Oilers penalty kill struggles, new line combinations, and penalties galore

Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
2 months ago
It was not a banner night in St. Louis for the Edmonton Oilers. Their top line got crushed 5×5, which led to some line juggling, they allowed two more power play goals and took seven consecutive penalties for the 12th time in franchise history (more on that below). If Zach Hyman had buried one of his glorious chances in the first period, you wonder how much the game would have changed.
Edmonton had a strong start. The Oilers led 2-1 after 20 minutes and should have been up more. Zach Hyman had two glorious chances on the power play, but he was unable to bury either one. If he scores on one of them, would it have changed the game? We’ll never know, but Jordan Binnington made two key saves, and then for the second consecutive game the Oilers were absolutely dreadful in the second period.
Their top line, which had dominated for months, had another tough night. In 6:30 together, the Blues had an advantage 19-6 in shot attempts, 9-6 in shots on goal and 3-1 in goals. It was an ugly night and the main reason Kris Knoblauch changed his lines. The other three lines all outshot the Blues.
Evander Kane, Leon Draisaitl, and Dylan Holloway had a 3-1 advantage in 6:34.
Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Corey Perry outshot the Blues 4-3 in 4:31 together.
Mattias Janmark, Derek Ryan and Connor Brown didn’t allow a shot on goal against, while firing two and Brown hit the crossbar on another chance in 4:22 together.
At 5×5 Edmonton outshot the Blues 8-5 in the first period, 12-8 in the second and 10-1 in the third. But they allowed two goals in the second period, along with two PP goals, and the game was essentially over.
The middle frame killed them, and most of the carnage came with the top line on the ice. Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evan Bouchard and Hyman were on for all three 5×5 goals against. Mattias Ekholm was on for two, while Brett Kulak was on for one. It was an off night for their top line and the Bouchard/Ekholm pairing. It hasn’t happened often this season, but last night they struggled.


The Oilers took too many penalties. Yes, it was odd seeing Edmonton have seven consecutive penalties, although one was a two-minute misconduct, not an actual infraction, but they still took too many. I can understand the frustration from Oilersnation, who felt the Blues should have had one or two, and that is valid, but that wouldn’t have changed the number of calls the Oilers got.
It is difficult to win when you’re in the box that much, especially when the PK is struggling. After a dominant run off 33 games where they allowed only 11 goals on 105 kills (89.5%) and scored five shorthanded goals for a net PK of 94.3%, the Oilers’ PK is suddenly on life support.
In their last four games they’ve allowed seven goals on 15 kills, for an ugly 53.3%. Last night they killed off 6-of-8, so the PK was actually better, kill wise, than the three previous games when they allowed five goals on seven kills. However, the Blues’ PP looked dangerous all night. Teams have started moving the puck around quicker, as the Oilers forwards don’t stay on one side, like a traditional box. They want them pressuring, and they deploy more of a one-up-and-three-back system. It has worked well for many months, but the past few games, teams are starting to exploit it. I still think it can work, but the players need to be really committed and connected. Derek Ryan had a shorthanded breakaway that could have got the Oilers back in the game in the second period, but he was unable to score.


Jan 20, 2024; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Connor Brown (28) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Connor Brown was one of the Oilers’ best players yesterday. I understand the frustration from his lack of goals, but if you are upset he remains in the lineup after last night, then you are more focused on his overall season than his play last night. He was excellent on the penalty kill, and at 5×5. He simply can’t score. He should have shot on his shorthanded 2-on-1 with Janmark, but when you haven’t scored a goal in 23 months, lack of confidence leads to forcing a pass. Then he hit the post when the game was 5-3. If he remains hungry on the puck like he did last night, I have to think eventually he will score, but right now he is their best penalty killer and with the PK leaking when he’s not on the ice, I understand why he remains in the lineup.
Here are the forwards who have been on the ice on the PK the past four games.
Connor Brown49:1317011.024733
Mattias Janmark36:4516010.974523
Derek Ryan46:10213032.5921028
Ryan McLeod46:1009030.550601
Connor McDavid42:2104010.250301
Warren Foegele42:1903010.152110
Leon Draisaitl41:0101010.060000
Brown has been on the ice the most but has the lowest SA/60 rate as well as the lowest GA/60 rate. He has created as many high danger chances for as he’s been on for against. If you wanted him to be a healthy scratch earlier in the season, that is fair, but right now it would be foolish to take him out. He and Janmark have been quite good together on the PK during this funk. The issue is neither are centreman, and Knoblauch likes to have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins start the PK, so he has a centre on his strong side for the face off. It makes sense, but if the slide continues, he might alter his forward pairings.


After last night, the NHL has now had 197 games where a team had at least seven consecutive minor penalties. Considering there have been 124,308 games played, what you witnessed last night has only happened 0.0016% of the time in an NHL game.
It is rare. The NHL record for consecutive penalties to one team is 11 set by the 2006-07 Chicago Blackhawks (v. ANA) and the 2008-09 Montreal Canadiens (v. CAR).
The playoff record is 10, set by the 2000 Dallas Stars (v. COL) and the 1991 Edmonton Oilers (v. MNS). Do any Oilers fans remember that game?
Last night was the 12th time in franchise history the Oilers have had seven consecutive minor penalties.
1990-91Playoffs1991-05-08EDMMNS10EDM 1 @ MNS 5
2002-03Playoffs2003-04-11EDMDAL8EDM 1 @ DAL 6
1991-92Reg1991-10-10EDMSTL8EDM 2 @ STL 3 OT
1984-85Reg1985-03-29EDMHFD7EDM 7 @ HFD 8
1986-87Reg1986-10-19EDMLAK7EDM 6 @ LAK 7
1989-90Reg1990-03-03EDMPHI7PHI 3 @ EDM 5
1992-93Reg1993-02-09EDMLAK7EDM 6 @ LAK 3
2002-03Reg2002-11-21EDMCGY7EDM 3 @ CGY 1
2003-04Reg2003-11-26EDMDET7EDM 1 @ DET 7
2005-06Reg2005-10-11EDMLAK7EDM 1 @ LAK 3
2006-07Reg2006-12-10EDMCHI7EDM 1 @ CHI 4
2023-24Reg2024-02-15EDMSTL7EDM 3 @ STL 6
Edmonton is tied with Toronto and the Dallas/Minnesota franchise for second-most games with at least seven consecutive penalties. The Philadelphia Flyers lead with 18.
Of the 197 games where a team took seven consecutive penalties, the home team did it 75 times (38.4%). The Oilers just happened to have it only once (8.3%) on home ice.
The Oilers entered last night averaging 3.31 times shorthanded per game (eighth most), but after last night they are now fifth at 3.40. Last season they finished sixth at 3.39 TS/GP.
They were also sixth in power play opportunities per game last year at 3.35, while this season they rank 23rd at 3.02. I’m not sure the argument the referees are trying to limit the Oilers’ PP chances holds up, considering last season, when they had the best PP in league history, they had the sixth-most PP chances.
It is interesting to note that McDavid is drawing more penalties this season, despite the Oilers having fewer PP chances.
Last year he drew 45 penalties overall for 1.47 PD/60. At 5×5 he drew 33 penalties for an average of 1.51 PD/60. This season he’s drawn 28 minors for a 1.63 PD/60, and at 5×5 he’s drawn 23 for an average of 1.77 PD/60.
The rest of the team needs to do more to make the opposition uncomfortable or put them in difficult positions and force them to take penalties. They haven’t done it enough.


Coach Knoblauch ran practice today with the lines he finished last night with.
Draisaitl – McDavid – Perry
Kane – Nugent-Hopkins – Hyman
Holloway – McLeod – Foegele
Janmark – Ryan – Brown
Regardless of what combinations he sticks with in the game, the Oilers need to wake up in the middle frame, or Dallas will dominate them. The Stars crushed Nashville 9-2 last night and they are the best offensive team in the NHL. The Stars have seven skaters with 17+ goals. The Oilers, Blues, Canucks and Lightning are tied for second with four. Dallas is very dangerous offensively.
Calvin Pickard gets the start and he, along with the entire team, will need to be ready.


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