NHL Notebook: Edmonton Oilers fall in power rankings, Leon Draisaitl’s spin move, and more

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
The Edmonton Oilers fell in Daily Faceoff’s weekly power rankings dipping from eighth to ninth.
The team, who has sat around the mark all year, saw the LA Kings jump past them from ninth, all the way up to fifth.
Here’s what Scott Maxwell opined about the Oilers:

9. Edmonton Oilers

Record: 41-23-9 (.623%, 11th)
5v5 Goal Differential: +12 (13th)
5v5 xGF/60: 2.93 (6th)
5v5 xGA/60: 2.51 (12th)
PP xGF/60: 10.05 (1st)
PK xGA/60: 8.18 (19th)
5v5 PDO: 100.3
Previous Week: 8th (-1)
The Oilers kept their hot streak going with seven wins in their last eight after beating the Sharks and Coyotes to start last week, but saw that come to an end when the Golden Knights came to town on Saturday. McDavid hit another bonkers milestone as well by scoring his 60th of the season and becoming the fastest player in the cap era to hit the total.

Leon’s spins

Leon Draisaitl made some headlines for his sneaky little powerplay goal scored against the Vegas Golden Knights. He took the puck on his backhand before quickly letting go a forehand shot that found the back of the net.
Daily Faceoff’s Mike McKenna took at the goal and if others are already copying the move:
After they scored similar goals this past weekend, I can’t help but wonder what might be said between Clayton Keller and Leon Draisaitl when the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes face off Monday night.
I was watching Edmonton play against Vegas Saturday night, and Draisaitl’s goal immediately caught my eye. He caught the pass on the backhand while facing away from the Golden Knights cage, turned, and fired it past Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit. It was a power play tally, and I knew I’d seen Draisaitl do it before.
It’s easy for me, an ex-netminder, to remember a goal like this. Shooters so rarely spin and fire after having their numbers facing towards us. But with Draisaitl, it’s a play that the Oilers can execute. Catching the puck on the backhand, then spinning it towards the net, has an element of surprise. And Draisaitl is able to open up a passing lane by using technique.
The key is that Draisaitl hides the release incredibly well. The puck is on and off his blade so quickly that Brossoit has a hard time picking up the exact location of the release. As a result, the Golden Knights netminder shifts to his right and drops into the butterfly, exposing the short side just enough for Draisaitl’s shot to slip through.
Goaltending is hard enough when an NHL player is barrelling towards the net with the puck. But at least the netminder can read the shot. Draisaitl tosses that out the window with his spin play. And he can do it because he’s so comfortable using his backhand. Draisaitl doesn’t even need to see the net – his muscle memory knows where it is.
I think he’s one of the few NHL players capable of pulling it off. But I’m also certain that players around the league have taken notice.
Walk into any NHL locker room and you’ll find a TV showing the previous night’s highlights. And the players absolutely watch. The NHL is a copycat league, and players are always looking to add a new dimension to their own game. Watching highlights is one way of crowd-sourcing information.
When I saw Keller’s goal on Sunday, I immediately thought of Draisaitl. Did Keller see the highlights from the night before? Maybe. Maybe not. But the goals – although not identical – shared enough DNA that I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a lineage.

The collapse of goaltending

Something really fascinating is going on in the month of March: goaltending is plummeting.
TSN’s Travis Yost dove into the topic Monday, citing this rolling average graph to illustrate what’s happened:
Here’s some of what Yost wrote about what’s happened:
At first pass, you might be inclined to think the draft lottery teams – those with their eyes on the prize in the form of super prospect Connor Bedard – are the ones driving this mess. After all, the lottery provides an incentive to lose games, and injecting a bunch of skaters and goalies from your farm team is a great way to do that.
But for every draft lottery team that’s giving up goals in spades, you can find a team chasing a playoff berth in a similar position. So, that’s not quite it.
It is interesting that a disproportionate number of Eastern Conference teams appear contributory to league-wide stop rates plummeting. Consider the below tables, which show goaltending performance (as measured by Goals Saved vs. Expectations) on a monthly basis. I have bifurcated it between the two conferences accordingly.
I’m not sure the last time Connor Hellebuyck, indisputably one of the best goaltenders in the world, was stopping pucks at a replacement-level rate for a month. But that is the case right now. And his save percentage, like most everyone else, is cratering
Hellebuyck being around break-even relative to replacement level is just as eye-opening as some of the outright futility we have seen in other markets. Whether it’s Anaheim’s John Gibson (stopping 89.6 per cent in March), St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington (87.1 per cent), San Jose’s Kaapo Kahkonen (84.4 per cent), or the Edmonton duo in Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell (88.7 per cent), there is plenty of substandard goaltending to find and analyze.
Teams like the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers may be feeling great about their goaltending heading into April, but they are more of an outlier than the typical team right now. The typical team, whether they are working on their scouting boards or preparing for the post season, is dealing with distress in net.
That’s never the place a coaching staff wants to be this late in the year.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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