nurse (50.9%), and Keith 50.2%.
— So those who had a decent xGF%, excluding Puljujarvi, were all on for 4+ goals against. It is difficult to find any player who was great defensively (at 5×5) on the road trip.
— I had a few texts to my show asking why the Oilers can be so good on the PK, but struggle defensively at 5×5. Valid question. I see a few things. They aren’t gifting goals on the PK. When they get the puck they get it out. They also aren’t carrying the puck lots and having errant passes picked off in the neutral zone as they have at 5×5. Their transition game at 5×5 has struggled. That isn’t a factor on the PK. But mainly, players seem more committed to the structure on the PK.
— The Oilers’ special teams have been great. Their power play is absolutely crushing it at 42.6%. They’ve scored 20 goals on the man advantage. The NHL hasn’t seen a team score 80+ powerplay goals in a season since 2009, when Washington (85 goals on 337 chances), San Jose (87 goals on 360 PPs), and Detroit (90 goals on 353 chances) all did it. But those teams averaged 4.11, 4.39, and 4.30 PP chances/game respectively. Edmonton is 13th in the NHL at 3.13 PP/game.
The penalty kill has also been fantastic, sitting fifth at 87%. Edmonton is 17th in PK chances/game at 3.07. They have only allowed six PP goals on 46 opportunities.
— Edmonton’s 5×5 goal scoring has been very productive as well, sitting third in the NHL at 2.33 goals/game. There are nine players with at least five points at 5×5, which prorates to 27 points in a full season.
In the last full 82-game season (2019), Tampa Bay and Toronto were tied for the most 5×5 goals in the NHL. Tampa had nine players with 25+ points at 5×5 and Toronto had eight. Edmonton’s production thus far at 5×5 has been very good with balanced production.
— They have been excellent in three areas, and that is why they are 11-4, but their glaring weakness is how porous they’ve been defending at 5×5. It has to improve.
— Edmonton needs to be more physically engaged against the Jets. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Neal Pionk, and Brendan Dillon each had five hits on Tuesday. They combined for 15 hits, which was more than the entire Oilers team (14). Edmonton has to match the intensity of the Jets, and when Winnipeg goes out of their way to be physical on the Oilers two superstars, the rest of the Oilers team needs to respond.
— Leon Draisaitl is on a ridiculous goal-scoring pace. Isn’t it interesting how little coverage Sportsnet, TSN and the NHL have done on this compared to last year when Auston Matthews had 18 goals in his first 18 games (The Leafs had played 19). You wonder why Western Canada fans get annoyed by SN and TSN national coverage? This is a prime example, but I digress. Draisaitl has the second most goals in Oilers history through 15 games with 17.
Player Season G A PTS
Gretzky 83/84 19 23 42
Draisaitl 21/22 17 16 33
Kurri 84/85 16 16 32
Gretzky 81/82 15 14 29
Gretzky 84/85 15 28 43
— Only five players since the NHL expanded to 12 teams in 1967 have scored more goals than Draisaitl’s 17 in the first 15 games.
Dino Ciccarelli (1987) and Mario Lemieux (1993) had 20, Lemieux (1989), Gretzky (1984) and Phil Esposito (1974) had 19 while Lemieux (1996) and Mike Bossy (1985) had 18. They all finished with more than 50 goals.
Gretzky had 87, Lemieux had 85, 69, and 69, Esposito had 68, Bossy potted 58 and Ciccarelli scored 52. Draisaitl has become an elite finisher and is having one of the best goal scoring starts we’ve seen in years.
— Draisaitl has 12 goals and 20 points in his last eight games. He has 31 shots (3.875 shots/game).
In his first seven games, he scored 5-8-13 and had 20 shots (2.85 shots/game).
It is interesting to contrast his first 15-game split with McDavid’s first 15.
McDavid has 5-8-13 in his last eight games and had 23 shots. (2.87 shots/game).
He had 7-9-16 in his first seven games and he fired 39 shots on goals (5.57 shots/game).
Unsurprisingly, both players scored more goals when they shot more. It will be interesting to see if they rotate with one being more of the shooter.
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