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Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Oilers D-men Shoot Too Much?

The question was raised in an article by Jonathan Willis. The Oilers’ recent 3-11-2 run has many looking for answers as to why the Oilers have skidded off the road after a strong 16-5 start.

There are many factors why the team is struggling. We’ve discussed goaltending and special teams, so today let’s look at the possibility that the Oilers defenders are shooting the puck too much and that is why the Oilers 5×5 offence has struggled since December 2nd.

Let’s start with the first 21 games when Edmonton was 16-5.

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At 5×5 they scored 46 goals (2.19/game) and allowed 48 (2.28/game).
They fired 513 shots on goal (24.4/game) and allowed 559 (26.6/game).
The forwards had 325 shots on net while the blueliners had 188.
The forwards had 63.3% of the shots and the defenders had 36.7%.

Edmonton was 8th in goals/game at 5×5.

First 21 GP GP TOI/GP Goals G/60 Points P/60 Shots S/60 SH%
Connor McDavid 21 16:50 7 1.19 16 2.71 48 8.14 14.58
Zach Hyman 21 13:34 7 1.47 10 2.1 44 9.26 15.91
Jesse Puljujarvi 21 14:42 5 0.97 11 2.14 43 8.36 11.63
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 21 14:11 2 0.4 7 1.41 32 6.44 6.25
Leon Draisaitl 21 16:53 6 1.02 18 3.05 31 5.25 19.35
Kailer Yamamoto 21 13:37 4 0.84 5 1.05 24 5.03 16.67
Warren Foegele 21 11:46 1 0.24 7 1.7 22 5.34 4.55
Zack Kassian 17 12:40 3 0.84 7 1.95 17 4.74 17.65
Derek Ryan 18 8:59 1 0.37 1 0.37 15 5.56 6.67
Kyle Turris 15 7:31 1 0.53 2 1.06 12 6.38 8.33
Colton Sceviour 12 7:26 0 0 0 0 12 8.06 0
Ryan McLeod 13 9:06 3 1.52 3 1.52 9 4.56 33.33
Brendan Perlini 12 7:32 0 0 0 0 6 3.98 0
Tyler Benson 10 6:45 0 0 0 0 6 5.32 0
Devin Shore 8 7:44 1 0.97 2 1.94 4 3.88 25

McDavid, Hyman, Draisaitl and Puljujarvi combined for 25 goals. The other forwards had 16. Nugent-Hopkins, Foegele and Ryan were the only top-nine forwards with a Shooting% under 10. If you look at Shots per 60 (S/60) McDavid, Hyman, Puljujarvi and Sceviour were all over 8.00.

GP TOI/GP Goals G/60 Points  P/60 Shots S/60 SH%
Darnell Nurse 16 20:20 0 0 5 0.92 43 7.93 0
Evan Bouchard 21 16:35 2 0.34 7 1.21 42 7.23 4.76
Tyson Barrie 21 15:23 1 0.19 7 1.3 32 5.94 3.13
Cody Ceci 20 17:20 1 0.17 6 1.04 25 4.33 4
Duncan Keith 18 16:56 1 0.2 5 0.98 20 3.94 5
Kris Russell 10 15:02 0 0 2 0.8 9 3.59 0
Philip Broberg 5 16:51 0 0 1 0.71 7 4.98 0
William Lagesson 3 12:34 0 0 0 0 6 9.55 0
Slater Koekkoek 11 9:35 0 0 1 0.57 4 2.27 0
Markus Niemelainen 1 9:49 0 0 0 0 0 0

On the backend, Nurse and Bouchard had a lot of shots with 43 and 42 (Nurse missed five games) respectively.

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McDavid (48), Hyman (44), Nurse, Puljujarvi (43) and Bouchard (42) were top five on the team.

RECENT SKID…

Now let’s look at the last 16 games.

At 5×5 they scored 27 goals 91.69/game) and allowed 40 (2.5/game).
They fired 425 shots on goal (26.6/game) and allowed 399 (24.9/game)
The forwards had 257 shots on net while the blueliners had 168.
The forwards had 60.5% of the shots and the defenders had 39.5%.

Edmonton was 27th in goals/game at 5×5.

Edmonton averaged more shots per game, but fewer goals. They also allowed fewer shots against, but saw a spike in goals against.

Game 22-37 GP TOI/GP Goals G/60 Points  Pts/60 Shots Shots/60 SH%
Connor McDavid 15 17:24 3 0.69 7 1.61 39 8.96 7.69
Jesse Puljujarvi 14 14:25 1 0.3 4 1.19 34 10.1 2.94
Warren Foegele 16 13:22 1 0.28 3 0.84 29 8.13 3.45
Leon Draisaitl 16 17:02 4 0.88 8 1.76 25 5.5 16
Colton Sceviour 16 8:50 2 0.85 4 1.7 17 7.21 11.76
Ryan McLeod 13 11:07 1 0.42 3 1.25 16 6.64 6.25
Brendan Perlini 8 9:46 4 3.07 5 3.84 15 11.51 26.67
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 9 13:18 1 0.5 3 1.5 14 7.01 7.14
Zach Hyman 11 14:22 0 0 3 1.14 12 4.55 0
Kailer Yamamoto 16 14:54 3 0.76 6 1.51 11 2.77 27.27
Derek Ryan 15 8:45 1 0.46 2 0.91 10 4.57 10
Zack Kassian 11 12:32 0 0 2 0.87 10 4.35 0
Kyle Turris 7 9:40 0 0 2 1.77 9 7.97 0
Devin Shore 12 8:41 1 0.58 1 0.58 8 4.6 12.5
Tyler Benson 9 10:37 0 0 1 0.63 7 4.39 0
Cooper Marody 1 5:52 0 0 1 10.2 1 10.2 0
Seth Griffith 1 5:37 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

McDavid’s SH% was 7.69 after being 14.5% in the first 21 games. Puljujarvi went from 11.6% to 2.93%. Hyman dropped from 15.9% to 0. Kassian dropped from 17.6% to 0. McLeod dropped from 33% to 6.25%.

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Hyman had 44 shots in 21 games, but only 12 in 11. Puljujarvi shot more, but scored only once. McDavid’s S/60 was up slightly.

The Oilers top line didn’t score nearly as much. Draisaitl’s S/60 were virtually the same. His SH% went from 19 to 16, but Yamamoto’s went up from 16 to 27. He had four goals on 24 shots in the first 21 games and had three goals on 11 shots over the past 16 games.

GP TOI/GP Goals Goals/60 Points Points/60 Shots Shots/60 SH%
Darnell Nurse 14 21:59 2 0.39 3 0.58 52 10.13 3.85
Evan Bouchard 16 17:14 3 0.65 6 1.31 32 6.96 9.38
Tyson Barrie 14 16:33 0 0 1 0.26 21 5.44 0
Cody Ceci 13 18:47 0 0 3 0.74 21 5.16 0
Duncan Keith 10 19:05 0 0 5 1.57 18 5.66 0
Kris Russell 6 10:37 0 0 0 0 8 7.53 0
Slater Koekkoek 7 12:40 0 0 2 1.35 6 4.06 0
William Lagesson 7 10:13 0 0 2 1.68 5 4.19 0
Markus Niemelainen 6 13:11 0 0 0 0 3 2.27 0
Philip Broberg 3 10:48 0 0 0 0 2 3.7 0
Dmitri Samorukov 1 2:28 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Nurse had the most shots of any Oilers player despite missing two games and that is why the blueline went from 36.7% of the shots up to 39.5%. As Willis pointed out, you’d like the total to be lower, but I don’t see the uptick in shots from the blueline during this slump as the main reason the Oilers couldn’t score at 5×5. The top line’s 5×5 production cratered, despite McDavid and Puljujarvi shooting more, and when Foegele played there in place of Hyman he shot way more as well. They just couldn’t finish.

No question, Darnell Nurse shot more over the past 16 games.

Nurse had four+ shots on goal at 5×5 in seven of the 14 games he skated in. Edmonton scored 15 goals at 5×5 in those games.

In the other seven games he had 14 shots at 5×5 and Edmonton scored eight goals.

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It is a small sample size, but there doesn’t seem to be a correlation to Nurse’s high shot totals stifling the Oilers offence.

Nurse being a high-volume shooter isn’t new.

In 2019 Nurse led the Oilers with 159 shots at 5×5. He had a 5.06SH% and 6.09 S/60. Oscar Klefbom was at 7.05 S/60.
In 2020 Nurse led the Oilers with 143 shots at 5×5. He had a 2.70 SH% and 6.48 S/60. Klefbom was at 6.32 S/60.
In 2021 Nurse tied McDavid for most shots with 129. He had a .9.30SH% and 6.69 S/60. Tyson Barrie was 3rd on team with 118 shots and 7.39 S/60.

In the three previous seasons Nurse’s average shots/game at 5×5 was 1.93, 2.01 and 2.30.

This season he is at 3.16 shots/game and his S/60 is at 8.99.

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He has shot more, but mainly over the past 14 games and 32 of his 52 shots came in six games. In the other 24 games this season he has averaged 2.42 shots/game, a slight increase over what he did last season. I think it is more of a blip, similar to McDavid having 22 shots over a four-game stretch earlier this season and then averaging 2.03 shots/game in the other 32 games he skated in.

Some suggested Nurse is just wasting more shots. Here is a quick look at the two different stretches this season for Nurse.

Start date End date GP Shots Avg. Distance
13-Oct-21 1-Dec-21 16 43 46.3774
2-Dec-21 23-Jan-22 14 52 44.4677

Thank you to the NHL stat crew for the shot distance. Nurse had more shots in the past 14 games, but he was also shooting, on average, from two feet closer to the net. I don’t recall many instances where Nurse was just wasting shots on goal.

If you are curious, last season when Nurse scored 12 goals on 129 shots at 5×5 his average distance was 46.8247.

FINAL THOUGHT…

Feb 8, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (22) skates with the puck in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Even with Nurse shooting more in the previous 14 games, I don’t see a connection to his increased shot totals, or the defence in general, as the reason the Oilers saw a decrease in their 5×5 offence.

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I’d argue the drop was more due to the lack of goals from the top six, specifically McDavid’s line. They generated a lot, but couldn’t finish. Nurse had a higher SH% than Puljujarvi, Foegele and Hyman. Those three wingers combined for two goals on 75 shots, which is a 2.66 SH%. That won’t continue.

In the last 11 games the Oilers are actually outscoring teams 10-9 when McDavid and Draisaitl are off the ice. McDavid’s line hasn’t been able to score, while Draisaitl’s line has allowed too many goals, getting outscored 13-7.

There are many areas the Oilers need to improve, but I don’t see too many shots from the the D-men being a reason for the recent lack of offence at 5×5. Nurse’s high numbers in six games skewed the totals a bit, and I don’t expect that to continue.

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