Ten Thursday Thoughts: NHL Playoff Edition

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
11 months ago
An extended three-day break between games five and six for the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings allows another edition of Thursday Thoughts.
Let’s go.
1. The Oilers could become only the sixth team in NHL history to have a 50% power play in a seven-game series.
In their first three regular season meetings vs. the Kings, the Oilers were 0-for-9 on the man advantage. The Kings killed off the first two power plays in the final regular season game pushing it to an 0-for-11 run. But then the Oilers scored on their final two power plays and are now 8-for-14 in the playoffs. Edmonton has figured out the Kings’ penalty kill.
“The key to our power play is winning battles, always has been,” said Connor McDavid. “It is not structure, or anything fancy, even though it may look fancy. It is winning battles and making the plays we need to make.” He’s correct in you have to outwork the penalty killers to have success, but he might be downplaying their fancy level. Their ability to make deft passes, and ad-lib based on what the defence gives them, is very impressive.
2. I asked Ryan McLeod, who is a penalty killer and part of the Oilers’ second PP unit, what impresses him the most from what he sees from the Oilers’ vaunted first unit.
“A lot of it is how hectic it looks out there, but they are almost working you into plays so they can spread you out,” said McLeod. “They have so many different routines or sets that it is hard to defend. We watch in video and you see the outline of what they want to do, and then go into the game and they do it. They have a couple of different plays and then they get right into it. It is crazy to see how it unfolds. It is cool to not be on the other side of it (penalty kill) to be honest (laughs).”
3. I asked McLeod about the second unit’s PP goal in game four. “We are going as 1B, not the second unit (laughs), but it was huge. Anytime we can help the top guys with a goal is nice. They carry most of the load.” When McLeod mentioned 1B, Mattias Ekholm, who sits a few stalls over to his right, also laughed and agreed loudly. The group is having some fun with the power play success.
4. Leon Draisaitl has scored 5+ goals in a series for the third time in his career. His six goals through five games are the most he’s had in one series. He’s halfway to the NHL record, which is also the Oilers franchise record, of 12 set by Jari Kurri v. Chicago in 1985. Mark Messier is second on the Oilers list with eight v. Calgary in 1983. Glenn Anderson, Wayne Gretzky, Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, and Evander Kane (last year v. LA) are tied for third with seven.
Kurri also holds the Oilers record for most series with 5+ goals with six. Gretzky had five, Anderson four and Messier, Draisaitl and Esa Tikkanen have three. Draisaitl will likely move up in the coming years.
5. The Oilers organization has the third-most occurrences of a player scoring 5+ goals in a series with 35. Only Montreal and Boston have more. Although Boston has 22 and Montreal 15 since the Oilers arrived in the NHL in 1979-80.
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6. The one change the Oilers have made on the PP this series is having Evan Bouchard shoot more because the Kings’ penalty killers are trying to collapse the net more. And McDavid scored twice from the left circle. He hadn’t scored from that spot all year. What makes the Oilers power play so great is the players are able to adapt to the PK, but also keep unveiling new wrinkles. If you want to collapse, they are comfortable letting Bouchard shoot more, or they will rotate McDavid to the left side and score from there.
7. So far six series will go at least six games and if the Jets or Lightning win tonight, it will be only the fifth time in NHL playoff history that seven series go 6+ games. In 2010 and 2022, seven series had 6+ games and in 1991 and 1992 all eight series went at least six games. What was crazy about the 1991 series was how the early rounds were tight, but then the later rounds were sweeps. Thanks for @WildcatOil for the reminder.
8. The Oilers have two possible start times for game six. The game in LA will either start at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. PT (so 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. MT). Plan accordingly, and for those concerned about Oilers record in afternoon games, they were 5-1-1 in afternoon road games. Does it matter to the players? “No. Our job is to show up and play, it doesn’t matter what time it is at,” said McDavid.
9. Road teams have been dominating thus far in the playoffs going 23-14. The Oilers, Hurricanes, and Stars are 2-1 at home and the only teams with winning home records. The Rangers, Devils, Lightning, Panthers, and Jets are 0-2 at home. The Oilers are 1-1 on the road this series, and in the regular season they were tied with Boston for the most regulation road wins with 26. The Oilers (27) won the fourth most road games, while the Kings were tied for fifth with 26 home wins.
10. Through five games the Oilers and Kings have nine of the top-14 forwards in 5×5 TOI.
Evander Kane has played the most 5×5 at 93:13
McDavid is second at 92:58
Draisaitl is fourth with 88:55
Zach Hyman is sixth at 84:55
Philip Danault is seventh at 83:58
Trevor Moore sits ninth at 83:09
Viktor Arvidsson is 11th at 79:15
Anze Kopitar ranks 13th at 78:06
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is 14th at 77:03
The Oilers and Kings have played their top-six forwards head-to-head a lot in this series. Nathan MacKinnon, Yanni Gourde, Kirill Kaprizov, Evan Rodrigues, and Mikko Rantanen are the others in the top-14.
Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Jack Hughes will play their fifth games tonight and should move into the top-14.


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