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Monday Mailbag – What’s making the Oilers’ penalty kill so good right now?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
25 days ago
Happy Monday, friends! Welcome to a brand new Monday Mailbag. This week, we’re discussing what makes the penalty kill so good right now, Connor McDavid’s goal count, load management, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk , and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
May 23, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) makes a stick save on Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) during the overtime period in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center.
1) Calvin asks – By the time this goes on the site, we’ll have played the first couple of games of the series. What did the Oilers do well, and what do they need to improve on?
Jason Gregor:
They were very good at limiting Dallas’ chances off the rush. Skinner has played very well. They need to finish more of their chances, and get pucks past the forwards/defenders, as Dallas has blocked quite a few shots.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
They did a great job limiting the Stars chances in the offensive zone and they got very good goaltending from Stuart Skinner. The penalty kill was solid too. What do they need to do better? Turning offensive looks into offensive scoring chances. It felt like there were too many times, especially in game two, where they would get the puck to a dangerous area and then hold onto it for too long and lose the scoring chance. They need to be sharper and more dangerous in the offensive zone.
Zach Laing:
The Oilers have been more “in this” than expected. Maybe I was underestimating the Oilers, and overestimating the Stars, but this is a tight series and will continue to be. That being said, the Oilers need to bear down in some board battle and puck battles. It’s cost them so far.
Liam Horrobin:
Stuart Skinner was great, but it’s a shame about the weak goal he allowed against Jamie Benn. As for improvement, the third line needs to find a way to score because it’s getting out of hand, especially now that they’re allowing goals more consistently.
Baggedmilk:
The Oilers’ PK continues to shine, but oddly, the power play hasn’t been able to get anything done. I know they’ve only had two and half power plays through the two games, but I was surprised how dull it looked compared to what we’re used to watching.
May 23, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) skates against the Dallas Stars during the first period in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
2) Danny asks – How concerned should we be about Connor McDavid’s low goal count to this point in the playoffs?
Jason Gregor:
Not a major surprise considering his significant drop in goals during the regular season. It sure seems like he’s had a nagging issue that has limited his shooting, but he’s still second in playoffs scoring. If he can finish a few more chances moving forward it would be a major bonus for the Oilers.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Not overly concerned because he is still producing at the end of the day, but it would be nice to have the 60-goal Connor McDavid we had last season. Him being more of a shooter makes teams have to respect that side of his game more and it opens up more opportunities.
Zach Laing:
His goal-scoring rate is half that of the regular season, and his shot and individual expected goal rates are also down by a good number. It’s playoffs and he’s the best player in the world, so I’m not surprised teams are keying in on him more and making life difficult. He’s still got 23 points in 14 games, which translates to a 134-point 82-game regular season.
Liam Horrobin:
Little. He’s still getting points every night.
Baggedmilk:
I’d like him to score more, obviously, but he’s producing points and getting chances. The goals will come.
May 23, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) covers up the puck in front of Dallas Stars center Logan Stankoven (11) during the first period in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
3) Andrew asks – What do you see that is making the Oilers’ PK as successful as it is right now?
Jason Gregor:
They pressure constantly, are excellent at limiting zone entries, and their entire PK unit is in sync.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
They’ve been getting aggressive at the right moments and that’s been big. You can tell they’re frustrating some of the Stars big guns with how quick they’re jumping at them. Also, a couple of goal posts have helped them out to be fair.
Zach Laing:
I’ll defer to what the players have said in recent days about it: they’re playing connected. They’re operating like a hive mind out there and it’s noticeable.
Liam Horrobin:
They’re great at the basic stuff – clogging lanes, clearing pucks, etc. They put the offence under so much pressure it’s hard for them to get set up, nevermind creating chances.
Baggedmilk:
They are AGGRESSIVE on the PK and I love it. The boys are on the opposition almost immediately whenever they touch the puck and it’s giving teams fits.
May 8, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) skates in warm up prior to game one of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
4) Brent S. asks – Have you any idea why Leon gets booted out of the faceoff circle so often? Is there even a stat recorded to keep track of that? It seems like the linesmen take an extra long time before dropping the puck whenever he’s facing off. Watching games other than the Oilers, I see linesmen take extra long before dropping the puck, which causes both centres to react early but still allows both to stay for the faceoff.
Jason Gregor:
I spoke to him about it. He says different linesmen have different cadence, and he’s trying to time the drop and at times he moves too early. It definitely is a bit odd, but it hasn’t impacted his overall success rate too much.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
It’s very annoying. There was a mic’d up moment from earlier in the year where Leon was constantly talking to the linesman about what he was doing wrong and the process. I don’t know why he gets booted so much, I’m not familiar enough with the intricacies, but I agree that it’s annoying. As my father would say in regards to the linesman “nobody is here to watch you”. I didn’t put the expletives that accompany that sentence.
Zach Laing:
That’s a great question that I don’t know the answer to.
Liam Horrobin:
I have no idea but it drives me bonkers. Whatever it is, he should probably figure out how to make that not happen as much.
Baggedmilk:
Amazing question. I have no idea. I don’t know that I’ve seen any centreman on any team get kicked out as often as he does.
May 23, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) waits for the face-off against the Dallas Stars during the third period in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
5) Ed M. asks – Should NHL teams do more “load management”? You see it all the time in baseball. When a pitcher gets soreness/tendonitis, it is quite common for him to be shut down for a few weeks. I am thinking about Petterson and McD who were/are clearly battling some kind of injury.
Jason Gregor:
Please no. There is a difference between hurt and injured. If a pitcher can’t throw, they can’t play, but McDavid can still skate, pass and play despite a nagging issue to his core, for instance. If Pettersson was that hampered by his injury, then don’t play. He was clearly healthy enough to play or he would have sat out.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
No. If a player is hurt, then they should not be playing in meaningless regular season games like Petterson may have been, but I’m not sitting out McDavid for random games to keep him rested. They get days off during the season for a reason.
Zach Laing:
The Oilers dabbled with that at the end of the year when their playoff position was locked up, so it does happen. In terms of Elias Pettersson, based on what we’ve heard publicly, I’m surprised they didn’t give him some time off in the regular season, doubly so after acquiring Elias Lindholm.
Liam Horrobin:
Yes, injured players should get time off, especially in Elias Pettersson’s case. There’s a weird stigma that you need to play through injuries in hockey. In the playoff sure but the regular season missing a game or two ain’t so bad.
Baggedmilk:
I think if a guy is hurt in the regular season then it makes sense to rest them. At the same time, these guys all want to play otherwise they wouldn’t be, so it’s a tough one to answer.

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