The Secret Weapon

There are plenty of reasons why the Oilers are heading to San Jose with a 3-2 lead in the series. The goaltending has been solid for the most part. The powerplay has been looking good. And the club has received contributions from across their roster, as the defence, as well as the third and fourth lines provided offence on Thursday night.

One player that may not be getting any recognition for his contributions thus far in the post-season is 24-year old centerman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He recently completed his sixth NHL season, collecting 43 points in 82 games, playing predominantly in a secondary role alongside Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic. The trio completed the regular season with a 50.5% Corsi For at even-strength and had a 50.0% goal-share, which are solid numbers considering they often played against the other team’s top lines. The coach clearly has a lot of faith in the trio as a tough-minutes option, and they have remained intact for the first five games of the playoffs.

Nugent-Hopkins in particular has stood out in this series, as his play has been reliable across all areas of the ice. He’s shown flashes of offence, creating plenty of chances for his linemates. And he’s been playing sound defensive hockey, breaking up plays and leading his team in takeaways. Nugent-Hopkins has seen plenty of Logan Couture’s line this post-season, as well as Joe Pavelski’s, and has received regular minutes against the Brent Burns/Paul Martin pairing. What’s been interesting after five games is that the team’s Corsi differential has been mostly respectable with him on the ice, but has taken a dip, especially in games three and four in San Jose, when Nugent-Hopkins is on the bench.

Game Oilers Corsi For% Oilers Corsi Diff with RNH Oilers Corsi Diff Without RNH
1 36.47 -10 -13
2 69.12 6 20
3 47.96 4 -8
4 46.25 3 -9
5 63.76 10 31

In games 2 and 5 at home when the Oilers dominated play, the team did well with and without Nugent-Hopkins. He spent over 70% of his ice time at even-strength against Pavelski in both of those games and had a Corsi differential of +6. And in those two games, Nugent-Hopkins spent over 50% of his time against Burns, the defenceman he’s seen the most of in the series, and finished with a +9 Corsi differential.

RNH - TOI - 20170421

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

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