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Game Notes Islanders @ Oilers: Patience Has An Expiration Date

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Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
27 days ago
Will the loss to Seattle be a turning point for the Edmonton Oilers?
A player told me Jay Woodcroft, who is usually very calm, tore a strip off the team in the second intermission. He added it was deserved. The players held a players-only meeting yesterday to voice their concerns. Edmonton gifted the Kraken that game, and the players need to figure out how to lessen their stretches of ineffectiveness. Immediately. Yesterday, their head coach inferred his patience is nearing the end.
— I asked Woodcroft how he balances being patient with the lack of scoring from Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi in hopes they will produce or finally giving others an opportunity in the top six.
“Those are good questions. I think the big thing to realize is that we’re in 2023 now,” said Woodcroft. “So, patience sometimes has an expiration date too. We’re coming up on halfway through this season, so if I go back to what I said to Rob (Tychkowski) about finding a way to win one game, that’s what we’re trying to do. And we’re going to make decisions that follow that line of thinking. The time for waiting for people to get going or maneuvering to try and get this guy going or that guy going, as I said on numerous occasions, we’re trying to use our eyes and reward the people that are truly going.”
Klim Kostin has played well recently, and tonight he will play with Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman. Kostin has five goals in 23 games playing mainly in the bottom six.
— Kostin has scored 5-3-8 in 227 min at 5×5.
Yamamoto has produced 2-7-9 in 376 minutes.
Puljujarvi has 3-5-8 in 472 minutes.
Kostin has played 8:58 with McDavid and 6:46 with Draisaitl.
Puljujarvi has skated 173 with McDavid (his most common linemate) and 76 minutes with Draisaitl. He has 1-1-2 with McDavid and 0-2-2 with Draisaitl.
Yamamoto has played 131 with Draisaitl (most common linemate) and 73 minutes with McDavid. He doesn’t have a goal with either one. He has four assists with Draisaitl and one with McDavid.
— Kostin doesn’t need to be a force offensively to produce more than Yamamoto or Puljujarvi have with McDavid. Kostin has a better shot than both of them, and he should get opportunities to use it with McDavid.
— McDavid has 141 slot passes through 39 games. He had 280 last year. But this season, he only has 11 assists 5×5. He hasn’t had players finish those passes as often as last year.
McDavid’s 5×5 assist totals in the past six seasons were 36, 37 (in 56GP), 29 (64GP), 40, 41, and 42. He is on pace for 23 this year.
— Before you say it is because he is scoring more, look at his shots on goal 5×5. He has 87 this year which is 8.35/60. The last six years he’s been at 9.35, 8.25, 8.13, 6.91, 9.2, and 8.71. He isn’t shooting more. He is scoring more, but not shooting more 5×5.
— If McDavid can get a linemate to finish more of those passes, watch out. Kostin just needs to play how Patrick Maroon (24 goals at 5×5 in 81 games in 2017) and Zach Kassian (23 goals in 82 games in 2019) did when were very productive for long stretches. Both players didn’t handle the puck very often, but they went to the net, banged home rebounds, and finished many of the great passes from McDavid. Finishing is a skill and Kostin — albeit in a very small sample size in the bottom six and with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — has shown he can score.
— I think the one thing that has kept Yamamoto alongside Draisaitl is that he isn’t getting outscored. They have outscored the opposition 8-4. But at some point, as Woodcroft said, production needs to occur, because you can make an argument the GF-GA isn’t all due to Yamamoto.
— Woodcroft hinted a reason Yamamoto and Puljujarvi have had extended looks in the top six is that they aren’t defensive liabilities.
“We know there is more there in the players that you mentioned,” said Woodcroft. “We want to play the game the right way, we think numbers come from playing the game the right way. I thought we played a great game in Seattle. Everybody seemed to put up pretty decent numbers in that game, everybody commanded their share of the ice time pie. When we’re doing that, we’ve proven we’re a tough team and we can beat the best teams in the National Hockey league. It’s the level of consistency that we’re looking for and certainly the players you mentioned are searching for that level of consistency.”
— I understand the frustration among Oilers fans by the lack of production from Yamamoto and Puljujarvi, as well as other complementary forwards, but the fact is the Oilers need one, or two of them to find their offence. Ken Holland won’t be able to magically trade them all, especially when they aren’t producing. They want to score for their own mental well being, but also to help their team. Again, it doesn’t need to be a lot of production, just more than two or three goals at the halfway point of the season.
—  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins mentioned the big issue he sees is the Oilers allow mistakes to compound. “Mistakes happen, that is part of the game, but we have to stop them from becoming multiple errors.” I asked Woodcroft how, as a coach, he can help his players reduce consecutive mistakes.
“When a mistake ends up in the back of your net as it did in the second period yesterday you talk about the next shift,” said Woodcroft. “About putting a little more emphasis on that next shift, and what that next shift should look like. I think there are other things that we try to do to not let things compound. Yesterday we called a timeout, pulled the goaltender. Those weren’t because you just felt like doing it, it was to try and change momentum a little bit. Slow the game down, give everyone a chance to take a deep breath. I think the big thing is not just the mistakes that end up on goals, it is putting an emphasis on when you see a certain type of mistake happen that’s within your control, and you were sitting on the bench and everyone sees it happen, it’s about how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again. And I think that starts on the bench, it starts from the leadership group, I think it feeds through the rest of the team, the coaching staff continues to communicate and say ‘this is what we’re talking about in this situation, we have to do this or that. Let’s make sure the next time we’re in that position we’re trying to do this.’ I think that’s all part of clarifying a way that you want the game to be played. Mistakes happen, you said it, but it’s about how do you respond. Lessons do come hard if you’re deaf to them.”
— The players had a players-only meeting yesterday. The Kraken loss was terrible. Edmonton handed them the game during a horrific 11-minute stretch with numerous defensive miscues. The meeting illustrates the players know how bad of a performance that was. The Oilers have lost five in a row on home ice, and four of those losses the Oilers handed St. Louis, Anaheim, Vancouver and Seattle the games. It is a trend that must stop if they have aspirations of finishing second in the Pacific.
— Darnell Nurse has played much better since he had a rough patch of five games between December 9th to 17th. In the past seven games, Nurse has been much better. He’s outscored the opposition 7-3 at 5×5. He has played 82.8% of his time against elite or middle competition. He’s played 139 minutes at 5×5 while Cody Ceci has played 117. He has reduced the number of times he is down on the ice. He has remained on his feet more. During those rough five games, Nurse was trying to do too much and was going down on one knee far too often. He has played much better since the Anaheim game and Dave Manson is using Nurse more like he did in the final 38 games last year when Nurse was excellent.

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