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G49 Game Notes: Oilers’ Offence Needs Consistency

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Jason Gregor
2 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers don’t need to panic, but they need more forwards to start chipping in offensively. In the past month (12 games), they have seven goals 5×5 from their bottom-eight forwards and none from their defence. Nine of their 18 skaters have produced zero goals at 5×5 in that span.
— Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t scored a goal 5×5 in 13 games. His struggles mirror the Oilers team. They are creating a lot, but they can’t finish. He has 24 shots on goal 5×5 but hasn’t scored. It isn’t from a lack of chances. He does have 1-7-8 overall (two assists 5×5), and he’s been a big contributor on the penalty kill, but when you play with Connor McDavid, going goalless in 13 games it isn’t ideal. The Oilers have many skaters in 5×5 slumps.
— Cody Ceci doesn’t have a goal in 48 games. Connor Brown is goalless in 41 games. Vincent Desharnais has gone 40 games since his first. Mattias Janmark is at 27 games without a goal and that’s why he won’t play tonight. Darnell Nurse and Mattias Ekholm (25), Evan Bouchard (16), Derek Ryan (15) and Brett Kulak (14) have also not scored 5×5 in over a month. Warren Foegele has a 5×5 goal in two of his last 22 games. Corey Perry has one goal at 5×5 in his last 14 games dating back to his time with Chicago.
— Despite the lack of offence, only Ryan (4-5), Brown (6-7) and Evander Kane (15-16) have been outscored while on the ice 5×5 over the Oilers’ past 30 games. The Oilers have played quite well defensively and have limited goals against. The one area lacking in their games has been their ability to finish. And overall, it has been an issue all season, when you look at expected goals to actual goals scored 5×5.
— The Oilers are ranked #1 on any site that tracks expected goals, from Sportlogiq to Naturalstattrick and any site in between. It doesn’t matter the formula, the Oilers have created the most chances, but they haven’t been able to finish enough of their quality chances. The Oilers have a 3.24 xGF/60 at 5×5, but they’ve only scored 2.65 GF/60. They are -0.59, which is the worst xGF to actual GF differential in the NHL.
— Edmonton leads at -0.59, followed by Florida and San Jose (-0.58), Washington (-0.39), Los Angeles (-0.35) and Pittsburgh, Carolina and Anaheim (-0.34).
On the other end of the spectrum, here are the teams with the best xGF to actual goals scored ratio:
Detroit leads the NHL at +0.61, followed by Vancouver (+0.52), Ottawa (+0.39), Minnesota (+0.26), Dallas (++0.25), Colorado (+0.20) and Boston (+0.19).
— Tonight features a matchup between the team making the most of the chances, Detroit, vs. the team who has finished the fewest of their quality chances. The Oilers defeated Detroit 3-2 in overtime last month. Edmonton outshot the Red Wings 27-11 after 40 minutes, but the score was 0-0. Edmonton then outshot them 19-7 in the second as each team scored twice, before Nurse won it in overtime. Edmonton outshot Detroit 47-18 but needed OT to win 3-2. That game accurately depicted how this season has gone for these teams, in terms of scoring on their chances. Detroit made the most of theirs, while the Oilers could only manage two goals on 46 shots in regulation.
— Alex Lyon is a major reason the Red Wings are back in a playoff spot. He has started 15 of their last 16 games and posted a record of 10-3-2 with a .917Sv% and 2.70 GAA. In those games the Red Wings were outshot by an average of 32-25. The Red Wings had an xGA of 3.15, but only allowed 2.78 goals against. Lyon was stellar in goal, while the skaters continued to score more goals than expected. They averaged 3.44 goals/game, while their xGF/GP was 2.62. A whopping 0.82 more goals/GP than expected. They skate into Edmonton tonight, confident they will bury their chances, and confident their goalie will make many key stops.
— In the same 16-game span the Oilers are 14-2. They rank 13th in GF/GP at 3.25, but they lead the NHL with a stingy 1.75 GA/GP. Edmonton’s defence  at 5×5 (fourth best) and their penalty kill (first) have been the key to many victories. Their offence has shown up later in games, but the Oilers do need better starts.
— They’ve been outscored 11-8 in the first period over the past 16 games, while dominating teams 17-7 in the second period and 25-10 in the third. Head coach Kris Knoblauch discussed his team’s inability to finish consistently.
“A lot of it is finishing, being able to put the puck in the back of the net,” said Knoblauch. “Throughout the season our finishing rate has been one of the lowest in the NHL, if not the lowest. It was before I got there, since I got here and now these three games after the break it has been really low.
“But, also as a group we need to go to the net, simplify our game and be a little quicker in the offensive zone, rather than be on the perimeter, looking for the nice pass or the fancier plays. Just be a bit more direct. There are a few players who can make those fancy plays, and we have two of them, but as a group we want to be a bit quicker and more direct.”
Knoblauch mentioned the three games out of the break. The Oilers have averaged two goals/game, while their xGF was 3.75/game. They are playing well, but they can’t finish.
— Knoblauch also added he doesn’t want to see his team just put pucks on net haphazardly. “We don’t want to give away pucks,” said Knoblauch. “Part of the reason we are defending so well and keeping our goals against down is because we haven’t been giving away pucks. The more you possess the puck, the less you have to defend. I think that is the biggest reason why our defence has been much better, but there is a balance on how much you sacrifice goals when you play that way. We want to score goals; we have to be careful on throwing pucks to the slot blind or just feeding their transition. We don’t want to do that, but we want to speed things up and we need to get pucks and bodies around the net more.”
— As noted above, Janmark will be a healthy scratch tonight and Sam Gagner will take his spot on the fourth line. Gagner has found a way to produce all season. He is second on the team in GF/60 at 5×5 at 1.44 (Hyman leads at 1.64), and Gagner is second in points/60 at 5×5 at 2.58, trailing only McDavid. He has been on a heater with a 14.29SH%, which is almost double his career average at 5×5 of 7.27Sh%. The Oilers are hoping he can extend his heater for a few more weeks, and hopefully inject some much-needed offence into the fourth line.

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