Game Notes Stars @ Oilers: Who Will Rise Up Tonight?
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor8 months ago
The Undertaker rising from a coffin is one of the most memorable moments in wrestling history. Whether it was at his own funeral v. Randy Orton or v. Brock Lesnar, the Undertaker emerging from a coffin, seemingly rising from the dead, is now a very popular meme and aptly describes a few breakout seasons for one forward on both Dallas and Edmonton.
— Jamie Benn won the Art Ross in 2015 with 87 points. And between 2014-2018 he averaged 1.00 points/game and had the third most points in the NHL with 403 behind Patrick Kane (404) and Sidney Crosby (451). He was considered the premier power forward, but since 2018, Benn’s production has dipped significantly.
— In the next four years between 2019-2022 his points/game dropped to 0.62. His best season was 53 points. In the past two seasons he scored a total of 29 goals, and many felt the Stars weren’t going to get any value on his $9.5m cap hit. But like the Undertaker, Benn has emerged from the coffin and is playing very well.
— He has 29 goals and 65 points, his most productive season since he had had 79 in 2018. He’s looked reborn and he’s been a major contributor as the Stars sit atop the Central division. Benn is second on the Stars in scoring and leads their team in GF-GA (50-27) at 5×5. He is +23, which is a significant improvement from being -10 (37-47).
— Benn isn’t the only one having a resurgence. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is having the best season of his career and his 31 goals are more than he had the past two seasons combined (27). With a goal and an assist v. Ottawa RNH now sits at 82 points and needs 18 points in his final 14 games (1.29 pts/game) to reach 100, which is slightly higher than the 1.21 pts/game pace he’s carried thru 68 games.
— Benn and Nugent-Hopkins are just a few of the players across the NHL who are having a resurgence or breakout seasons in their late 20s and early 30s. In some cases, health is a factor, but it is another reminder that players are able to perform better as they age now more than ever before. It is great for fans of the game, but also means it will be more challenging for young players to make it to the NHL.
— Jake Oettinger is fourth in Sv% (.920), fifth in wins (29), sixth in GAA (2.40) and seventh in goals saved above expected. He’s had an excellent season for the Stars, and after getting the night off in Vancouver on Tuesday he will be fresh and ready to face the NHL’s top offensive group.
— While the Oilers lead the NHL with 3.88 goals/game the Stars are seventh at 3.43 and they have the sixth lowest goals against/game at 2.68. They have the seventh best power play and their penalty kill ranks third best at 83%. However, the Oilers and Stars have gone in different directions since 2023 started.
— Since January 1st the Oilers have the sixth best points% at .667, are first in goals/game at 4.27, while the Stars sit 16th in points%, having won only 14 of 30 games, and they are 16th in goals/game. But their defensive game is still strong as they rank fifth at 2.67. Their offensive production has slowed, but they are still very sound defensively.
— The Oilers have won more in 2023 based solely on improved offence. In their first 38 games up to December 31st they averaged 3.58 GF/GP and 3.32 GA/GP. In their 30 games in 2023 they are averaging 4.27 GF/GP and 3.33 GA/GP. Their goals against haven’t improved at all, which is concerning, but their offense has improved by 0.69 goals/game. Nice.
— And it is all because their depth forwards are producing more. The Oilers top-five forwards — Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Evander Kane — scored 93 goals in the first 38 games (2.44/game) and they’ve scored 77 goals in 30 games (2.56) in 2023. However, the rest of the forwards scored 26 goals in the first 38 games (0.68) but have scored 43 goals in the last 30 games (1.43). They have doubled their production.
— Offence isn’t an issue for the Oilers. Their focus down the stretch needs to be limiting goals against, specifically from their top two lines. With McDavid and Draisaitl, together or apart, (791 min) on the ice the Oilers have outscored opponents 44-42 at 5×5, and without them on the ice (651 minutes), Edmonton has outscored opponents 38-23 since January 1st. I recognize McDavid and Draisaitl are usually out against the top lines, so they are facing more offensive-minded players, but the Oilers’ top two lines must reduce their goals against down the stretch.
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