G9+ Game Notes: The Oilers’ Forward Group Needs to Wake Up 5×5

Edmonton Oilers celebrate goal
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ 5×5 offence needs to make an appearance in the series — starting tonight. They’ve scored five goals at 5×5 through the first three games, and the forwards have only scored two.
— I understand Stuart Skinner needs to be better, and we’ve written and discussed that at length. He might not play tonight. We will find out at the morning skate whether Skinner or Calvin Pickard will be in goal, but regardless of who starts for the Oilers, the forwards need to start carrying their weight offensively. It is unacceptable that through three games, they have two goals 5×5.
— The Oilers finished third in the NHL in 5×5 goals in the regular season with 193. The forwards scored 162 goals at 5×5, which is essentially two goals/game. They had an 8.92 SH%. Yet, through three games against a rookie goalie — who had 12 NHL games experience prior to this series and a career .906Sv% in 89 AHL games — the Oilers suddenly can’t score at 5×5. They have two goals on a measly 38 shots 5×5.
— The forwards need to be much more willing to get to the net and create second and third opportunities. In the regular season, the Oilers averaged 18.4 shots/game at 5×5. They are averaging 12.6/game so far in this series. And it’s not like they are facing Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal. Arturs Silovs has allowed 11 goals in four games. He has an .883Sv%, yet to hear some people talk, Silovs has been amazing. He was good in Game 3, no doubt, but in Games 1 and 2, he had a combined .836Sv%. The Oilers forwards haven’t tested him enough at 5×5, and tonight would be a good time to show they are willing to pay the price, create traffic in front of him and generate more second chances.
— Goalies can have a hot game. We’ve seen it, but Silovs is far from a proven NHL goaltender, and he still struggles seeing around screens. There is zero reason the third-highest scoring team 5×5 can’t create more chances and produce more goals against Silovs. He hasn’t been lights out the entire series. It was one game, and there is zero reason the Oilers forwards shouldn’t believe they can score on him. And they need to show it tonight.
—  I’ve always found it odd how analysts and fans will rip a goalie when he has an off night, or three, but when forwards don’t bury their chances, it isn’t scrutinized nearly as harshly as a goalie. Through three games Skinner has been beaten on 15.6% of the shots he’s faced 5×5. The Oilers forwards have scored on 5.2% of their shots. Skinner, if he plays, needs to be much better, but so does the Oilers’ forward group.
— Evander Kane, Corey Perry, Warren Foegele and Dylan Holloway need to be around the net more. Kane, Foegele and Holloway can use their size and speed and take the puck to the net. It isn’t easy against the Canucks’ big, heavy defenders, but if you want to win in the playoffs you need to be around the net more. Ryan McLeod needs to take the puck to the net now and then. He can’t always settle to take it behind the net, or button hook at the hashmarks.
— Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had 66 inner slot shots in the regular season (0.825/game). He has two (0.25/game) in eight playoff games. You won’t score very often from distance in the playoffs. Kane (six inner slot shots), Leon Draisaitl (five), Foegele (four), Perry (three), McLeod (two), Mattias Janmark, Adam Henrique and Holloway (one), Connor Brown, Derrick Ryan and Sam Carrick (zero) all need to get to be around the net more. Teams defend the net and inner slot more intently in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get there. Hyman has 18 shots from the inner slot. I know he plays more minutes, but he is averaging 2.25 inner slot shots/game after 2.01 in the regular season. He and McDavid are the only forwards with a higher inner slot shot/game in the playoffs than the regular season. The Oilers’ support forwards need to get greasier.
— In three games Tyler Myers has logged 32:07 v. Connor McDavid. Carson Soucy is the second-highest Vancouver D-man at 28:43. Losing him tonight due to his one game suspension will be a blow. In the Nashville series, Vancouver ran the Myers/Soucy pairing the most against Ryan O’Reilly’s line. However, in Game 2 when Myers was out with an injury and Noah Juulsen took his place, Juulsen and Soucy played the fewest minutes v. the O’Reilly line. Instead, they matched up Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek against the Predators’ top line.
— In this series McDavid has faced Hronek (18:34) and Hughes (16:55) the third and fourth most minutes among Canucks defenders. There have been on for zero goals scored, for or against, when McDavid is on the ice against them. I expect we will see that matchup tonight.
— If I was Kris Knoblauch, I’d split up McDavid and Draisaitl. The Oilers won often during the regular season and in round one against LA with them on separate lines. Having them on separate lines gives you more opportunities to create offence. The Oilers were successful most of the season with them on different lines, and Draisaitl looked healthy and was the Oilers’ best player in Game 3. He doesn’t need McDavid on his line to be dangerous.
— Last year the Oilers trailed both LA and Vegas two games to one heading into game four. The trailed LA 3-0 after the first period and Jack Campbell started the second for the Oilers, and they scored three times in the middle frame to tie the game, before Hyman won it in overtime.  The Oilers lost game three to Vegas 5-1 and Skinner got the mercy pull late in the second period. He started game four and allowed only one goal in the Oilers’ 4-1 victory.
— I’m certain the Oilers recognize the importance of tonight’s game. It isn’t a must-win but going down 3-1 will force them to win three must-win games to win the series. It is a crucial game, and it will be fascinating to see who Knoblauch starts in goal. In his post-game press conference on Sunday night, he said Skinner would start again, whether it was Game 4 or 5, but later he said he was too emotional to decide who would be the starter. He didn’t want to divulge his starter yesterday, which makes sense, but the goalies knew yesterday when they left the arena who would be starting tonight. We will find out at the morning skate, but yesterday I said on my show it would be Pickard, and this morning Frank Seravalli is reporting that they will go with Pickard. It would be his first playoff start, and his first start since April 17th. There is some risk starting him, but there is also risk in going back to Skinner.
The Oilers don’t need a goalie to steal them the game. They just need solid goaltending, especially if the forwards decide to show up offensively 5×5.


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