In their last 20 games the Edmonton Oilers are 23rd in goals/game at 2.70 despite sitting fifth in shots/game at 34.8.
They are struggling to score at 5×5 and on the power play. Stoneitis has become the new virus infecting many sets of gloves within the dressing room over the past two months.
— The Oilers’ drop in offence is alarming. Edmonton was seventh in goals/game last season at 3.27. In their first 21 games this year they were second at 3.81. Scoring wasn’t an issue, but after a productive first 21 games, the offence has gone stagnant and right now a husband who forgot his anniversary has a better chance of scoring.
— I realize they scored seven goals against the Montreal Canadiens, but that was an outlier, and just illustrated how bad the Canadiens are. In Edmonton’s other 19 games since December 2nd they averaged 2.47 GF/GP. The outburst in Montreal allowed Edmonton to move 23rd in GF/GP instead of 28th. It was a distraction from the real struggle.
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— The main concern offensively is how their best players are struggling. The Oilers PP is 24th at 17.7% over the past two months. They have nine goals on 51 chances. Many who clamoured to put Evan Bouchard on the man advantage were giddy when he scored twice v. Calgary, but the PP hasn’t been any better with him on the blue line. That isn’t his fault, just like it wasn’t Barrie’s fault when the PP started to dip. And that’s because the power play success runs off the sticks of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. During this two-month PP struggle McDavid doesn’t have a power play goal. Draisaitl hasn’t lit the lamp in the past 16 games. He had 13 PP goals in the first 25 games of the season. He is their best shooter on the power play and when it is effective, he is scoring. The PP has looked out of sync, and whether it is Bouchard or Barrie at the blue line, it won’t have much success unless #97 and #29 work their magic. The power play has missed more passes in the last month than I saw all of last season.
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—  The power play has actually gotten worse over the 20 games. In the last 10 games it is at 13.6% (3-of-22). They aren’t getting many opportunities, and that could be a factor, but when they get on they haven’t looked sharp. At some point Dave Tippett needs to challenge them and start the second unit now and again. Competition, or anger, might jolt them from their slumber.
— While Draisaitl is struggling to finish on the man advantage he does lead the team with seven goals at 5×5 over the past two months. He has 11 points, while McDavid has 5-5-10 in 19 games. That is decent production for most players, but they rank 57th and 85th in 5×5 points over the past 20 games. That simply isn’t good enough for the league’s top-two scorers. In the first 21 games of the season Draisaitl was second in 5×5 scoring and McDavid was tied for 7th.
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— Many of their top-nine wingers are also struggling to score 5×5. Kailer Yamamoto has three goals in 20 games. Zach Hyman has two in 14 and both came in Montreal. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has two in 13 games. Jesse Puljujarvi has one in 18 games. Warren Foegele has one in 20 games and Zack Kassian has zero in 15 games. These six forwards have combined to score nine goals in 1,386 minutes at 5×5. Not close to good enough.
— In the same time span Derek Ryan, Devin Shore, Ryan McLeod, Colton Sceviour and Brendan Perlini have combined to score nine goals in 733 minutes. Perlini has four goals himself in nine games. The top-nine needs to start scoring, either at 5×5 or on the power play. They’ve gone very cold the past two months and all nine, excluding Evander Kane, who has only played two games and has one goal, need to start pulling their weight.
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— Foegele has one goal on 40 shots. Puljujarvi has one goal on 37. Hyman has two on 22. RNH has two on 18 and Kassian has zero on 17 shots. Yamamoto has three goals on 19 shots. It is a good shooting percentage, but his 3.79 shot/60 is the lowest of any forward on the roster in the past 20 games. He needs to get more pucks on net. Stoneitis has infected the top-nine and they need to work their way out of it
— Coaches can’t make players score, but Tippett can control their ice time. In the past month I’ve seen many occasions where McDavid, Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins were on the ice for a minute and then a power play was called, and Tippett still started the first unit. Give the second unit a chance. Or, now that the three centres are on different lines, he might have to keep one of them off for the first 30-40 seconds so they are fresh. The power play is most effective when they outwork the penalty killers, but it is difficult to match their work ethic when you’re fatigued from being on the ice for 60 seconds prior.
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—  I’d play Stuart Skinner in goal tonight. I just don’t trust Koskinen at key moments. He can play well for a few games, but inevitably the soft goals creep back in. Ottawa’s OT winner wasn’t a good goal by Koskinen. Former NHL goalie and Daily Faceoff analyst, Mike McKenna, gave this breakdown: “It was a bad goal. Playing three-on-three Koskinen should have had the situational awareness to realize that Stutzle would pull that puck towards the dot and gain angle, yet he went down early. Where Stutzle shot from is in the RVH [reverse vertical horizontal] no-fly zone. Anything above the bottom of the circle the goalie shouldn’t be in RVH. It was lazy, unreactive goaltending. A 6’6″ goaltender playing small.” The coaches see it different. Koskinen will start tonight. He could play well against a fatigued Capitals team who won in OT last night in Pittsburgh, but he could just as easily allow a weak goal.
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— Slater Koekkoek was placed on waivers yesterday to make room for Tyson Barrie’s return to the lineup. Barrie will likely be paired with William Lagesson. Also, look for a few line tweaks.
Ryan McLeod will skate with Leon Draisaitl and Jesse Puljujarvi
Derek Ryan will play right wing with Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman.
Devin Shore will centre Foegele and Kassian.
— The Taxi Squad will be eliminated tomorrow which means Kyle Turris, Colton Sceviour, Olivier Rodrigue and Koekkoek will be assigned to the AHL (unless there are injuries tonight). And I’m told Mike Smith is very close, and you could see him activated after the AS break. If they are certain he will be ready I wonder if they reassign Skinner to the AHL so he can play games this weekend. Once Smith is active, the Oilers will have Skinner, Ilya Konovalov, Rodrigue and Alex Stalock in the minors. Not ideal for playing time in the AHL or ECHL.
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