G22 Game Notes: Offence v. Defence

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
The Winnipeg Jets have been the stingiest team in the NHL at 5×5 for much of the season. They allowed nine goals in their first four games, but since October 20th, they’ve allowed only 24 in 17 games. They are third in goals allowed over that span at 2.41/game. Meanwhile the Edmonton Oilers’ offence is back on track averaging 4.10 goals/game over its last 10. They scored four on Vegas (in regulation) on Tuesday, which was only the fourth time all season a Vegas goalie was beaten four times in a game.
Tonight sets up as a great matchup.
— In his last 17 games Connor Hellebucyk has been excellent. He has a .946Sv% at 5×5 allowing 16 goals in 13 starts. Backup Laurent Brossoit has an .897Sv% in his four starts while allowing eight goals 5×5. Hellebuyck’s overall Sv% is .922. The opposition has scored 10 power play goals on him and the Jets, and that has been Winnipeg’s weakness. Their PK ranks 25th at 75% during this stretch. The only positive about their PK is they don’t take many penalties. They’ve been shorthanded 2.82/games which is fourth lowest. Edmonton will need to move its feet and force the Jets to take some penalties.
— The Oilers are the second-most penalized team in the NHL behind Anaheim. You can look at any stretch of games this season, and you’ll see little change. They are averaging 4.00 times shorthanded (TS) per game. Their TS in the past nine games is 4.11. They are 6-3 in that span. Their penalty kill has been excellent at 89.2% to help them get moving in the right direction, but they need to reduce their penalties.
— The Oilers dominated the Jets during the Canadian Division season of 2021 going 7-2, but since the start of 2021-22 the games have been quite close. The Oilers are 3-3-1, with the OT loss occurring earlier this season after Edmonton blew a 2-0 lead. The games have been quite fast and entertaining, and I’d argue tonight’s tilt is more challenging than Tuesday’s v. Vegas. The Golden Knights were playing their third game in four nights and entered the game 3-5-2 in their last ten. Winnipeg is 7-2 in their last ten and they’re outscoring the opposition 35-22.
— It happened more than 25 years ago, but how many still think about, or use the term “Going to Winnipeg?” It came from this Fountain Tire commercial. They had a stretch of commercials that were quite comical and memorable. Of course, many in Oilersnation question the accuracy of the ad considering there isn’t an airport in Winnipeg .

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Watching that commercial makes me shudder, as it gives me a good visual of what my hair could look like in a few months. Ugh.
— The 2015 Griffin Reinhart trade still haunts the Oilers. Trading the 16th and 32nd pick to the Islanders for Reinhart was awful, and while I don’t think Edmonton would or should have taken Matt Barzal, they did have many other options that could have drastically changed their organizational depth chart. Kyle Connor went 17th to the Jets and he has the third-most goals in the 2015 draft class behind Connor McDavid and Mikko Rantanen. Imagine how many he might have playing left wing with McDavid?
— Connor is off to another solid start. He is tied for fourth in the NHL in goals with 14. Since entering the NHL in 2017-18, Connor has the sixth-most goals in the league with 221 trailing only Auston Matthews (273), Alex Ovechkin (269), Leon Draisaitl and McDavid (265 each) and David Pastrnak (255). Connor doesn’t get the same recognition as those five, but he’s very consistent and dangerous scorer and an excellent value contract at $7.14m for another two seasons.
— Here’s what I know regarding Philip Broberg. The organization knows he needs to play, but before going to the AHL, Broberg wanted the opportunity to stick around during the upcoming break so the new coaching staff can see him practice. He wants them to know what he’s capable of. I’d argue Broberg has played a total of three games since Mattias Ekholm arrived. I say three because the first three games this season he was dressed as one of the six D-men. He averaged 14:49 in those three games. He’s averaged 8:41 in his other seven games this season, and in 11 games after Ekholm’s arrival he logged an average of 9:22/game. It isn’t enough for a D-man to get comfortable or to show what he’s capable of.
I like his attitude about wanting to make a good impression before he goes down, because unless there is an injury, I don’t see him getting in the lineup when they play six D-men. And when they dress seven, he doesn’t play enough. He needs to play, and unless an injury occurs, I’d expect they send him down for some games at some point in December.
— Stuart Skinner will make his fifth-consecutive start tonight. I had a few people ask me if he fatigues when he makes four or more consecutive starts. He has started four consecutive games six times in his career. Tonight will be the fourth time he plays five in a row. Here are his numbers in those starts.
He is 3-0 when starting a fifth consecutive game and he is 5-1 in the fourth game. He is 0-2 when making a sixth consecutive start. I expect him to start next Wednesday v. Carolina, and while that will be his sixth consecutive start, it will be different because the Oilers have five days between games.
— Edmonton does need to limit his starts. He has started 13 of the past 15 games. He is 7-6, but only has an .887Sv%. They just need him to be league average, which is around .903Sv% right now. But they can’t continue to play him this much too much longer. They need to play another goalie. And I won’t be shocked if Jack Campbell gets a look during the upcoming six-game homestand.
— Campbell stopped 39 of 42 in regulation and five of six in the shootout to help Bakersfield win 4-3. He will start one of their two games this weekend and then they play on the 8th and 9th. I could see the Oilers starting Skinner next Wednesday and Friday and then they play New Jersey on Sunday, December 10th, in the afternoon, and Chicago on the 12th. Skinner will get one of those games off, and I won’t be surprised if Campbell is recalled before the New Jersey game, especially if he plays decent in his next two starts.
— The Oilers are paying him big money and trading him isn’t a realistic option right now. He has over $17m in actual money remaining on his contract. An opposing team is not taking that on, just to get a first-round pick. It will cost two, and maybe something else. I don’t see an in-season trade happening, and I’d guess they give him another chance, likely during their six-game homestand.
— Speaking of trades, now is not the time to trade Ryan McLeod. I understand he’s in a goal-scoring funk. His last regulation goal was March 9th in Boston. He is goalless in 21 games this season and 25 overall dating back to last year. And he has one goal in his last 38 regular season games. It isn’t pretty offensively for McLeod. I think most agree he needs to go to the paint more often. Yes, he has a few more shots from the slot this year, but he only has 29 shots in 21 games. He had 78 in 57 last year.
He’s missing the net too often this year. He already has 16 missed shots. He had 31 all of last season. His offensive confidence is almost non-existent. It happens to all players — we even saw McDavid fighting it a bit earlier this season, and after he scored in Florida he’s taken off. McLeod is more of a 10-13 goal-scorer, so he’ll be streaky. He’s an excellent skater, he is good at carrying the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. He needs to use his speed and attack the net more. Considering how often he has the puck, he should have more shots on goal. Even if he doesn’t score, putting it on net could lead to rebound goals for his linemates.
In the third period vs. Vegas we saw his offensive struggles bleed into his defensive game. But that was really only the first time I’ve seen it this year. The biggest challenge for any player struggling offensively is to ensure it doesn’t spread to their defensive game. His possession numbers are good, but his lack of offence isn’t, and he can’t continue to get outscored 5×5 at the rate he is. He’s been outscored 9-2 at 5×5. The numbers aren’t good, but his actual GA/60 is the fourth best among Oilers at 2.25. Adam Erne leads at 1.32, followed by Derek Ryan 2.02, James Hamblin 2.17 and McLeod. Defensively McLeod has been decent, but the lack of offence is glaring.
Despite the struggles, trading him now means you get pennies on the dollar and the odds of winning the trade won’t be good. McLeod and Warren Foegele played quite well in the playoffs. McLeod was more engaged and played more in the dirty areas. He needs to find that in the regular season. Usually the best way out of a slump is to get greasy and hover around the net. It isn’t natural to him, but every player is capable of it. He just needs to be in the blue paint more often, hit the net more frequently and eventually he’ll score. Once he gets one, he likely will relax and chip in once every six or seven games.


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