Why is the Oilers’ Power Play Struggling?

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers have had the best powerplay in the NHL over the past five seasons, 354 games, running at a 28.5% success rate. They’ve scored 305 power play goals, while Colorado is second with 280, Tampa Bay  has 279, Florida 267 and the New York Rangers have 255. No other team is within 50 goals of the Oilers with a man advantage.
Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 227 points on the man advantage followed by Leon Draisaitl at 208. Nathan MacKinnon is third at 156. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is ninth with 140. Draisaitl leads the league with 102 PP markers, followed by Sam Reinhart at 72 and David Pastrnak with 71.
The Edmonton Oilers have dominated teams on the man advantage, but for the first time in five years the first unit has hit an extended dry spell. It is a good news/bad news situation.
The Oilers are 4-1-1 in March. They have the most points in the NHL, are sixth in P%, and have the second-lowest goals against/game at 1.50. You will win many games limiting the opposition to under two goals/game. That is the good news.
The surprising aspect is that the Oilers’ PP is 31st at 5.9% in March, and the first unit hasn’t scored a goal in six games. Corey Perry, with assists from Darnell Nurse and Evander Kane, has the only PP goal in March. The top unit is in its worst funk in five years, going 0-for-17 in just over 21 minute of PP time.
Their previous longest drought was a five-game stretch in 2020-21 when they went 0-for-9 in 17:27 of PP time.

Why the Funk?

The Oilers’ PP was great in January and February clicking at 32.8% and scoring 19 goals on 58 opportunities. They were rolling.
Draisaitl led them with seven goals, while Zach Hyman had six and McDavid was the main distributor, as usual, with 13 helpers. The shot distribution was spread out with Hyman leading with 23, followed by Draisaitl (18), RNH (16), McDavid (14) and Bouchard eight. They fired 79 shots in 65 minutes of PP time.
With the PP struggling in March, there are some noticeable differences.
RNH has no shots in six games. A drastic difference from the previous two months, while Bouchard’s shots/60 have jumped from 7.08 to 16.18. Draisaitl is also up, while Hyman is down, and McDavid is about the same.
They have 22 shots in just over 21 minutes of PP time. The group is shooting less, but there has been more of a focus on Draisaitl and Bouchard.
It is a small sample size, six games, however, it is something we haven’t seen from McDavid/Draisaitl/RNH in five years. They’ve never had a skid like this.
Their track record suggests it won’t continue, and it is a great sign the Oilers can win without a dominant power play. But they will need it get back on track and be successful in the playoffs.
The 2020 Tampa Bay Lightning’s PP was 22.7%. Second highest among teams who got out of the “play-in” round.
The 2021 Lighting won the Cup with a 32.4% power play.
In 2022 Colorado was a stellar 32.8% on the man advantage.
Last season, Vegas was 21.9%. But Vegas was 31.6% on the man advantage in the Cup Final v. Florida scoring six PP goals, while Florida went 0-for-14.
A good power play won’t win you the Cup alone — we saw that last year as the Oilers ran at 46% —but in the last decade only two teams, Chicago in 2015 and St. Louis in 2019, won the Cup with a PP below 20%. It was more common between 2006-2013, when there were fewer goals and teams like Anaheim, Detroit, Boston, Chicago (2013) won with a PP hovering around 11-14%, but as the league has seen an increase in goals, power play success has become more important for Cup winners.
I doubt the Oilers’ top unit is panicking, but they will need to get RNH more involved when they return to action against Washington. And RNH needs to be more assertive and shoot when he’s in a good spot.


May 10, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN;The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by defensemen Evan Bouchard (2) during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights in game four of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Interesting comparison for Evan Bouchard and Darnell Nurse at 5×5 the past two seasons.
Bouchard has 12-40-52, while Nurse has produced 12-36-48.
Bouchard has played 728 minutes with McDavid, 403 with Draisaitl and 402 with both of them on the ice together.
Nurse has skated 470 minutes with McDavid, 675 with Draisaitl and 311 with both.
Nurse scored twice yesterday, ending a 24-game goalless drought. I thought he played very well in November-January and was a force for the Oilers. However, in February, and up until Sunday, he wasn’t playing up to his capabilities. When he’s on his game Nurse is a difference maker for the Oilers, and they need him to get back to how he was playing the first few months with Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey. Nurse has the ability to produce offence at 5×5. He is 17th among D-men in 5×5 scoring the past two seasons with 48 points, while Bouchard is 13th with 52. They both have another nine points at 3×3 and 4×4 combined. Bouchard gets a lot of accolades due to his power play production, and fairly so, but Nurse is just as capable of producing points as Bouchard at even strength.
I keep hearing many suggest they are concerned about the Oilers’ goaltending. Here are Skinner’s numbers since Knoblauch arrived, compared to goalies in the western conference. And then Pickard compared to backups.
Skinner (EDM): 37 starts, record of 27-8-2 with a .916Sv% and 2.36 GAA.
Georgiev (COL): 40 starts, record of 26-11-3 with a .906Sv% and 2.73 GAA.
Saros (NSH): 40 starts, record of 23-13-4 with a .910Sv% and 2.73 GAA.
Demko (VAN): 39 starts, record of 27-10-2 with a .912Sv% and 2.59 GAA.
Hellebuyck (WPG): 35 starts, record of 23-10-2 with a .929Sv% and 2.15 GAA.
Oettinger (DAL): 31 starts, record of 19-9-3 with a .889Sv% and 3.20 GAA.
Talbot (LA): 29 starts, record of 12-12-5 with a .913Sv% and 2.58 GAA.
Thompson (VGK): 26 starts, record of 12-11-5 with a .898Sv% and 2.99 GAA.
Only Hellebuyck has a better Sv% and lower GAA. Sportlogiq has Skinner with 26 quality starts, which ranks seventh best among goalies.
Pickard (EDM): 13 starts, record of 9-4 with a .919Sv% and 2.27 GAA.
Wedgewood (DAL): 21 starts, record of 11-5-5- with .897Sv% and 2.87 GAA.
Hill (VGK): 19 starts, record of 9-7-1 with a .909Sv% and 2.95 GAA.
Rittich (LA): 16 starts, record of 9-4-3 with a .914Sv% and 2.32 GAA.
Brossoit (WPG): 14 starts, record of 10-3-1 with a .934Sv% and 1.86 GAA.
DeSmith (VAN): 13 starts, record of 5-4 with a .893Sv% and 2.86 GAA.
Lankinen (NSH): 11 starts, record of 8-3 with a .897Sv% and 3.11 GAA.
Annunen (COL): Six starts, record of 3-2-1 with a .929Sv% and 2.33 GAA.
Brossoit has a better Sv% and lower GAA than Pickard. Annunen has only played six games and posted back-to-back shutouts v. Chicago which raised his Sv% significantly, and the Avs didn’t acquire a goalie at the deadline, so they clearly believe in him.
The Oilers don’t need outstanding goaltending, they just need solid goaltending, and they’ve had that from both Skinner and Pickard the past four months.

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