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Who are the Oilers and Kings’ drivers and drags through four games?

Edmonton Oilers Darnell Nurse
Photo credit:Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports
Sunil Agnihotri
3 days ago
After four games with the Edmonton Oilers up 3-1 in the series against the Los Angeles Kings, I wanted to get a sense of how the teams have compared and what each team’s strengths and weaknesses have been across their respective rosters.
Let’s start with even-strength (5v5), where the Kings have the slight edge in results, outscoring the Oilers 10-9. And while the Kings have controlled the total share of shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts, things are a lot closer between the two teams when you factor in shot quality, type and location. The Kings are creating shots from anywhere and everywhere, posting a Corsi For percentage of 53.98 percent. But their expected goal-share of 50.94 percent is only slightly better than Edmonton’s. Maybe the Kings’ shot-volume approach eventually creates more havoc in the Oilers’ zone, puts more pressure on Skinner and the defencemen, and creates more high-danger chances. For now, the Oilers don’t seem to have a problem limiting the Kings and can hopefully put them away soon.
Special teams are where the games are currently being won, as the Oilers have scored eight powerplay goals and allowed zero on the penalty kill. The Kings have only mustered 15 shots in 22 powerplay minutes, while the Oilers have 35 powerplay shots in 19 minutes. The special team’s results haven’t been close, and it doesn’t appear the Kings will be able to turn it around based on their underlying shot metrics.
Below is a breakdown of each player’s on-ice numbers at even-strength in the first four games, sorted by time on ice. I’ve split the table into forwards and defencemen and added a simple heat map to show how each player compares relative to their teammates.
Starting with Edmonton, we see that the top line, featuring Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman, along with the pairing of Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm, have been the drivers. The four have played 41 minutes together at even-strength so far and, as a group, have posted a 55.53 percent Corsi For percentage, a 74.88 (!) Expected Goals For percentage while outscoring the Kings 4-1.
Ekholm and Bouchard have been primarily with the McDavid line, while Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci have been tied to Leon Draisaitl and whoever has been rotating through that second line. In 31 minutes together this series, Nurse, Ceci and Draisaitl have posted a 28.11 Corsi For percentage, a 16.39 Expected Goals For percentage and broken even in terms of goals (1-1). Those are some horrible shot-share numbers together, which makes me think Draisaitl should probably get some more minutes with Ekholm and Bouchard. And have Nurse and Ceci play a little more with McDavid.
Nugent-Hopkins is another player who is struggling at even-strength, posting the worst shots and expected goals differential on the team, and could be one of the reasons the second line is getting caved in so badly. I think it might benefit Draisaitl if he can have McLeod back on his wing to add some speed and puck-retrieval skills, along with Foegele. That trio performed really well in the regular season, and could improve the chances of them outscoring the Kings. But because McLeod is doing an excellent job shutting down the Kings as a center, we probably won’t see him move to wing.
Speaking of which, here’s how the Kings skaters have performed so far at even-strength.
Byfield is posting the best even-strength results in the series with a +6 goal differential. His line has been good at generating shots, but they’re having trouble sustaining pressure and creating better-quality chances. Kopitar is someone to watch, as he’s still looking dangerous after all these years. Kopitar is seeing a lot of the top two lines, but is really feasting on the Draisaitl line and posting an Expected Goals For percentage of 62.24 percent against him in 22 minutes head-to-head. The biggest disappointment for the Kings has to be Dubois, who the Kings spent significant assets to bring in and help get them over the first-round playoff hump. He’s posting the worst shot-share numbers among the Kings, and is a bit of a liability whenever he’s on the ice. What’s worth noting is that he’s spent the majority of his minutes against McLeod, who is again getting trusted by the coaching staff to play against top lines in the post-season and doing an excellent job containing good players.
Data: Natural Stat Trick

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