|Edmonton Oilers head coach Tom Renney, top center, talks to his team during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) |
Last night, on Remembrance Day, the Oilers played a game that they'd probably rather forget. For the 2nd straight outing the team found themselves in a deep 1st period deficit, en route to a lopsided loss; make it a combined aggregate of 13-3 in losses to Carolina & Detroit. It's no secret that starting the game sharply hasn't been an area of strength for the team, as evidenced by the fact that in 9 of the 14 games they've played, the Oilers have given up the 1st goal. In 4 of those cases, it has been a multiple goal lead before the copper and blue have found the tally sheet.
The Oilers have a league-worst -14 goal differential in 1st periods. In 14 games the team has scored just 10 goals in the opening stanza, while allowing 24. The differential shifts dramatically in the 2nd and 3rd periods where the Oilers are -2 and +1 respectively. Generally speaking, the team is strong once they get into the flow of the game. Problem is, it's too often out of reach because of an early deficit.
A large part of the early struggles has been the penalty kill. Remember the 24 goals against in the 1st period? 10 of those have come on a powerplay for the opposition. The Oilers are middle of the pack when it comes to taking minor penalties, so a parade to the box isn't necessarily the problem. The problem is that the player rarely spends the full 2 minutes in the sin bin.FACT 2:
The Oilers have a league worst 68.2% kill rate on penalties. To put it into perspective, we are talking about a full goal per game worse than the top team in the league (Los Angeles at 90.7%). In total, the Oilers have allowed 20 powerplay goals against. That's an average of nearly 1.5 per game.
Why is the penalty kill struggling so much?FACT 3:
At 44.8% in the face-off dot, only the Carolina Hurricanes are worse. If you don't win the draw, the opposition powerplay gets immediate control and setup.
FACT 4: Nikolai Khabibulin
|Edmonton Oilers' Tom Gilbert, left, attempts to defend against Detroit Redwings Justin Abdelkader, as he crashes the net of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, during third period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, on Friday, Nov. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press - John Ulan) |
's save percentage during 5-on-5 play is a sturdy .923%. On the penalty kill, it drops to .747%. As the old cliche says, your goaltender needs to be your top penalty killer.
If improvements can be made in the above statistics, the Oilers can dramatically alter their win/loss record. They've demonstrated already that they can compete, and beat, some of the best opposition in the league. But, the old "60 minutes of hockey" mantra and a level of consistent performance is still a work in progress with this young team.
On to the more enjoyable analysis...
FACT 5: Ryan Whitney
is 7th in assists amongst defencemen (11) and 12th in points (11). He ranks an impressive 5th amongst all NHL skaters in time on ice per game, averaging 25:30. The Visnovsky for Whitney trade has worked out phenomenally for the Oilers, who got younger and saved cap space at the same time as adding a player who has been rock solid for them.FACT 6:
The Oilers have now seen 4 of their players tally their 1st NHL goals (Eberle, Paajarvi, Hall & Peckham) this season. These 4 are regulars for the Oilers, making up 22% of the roster of skaters every night, just another reminder at how young and inexperienced this team is. A group still learning the way. (Bonus fact: the average age of the Oilers top 12 forwards is 23 years old).FACT 7:
Only 2 NHL defencemen (Dustin Byfuglien (55) & P.K. Subban (45)) have fired more shots on goal than Kurtis Foster (44). With just 2 goals so far, the shots haven't paid off for Foster, but he's on the right track.FACT 8: Jordan Eberle
is the 3rd leading rookie scorer in the NHL with 9 points. He's on pace for a 23 goal, 30 assist and 53 point rookie season. Taylor Hall
is on pace for 18-18-36 and Paajarvi is trending towards 12-24-36.