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G17 Game Notes: Big Guns Firing Blanks

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
3 months ago
The adage “Your best players need to be your best players if you want to win” has always been accurate. Good teams have depth players who can contribute to wins, and sometimes lead your team, but usually, if you want any chance of success your best players will lead the charge.
For the first time in their careers in Edmonton, the Oilers’ two best players, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, are in a funk together. It is odd to see. They are struggling to score, especially on the power play, and if the Oilers want to get back in the playoff race their two superstars need to find their scoring touch.
— The Oilers could have won the game in Tampa Bay in the first period. They were all over the Lightning but only led 2-1 after 20 minutes despite outshooting the Lightning 20-10. They led 3-2 after 40 minutes with a 28-13 advantage on the shot clock. But they allowed the Bolts to hang around, and it cost them. The Oilers’ power play couldn’t capitalize on three PP chances in the first 22 minutes, and it wasn’t from lack of chances. They can’t finish, specifically their superstars.
— In the previous three NHL seasons McDavid produced 381 points in 218 games. Draisaitl was second with 322. Nathan MacKinnon (264), Mikko Rantanen and Mitch Marner (263) rounded out the top five. McDavid had 117 more points than every player in the NHL not named Draisaitl. Draisaitl was 58 points ahead of MacKinnon. The Oilers’ duo have been on another offensive level for three years, but this morning Draisaitl is 18th in league scoring while McDavid sits 106th.
— They were ridiculously good on the man advantage the past three years. McDavid had 152 PP points, while Draisaitl scored 135. Rantanen was tied for third (96 points) with McDavid and Draisaitl’s teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I chuckled when people tried to downplay the skill of McDavid and Draisaitl because some of their production came on the man advantage. How is being dominant in any facet of the NHL a bad thing? I’ve never understood that and still don’t. But right now, they aren’t dominant on the PP.
— The PP ranks 12th at 22.9%. But the first unit hasn’t been very dangerous for weeks. Draisaitl led the NHL with 32 PP goals last season. McDavid was second with 21. Each has two PP goals thus far. McDavid has one PP goal in his last 14 games and only nine shots. He had one goal and five shots in the first two games of the season.
Draisaitl has gone 13 games without a PP goal and has four points. He had three goals and four PP points in the first three games of the season, but suddenly he can’t bury a one timer, and has fanned on them more often thru 16 games than he did all of last season. It has been stunning to watch.
— It isn’t from a lack of chances. They had multiple odd man rushes v. the Lightning, but never scored. Those used to be gimmies for #29 and #97, but right now they are struggling to produce at the level they are accustomed to. Draisaitl has 15 points in the last 13 games. Most players in the NHL can only dream of that type of production, but Draisaitl only has two goals in the past 13 games after scoring four in the first three games. You can see the frustration in his offensive game, and in Tampa Bay on Saturday he was held pointless.
— McDavid has 2-6-8 in his last 11 games after opening the season with five points in his first three games. This stretch is tied for the second fewest points he’s produced in his career over an 11-game stretch. The lowest was seven points between December 8th, 2016, and January 9th, 2017, when he scored 3-4-7.
— McDavid and Draisaitl’s high-end production has been quite consistent for many years. They’ve dominated the best hockey league in the world, but right now they are in an offensive funk and the Oilers desperately need them to awaken from their slumber. If they can’t the season will be lost. It is that simple. Very few teams can win long term without their big guns leading the way. McDavid has been held pointless in five of his previous eight games. That occurred once before in his second season.
— I realize scoring four goals in Tampa Bay should be enough to win. That is valid, but it is also fair to expect your offensive stars to contribute, especially when the other team’s big guns produced. And as I outlined earlier, it wasn’t from lack of chances. The Oilers’ big guns had more than enough chances to score. Edmonton won three games in a row allowing only a total of five goals. Some games you have to outscore the opposition, but that’s almost impossible to do without contributions from your offensive leaders.
— Let’s be clear: I’m not pinning the Oilers’ 5-10-1 start on the shoulders of McDavid and Draisaitl. We’ve all seen the goaltending issues early this season and the defensive struggles. That has been discussed at length, but on Saturday a lack of finish from the big guns in the first 40 minutes allowed Tampa to stick around. You weren’t going to hold them an average of 6.5 shots/period all game. It wasn’t realistic, but needing offence from McDavid and Draisaitl is realistic, and lately it hasn’t happened. They simply need to start scoring goals. We know they are capable of doing it.
— Evan Bouchard has twice as many goals as McDavid and Draisaitl do over the past 13 games. Darnell Nurse has more goals than either of them. Bouchard and Nurse’s goal scoring has been very good for them (we aren’t talking defense right now), but when two D-men are outscoring your two biggest starts over a 13-game stretch, it isn’t great. Since October 18th, Derek Ryan and Sam Gagner have as many goals as Draisaitl and McDavid. It has been a stunning month-long drought.
— Draisaitl is tied for 45th in shots with 52. McDavid is 72nd. Draisaitl has never been a super high-volume shooter. He was 36th last season, but over the past three seasons combined he was 14th. McDavid was third in the NHL in shots last year and was fourth in the previous three seasons combined. They need to start shooting more.
— Nugent-Hopkins has one goal in 13 games and none on the power play. The Oilers’ big three gunners on the PP have combined for one goal in the past 13 games on the man advantage. The PP is 18.6% in that span, but the first unit is much lower as the second unit has scored three of the eight goals. The first unit success rate is actually 11.6% with five goals on 43 chances. They have too much talent to be that lethargic on the man advantage. Their top unit needs to get going, to put it mildly.
— The Oilers catch a slight break tonight as Florida’s number one centre, Aleksander Barkov, is out with an injury, but the Panthers are still very dangerous and much healthier than they were early in the season. Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett are in the lineup. Ekblad and Montour played their first game of the season this past Friday in Anaheim. Montour logged 24 minutes while Ekblad skated 20. The Panthers’ blue line is suddenly very deep with the return of those two combined with the resurgence of Oliver Ekman-Larsson. I’m curious to see how long he remains on the first unit power play.

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