Eight games and 20 days. It has been eight games since a forward has scored a goal playing in the bottom six. Only Warren Foegele has an assist. (Zack Kassian had 1-2-3, but that was on the top line). To say the Oilers’ bottom six is slumping would be polite. And lately it isn’t just the bottom six struggling at 5×5 — the lack of offence has spread to the top-two lines as well.
— Edmonton has two goals at 5×5 in their last four games. Two.
@Jesse Puljujarvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have goals, while @Zach Hyman and @Connor McDavid have one assist. That is it from the forwards at 5×5. Darnell Nurse has one assist. You can see the struggles. Even their best players have passed up great opportunities lately, and as difficult as it is, they can’t let more negative thoughts seep into their on-ice actions. They have to push through the negativity.
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— “When you are slumping everything seems so much harder,” said Leon Draisaitl. “The puck doesn’t go in. It seems like you can’t score, like you can’t make a play. You just have to snap out it. You have to bare down when it isn’t going your way. Pucks are laying around the crease, but we can’t seem to get them in. One goal can turn it around for the group and push us in a different direction. We just need to be ready when the chances are there.” Even the NHL’s elite offensive players feel the strain of an offensive slump. You wonder how it must be for players who rarely score.
— Outside of goals, very few players are even getting shots. Kailer Yamamoto doesn’t have a shot on goal in five games. He did ring one off the crossbar last week, but one shot isn’t enough. Yamamoto has played the third most 5×5 minutes (53:01) among forwards over the past four games, but didn’t register one shot. It is why he will start tonight on the third line with Ryan McLeod. Yamamoto needs to be around the crease more.
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— Nurse leads the team with 13 shots at 5×5 on this four-game homestand. Connor McDavid has nine while Puljujarvi, Warren Foegele and Evan Bouchard have eight. It makes sense to move Foegele into the top six with Hyman coming out. He desperately needs a goal as you can see him pressing, but at least he is moving his feet and generating some chances.
Hyman hasn’t been officially ruled out. He wants to play his former team and has felt better the past few days. He will be a game time decision. I understand he wants to play, but shoulders are risky to try and play through an injury with. One body check, and suddenly he could be out much longer. They need to be cautious.
— With @Mitch Marner out @Auston Matthews has Ondrej Kase and Michael Bunting on his wings tonight. Kase has produced with 2-1-3 at 5×5 in his last four games. Toronto has eight 5×5 goals in their last four games and 16 skaters have at least one point. Edmonton better be on its toes 5×5 tonight or it will be a long night.
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— Draisaitl and McDavid lead the NHL with 45 points, while Matthews and John Tavares are tied for 10th with 31 points and William Nylander is 13th with 30. Nylander has been arguably the Leaf’s most consistent player this year and he loves playing Edmonton. He has eight goals and 18 points in 17 games v. Edmonton. He’s only scored more goals (11) against Montreal.
— Edmonton has allowed the first goal in each game of its five-game losing streak. The team has scored first only nine times this season — tied for fewest in the NHL. They are also the only team that is undefeated when scoring first. But they can’t find ways to score first. In their last 19 games they’ve only scored first five times. This has been an issue since November 1st, and they need to rectify it quickly.
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— Twenty teams have scored first in at least 50% of their games. Edmonton is at 34.6%, well below league average. There is no easy fix, but playing from behind does not work in the NHL. Only St. Louis, Carolina and Florida have won more than half their games when they allowed the first goal. Edmonton isn’t good enough to play from behind so frequently. That has to be their focus tonight. Have a good start. That has to be the first step.
— Duncan Keith spent the majority of yesterday’s practice paired with Cody Ceci. It looks like he will return to the lineup. Dave Tippett mentioned after Saturday’s loss that the team needs to move the puck quicker from the defence to the forwards. Prior to being injured Keith led all Oilers blueliners in completed passes, both outlet and stretch passes. He moves the puck up quickly and that should allow the Oilers less time in the D-zone. Keith also has had offensive success against Toronto. He has 20 points in 20 games. They are the only team he averages one-point-per-game against. The next highest is Buffalo at 0.71 pts/game.
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— Markus Niemelainen doesn’t add much offence yet, but he hasn’t been scored on much, and he’s been incredibly physical. He has 34 hits in six games. Only Ryan Reaves has more hits/60 among players who have played six or more games. Niemelainen is already second on the Oilers blue line in hits, trailing Darnell Nurse (78). What I like about Niemelainen is he hits guys, and eliminates them from the play on the rush. For a rookie, he has been impressive in being physical without getting out of position. I’m curious to see what he looks like after he’s played a few seasons. It takes most D-men a few years to get really comfortable in the NHL.

MONTH OF GIVING…

Thank you to Martin for his awesome bid of $12,000 on the FBN crop marketing package.
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DAY 11: Two great packages.
Package #1: Shopping Spree
  • A $2500 gift card from the Brick
  • Pair of seats to Oilers/Leafs game (section 124, row 23).
Package #2: Golf and Hockey
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today. Proceeds will help out The MS Society and Operation Friendship Seniors Society.
Oilers tickets are available now through FansFirst. Check it out here.

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