I know it is a small sample size, but it is also an early season oddity for the Edmonton Oilers. They are struggling mightily to score goals 5×5.
— The Oilers scored the 10th most 5×5 goals in the NHL last season with 181 (2.20/game) and they were ninth in GF/60 at 2.73. Scoring goals wasn’t an issue, but through three games this season the Oilers, specifically their forwards, haven’t been able to finish and it hasn’t been due to a lack of quality chances.
— Edmonton has scored three goals at 5×5 through three games. That has them tied for 30th in the NHL, but they are actually 13th in shots for/60. They are second in slot shots/game and first in inner slot shots per game. They simply can’t bury their best scoring chances. If they keep getting that many inner slot shots and slot shots, they will start scoring.
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— Connor McDavid, Ryan McLeod and Cody Ceci have the 5×5 goals. Darnell Nurse has two goals — one shorthanded and one 4×4. McDavid has three power play goals, Leon Draisaitl has one and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored a 6-on-5 goal on Tuesday. But at 5×5 the Oilers have three goals on 73 shots (4.1%). Evander Kane (8), RNH (6), Hyman and Puljujarvi (5), Draisaitl and Foegele (4), Holloway (2) and Yamamoto, Shore and Ryan (1) haven’t scored.
— Contrast that to the Carolina Hurricanes who are averaging three 5×5 goals/game in their three contests. The Canes’ 3.85 GF/60 at 5×5 is third best in the NHL. The top six in Carolina has six 5×5 goals, while the Oilers’ top six has one. It is a cliché, but it is very accurate: When your best players are your best players, usually you win games.
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— The good news for Edmonton is the 5×5 drought likely won’t last. The Oilers have too much skill. The goals will come, but until they do, Edmonton needs to limit the major giveaways or defensive miscues. Edmonton dominated the first and third periods Tuesday night. They outshot the Sabres 38-12 in those two periods, but the goals were 2-2. The lack of finish combined with allowing two goals in 4:31 to start the second period cost them the game. They outplayed Buffalo for the majority of the game, but they couldn’t finish.
— The Oilers don’t have 100% control over how many goals they score, because some nights the opposing goalie can stand on his head as Eric Comrie did on Tuesday. If you generate that many quality chances, eventually the damn will break and you will score, but there is no guarantee when it happens. However, you can control and limit your giveaways, and Edmonton will need much better puck management against a very good, very disciplined and very balanced Hurricanes team.
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— The Hurricanes are 3-0 and have outscored teams 11-3. They’ve outshot teams by an average of 37.3 to 24.7. They are a well-oiled machine and if the Oilers don’t clean up their game the Hurricanes will embarrass them. They have depth up and down the lineup and a very talented defensive core. The addition of Brent Burns gives Carolina one of the best top fours in the NHL. Burns plays with Jaccob Slavin while Brent Pesce is paired with Brady Skjei. And they play a lot. The third pair features Jalen Chatfield and Calvin de Haan. Dylan Coghlan did play one game in place of de Haan. Ethan Bear has yet to get into a game. He might slot in tonight.
— Since McDavid joined the Oilers they are 4-8 v. the Canes. Edmonton has lost the last four meetings in Edmonton and have been outscored 21-11. It has been a tough matchup for Edmonton and even McDavid. The Hurricanes are the only team in the NHL McDavid isn’t averaging at least one point/game against in his career. He has eight points in nine games, but he does have six points in his previous three home games v. the Canes.
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— The Hurricanes have had a pretty easy schedule thus far. They defeated Columbus 4-1 at home on October 12th, then beat San Jose 3-1 on the road on the 14th, and downed Seattle 5-1 on the 17th. They’ve had two days between both road games leading into tonight’s tilt. They will be well rested. They play in Calgary on Saturday then in Vancouver next Monday, before returning home to play the Islanders on the 28th. It is rare to see a team have a five-game road trip, but only play five games in a span of 15 days.  Their schedule intensifies starting October 28th when they will play three sets of back-to-back games in a span of 14 days.
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Rod Brind’Amour was a guest on the DFO Rundown with yours truly and Frank Seravalli before the season began, and he was very open about his expectations this season. He views it as “Cup or bust,” for the Hurricanes. He likes his team and listening to him you understand why players love playing for him. He oozes positivity, while simultaneously being very demanding. If the Canes could add a game breaker, they’d be my Cup favourite. Burns is a huge addition to their blue line, but in the playoffs they need a forward who can take over a game. Patrick Kane would be the ideal addition for the Canes.
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Dylan Holloway didn’t skate yesterday after getting crunched by Ilya Lyubushkin. We will get an update on his status today. If he doesn’t play, Derek Ryan will slot in. If Holloway goes on IR for a week, the Oilers have no extra skaters. Short-term injuries are crushing for a team with a 21-man roster. If another player gets banged up tonight and can’t play Saturday, and Holloway is still unavailable, Edmonton will have to play with 17 skaters for one game. Then they can have an emergency recall of a player with an $850K cap hit or lower. Oilers management is well aware of this and did try to make a trade before the season, but the urgency to make a deal to free up some cap space will heighten if the Oilers start getting some injuries.
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