Following the first period of Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, Oilers play-by-play commentator Jack Michaels and his co-host Bob Stauffer discussed the team’s struggles, focusing on the poor play of Darnell Nurse. The 23-year old defenceman had been on the ice for three of the four goals against in the first period, having made some poor reads and decisions with the puck in his own zone. What was interesting was that both commentators suggested that Nurse was struggling because of the absence of Kris Russell who has been Nurse’s most common defensive partner this season.
It may sound a little strange considering Russell has historically been a drag on his teammates offensive numbers, consistently posting poor on-ice shot share numbers relative to his team. But this season, it does appear that Nurse is in fact posting better on-ice numbers with Russell as his partner than without him.
Before digging into the numbers, it’s worth mentioning that the warning signs of Nurse’s individual struggles were apparent early in the 2018-19 season and have continued through the first 37 games. Among regular Oilers defencemen this season (those who have played at least 100 minutes), Nurse has the lowest on-ice goals-for percentage at even-strength (5v5) with 43.10% – a goal differential of -8 (25 GF, 33 GA). The team’s possession numbers as well as their share of unblocked shot attempts (a proxy for shot quality) have also been at their lowest this season when Nurse is on the ice – a 47.44% Corsi For percentage and 46.94% Fenwick For percentage.
Full article is at The Copper & Blue.