I joined host Min Dhariwal on the CBC Edmonton News this evening before the game against the Blues. We talked about the Oilers recent success, the return of Andrej Sekera to the line-up and what to expect over the next week. Clip is here and starts around the 16:00 minute mark: CBC Edmonton News (2017, December 21)
Lots of optimism around the Oilers, and for good reason. They’ve just won three in a row, all in regulation, and have gone 8-4 in their last 12. Their goal differential at even-strength (5v5) has gradually improved, which is encouraging considering how poor they were only a few weeks ago.
Heading into tonight’s game against the Blues, the Oilers had a +9 goal differential in their last 10 at even-strength, and a 52.3% Corsi For%. So not only have the results been good, but they’re getting a higher share of the total shot attempts – an indication that their results are real.
What’s also encouraging is that the team’s share of shot attempts has gradually improved since the last time I checked in – a sign that their success is more likely sustainable.
So what’s going on?
I think it comes down to the Oilers (finally) assembling three lines that have talent spread throughout and some chemistry forming between players. McDavid and Draisaitl are very good together, but I think because the Oilers bottom six players were losing both the goal-share and shot-share, Draisaitl had to be a center on his own line. That started about 11 games ago, which is pretty much when we see the numbers (goals and shots) start to improve.
And because the goal-share is improving, I think the Oilers will stick with the three-line approach. Goal-metrics aren’t the best predictors of future goal-share, but I think it’s what the Oilers coaching staff and management group value the most. As long as they’re winning, I don’t expect much to change.
The good news is that the Oilers have three line combinations that are posting excellent possession numbers this season at even-strength (5v5):
- Lucic-McDavid-Puljujärvi – 57.1% (100 mins)
- Maroon-RNH-Cammalleri – 57.6% (73 mins)
- Khaira-Draisaitl-Strome – 54.1% (57 mins)
Important to not look at Draisaitl as a “third-line center”. He’s second on the team in average ice-time per game (18:42), behind McDavid (21:19) and right ahead of Nugent-Hopkins (17:42). The coaching staff has been able to get the three centermen plenty of ice time in various game-situations, and hasn’t been afraid to deploy any of them against top competition either.
Also worth noting that the three centermen rank 1-2-3 in total ice time per game for the Oilers and also rank 1-2-3 in point/60:
- McDavid – 2.76
- Draisaitl – 2.59
- Nugent-Hopkins – 2.38
The Oilers have a top-9 at this point, and if they stick with this strategy I expect them to continue having success. Playoffs, in my mind, are still a long shot. But if they can put together an extended winning streak, combined with another western conference team sliding, they could make it interesting.