Game Notes G6: Wild Struggling Defensively

Photo credit:© Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
Minnesota is the anti-Nashville for the Edmonton Oilers right now.
The Oilers have beat the Predators for fun lately going 10-0-2, but they are 1-8 v. the Wild since the start of the 2019-2020 season. They are 0-5 in Minnesota and have been outscored 21-10. Their first game without Connor McDavid comes in an arena where they haven’t had much success with McDavid in the lineup, but the recent play of the Wild suggests the Oilers have a puncher’s chance to end their drought tonight.
— The Wild are struggling defensively right now. They shutout the Florida Panthers in their season opener, but since then they’ve allowed 21 goals in their last four games. They gave up seven to Toronto and LA, and five to Columbus. The Blue Jackets fired 54 shots on goal and the Wild are allowing 36.6 shots against/game.
— They miss captain Jared Spurgeon who was injured late in the preseason. He’s missed all five games, and Alex Goligoski is also out having missed the past two games and was placed on LTIR last week. Rookie Brock Faber leads the Wild blueline in TOI averaging 23:09/game. He has played great. The Wild have been outscored 15-12 at 5×5, but Faber’s GF-GA is 7-4 when on the ice. Without him on the ice Minnesota has been outscored 11-5. Very impressive for a rookie.
— The past few games he has been paired with Jake Middleton, while Jonas Brodin is playing with sophomore Calen Addison. Having two D-men under 100 games experience in your top-four isn’t ideal. They also have Dakoto Mermis in their third pairing. Tonight will be his 31st NHL game after debuting in the NHL in 2017-18. The Oilers need to be very aggressive and try to exploit their D core which has an inexperienced NHL D-man on each pairing.
— Minnesota has been outshot 131-105 at 5×5. Edmonton outshot Winnipeg 32-14 and outscored them 1-0 at 5×5, but still lost due to giving up a power play goal and a shorthanded goal. Their 5×5 play was quite good v. Winnipeg and in the second game to Vancouver, but untimely miscues cost them. Without McDavid the Oilers can’t afford to give up the easy goal. Play within themselves and a victory tonight isn’t far-fetched.
Evander Kane needs to get going. He has one assist in five games. He was much better after his spirited tilt with Brendan Dillon and maybe he needed a fight to knock off the cobwebs. He will play the bumper spot on the first unit PP, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins moves into McDavid’s spot.
— The Oilers are 31st in expected goals against off the rush. They are giving up way too much, and they are 20th in expected goals for off the rush, so it’s not like they are playing a game of give and take. They are simply giving up way too much off the rush. (Stats via Clear Sight Analytics.)
— In high danger chances the Wild are 31st in expected goals against 5×5 overall and 31st in expected goals against on the PK. They are giving up grade A chances all over the ice. Filip Gustavsson has played quite well and has a .906Sv% despite a 3.93 GAA. Goaltending isn’t their issue, but they are leaking chances. Not having McDavid can’t be an excuse for creating chances and goals tonight. Columbus fired 54 shots on the Wild. Their forwards aren’t drastically better than the 11 forwards Edmonton will dress tonight.
— The Oilers need many players to start contributing offensively. Brett Kulak (80:17 of TOI), Mattias Ekholm (77:11), Connor Brown (75:22), Ryan McLeod (73:49), Mattias Janmark (60:27), Dylan Holloway (56:23), Philip Broberg (54:53), Derek Ryan (48:07), Vincent Desharnais (40:05) and Adam Erne (28:14) have yet to register one point. That’s 10 of tonight’s 18 skaters in the lineup. None of them are expected to be offensive leaders, but a few of them, at least, need to start contributing on the scoresheet.
— Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci have played quite well 5×5. They play the most minutes, play the toughest competition and they still have the lowest shots against/60 and goals against/60 among Oilers defenders. Often, I hear “but Nurse plays with McDavid, and that’s why his 5×5 totals are better.” Nurse has skated 92:53 at 5×5 this season. He’s skated 31:48 with McDavid. Of course, it helps playing with the league’s best player, but so far this season, McDavid’s numbers away from Nurse are worse than Nurse’s away from McDavid.
McDavid’s numbers with Nurse in 31:48 TOI:
79.7CF%, 79.17FF%, 78.8SF%, 75GF% (3-1), 75.55xGF% and 75.53SCF%.
McDavid’s numbers away from Nurse in 40:45 TOI:
41.4CF%, 38.18 FF%, 32.61SF%, 0GF% (0-4), 30.28xGF% and 39.47SCF%.
Nurse’s numbers away from McDavid in 61:07 TOI:
52.25CF%, 49.37FF%, 46.45SF%, 33GF% (1-2), 53.77xGF% and 49.09SCF%.
Nurse and Ceci have been the Oilers’ best D pair by a large margin.
— Ryan McLeod finished last season with one goal in 12 games, then he was goalless in 12 playoff games and has yet to score in five games this season. His biggest issue now is he isn’t shooting the puck. He only has three shots on goal in five games. He has as many shots on goal as he has shots missing the net. Last season he had 78 shots on goals in 57 games and missed the net 31 times. He isn’t shooting as much as he’s missing the net more often so far this season. He needs to alter both trends.
— Here is an early look at who is hitting the net the most often when shooting. This doesn’t include shot attempts blocked. Nurse and Bouchard have done a very good job of hitting the net so far.
SOG = shots on goal
MS = missed shots
%OG = percentage on goal

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