The Oilers are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games including a perfect 3-0 under new head coach Jay Woodcroft. The Oilers have had similar successful stretches the past few seasons, however, they haven’t won in the fashion they’ve been winning lately.
— The Oilers are winning the 5×5 battle. I repeat: The Oilers are winning the 5×5 battle. Edmonton has outscored teams 25-16 at 5×5 over their past 11 games. Under Woodcroft, it has been 8-2. You might ask: Is this a big deal?
— When the Oilers started the season 16-5 they were outscored 48-46 at 5×5.
Last season Edmonton’s record was 35-19-2. They were outscored 116-115 at 5×5.
In 2020 the Oilers were fifth in the West before COVID arrived. They were outscored 157-141 at 5×5.
There was no stretch of 11 games where Edmonton outscored opponents 25-16 at 5×5. So yes, it is rather important if the Oilers want to be considered a legitimate contender.
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— This type of 5×5 success hasn’t been seen in Edmonton since 2017 when the Oilers outscored teams 166-140. I recognize it is only 11 games, but considering how they’ve played in their previous 36 games, the recent play illustrates a major improvement.
Game      GF-GA         GF/GP- GA/GP
1-21:       46-48           2.19       2.28
22-26      25-38          1.66        2.53
37-47      25-16           2.27       1.45
— Not only has Edmonton drastically reduced their 5×5 goals against/game, but they’ve also scored more goals/game than in previous seasons. The 1.45 GA is unrealistic to maintain, but as I pointed out earlier this season the Oilers need to be around 1.80 to be a real threat.
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— The 5×5 success has been needed because the power play is firing blanks right now. The power play has five goals on 31 chances (16.1%) and they’ve allowed two shorthanded goals, leaving the Oilers a mere +3 on the PP the past 11 games. The good news is they haven’t had to rely on a hot power play to win, but the PP struggles have now stretched over 26 games (55% of the season). It is 24th overall since December 2nd. Simply not good enough.
— Woodcroft and Glen Gulutzan tried a few different combinations in Los Angeles, including adding @Kailer Yamamoto and @Evander Kane in place of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and @Jesse Puljujarvi on the first unit at one point. @Darnell Nurse started on the top unit as well. Clearly, they are searching for answers.
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It is fair to look at RNH’s lack of goal production as an issue.
— I looked at the top 160 players (average of five per team) in total power play TOI and their average PP time/game. Nugent-Hopkins is tied for ninth, with Leon Draisaitl, at 3:47/game. McDavid is 11th at 3:44. But RNH, who has logged 157 PP minutes, has yet to score a goal. Only seven of the other 159 players are goalless on the man advantage, and six of them are defencemen. Alex Wennberg (107 minutes) is the other forward with a goose egg. Wennberg has 14 shots while RNH has 27. RNH’s lack of goal production is surprising, but also becoming a concern.
— Last season Draisaitl had 15 PP goals while RNH and McDavid had nine. In 2020 Draisaitl had 16 goals, while James Neal had 12, McDavid 11, and RNH had seven. RNH won’t be the main shooter, but his snap shot on the left side has been a weapon in previous years and he either needs to snap out of his funk, or they might have to look at using different players in his spot at times.
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— Nugent-Hopkins has more assists than the previous two seasons, but he is well behind in goals. And he is shooting at a very similar rate.
Season
TOI
TOI/GP
Shots
SH/60
SH%
G-A-PTS
2020
243:31
3:48
45
11.09
15.56
7-17–24
2021
218:10
4:21
43
11.83
20.93
9-11–20
2022
151:52
3:47
27
10.67
0
0-15-15
Without him, scoring teams don’t have to respect the left side as much and they can cheat over to the right side. The Kings and Sharks really pressured the Oilers Monday and Tuesday. They aggressively attacked the player on the half wall and Edmonton was unable to take advantage of it. Their passing hasn’t been as crisp as earlier in the season, and there seems to be a lack of urgency on the power play. Edmonton has the skill to be much better than 17.4% over 26 games. With the 5×5 play improving, the PP needs to rediscover its magic. Quickly. It isn’t all on RNH, of course, but his lack of goals is noticeable. The lack of practice time since returning from the AS break plays a factor as the Oilers are in the midst of an eight-games-in-13-day stretch.
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— Dallas Eakins pulled @John Gibson at the 28-minute mark last night with Calgary leading 4-1. He explained his decision post game. “He was dealing with nothing. I’m big on odds and percentages. The chances we were going to come back were low, so I’d rather have him rested and ready for tomorrow,” said Eakins. So it looks like Gibson will start tonight.
— I expect @Mike Smith to start tonight. @Mikko Koskinen hasn’t skated with the team in over a week. He will be on the ice for the morning skate, and I could see Koskinen start Saturday in Winnipeg (2 p.m. MT start) and then Smith back in Edmonton v. Minnesota on Sunday night at 6 p.m.

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