As odd as it may sound, the Edmonton Oilers were the hottest team in the NHL heading into last night’s showdown with the New York Rangers. With both teams streaking in opposite directions, the Oilers having gone a perfect 6-0 and the Rangers winless in their previous three outings (0-2-1), the outcome seemed rather predictable and it played out in exactly that fashion.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 16, 2015
While there is no shame in dropping a 3-2 decision to Henrik Lundqvist and company at Madison Square Gardens, it was the manner in which Edmonton lost which was so frustrating to watch. On an evening the Oilers were handed six opportunities on the man advantage, three of them coming over the final twenty minutes of a one-goal game, they were able to convert only one of those chances into a power play marker.
McDavid’s Absence Continues To Cause Problems
While the red-hot Taylor Hall continued on his torrid pace with a second period tally on the man advantage, Edmonton’s underachieving power play cost them any shot of extending their run to seven straight. Despite their impressive run of late, Todd McLellan’s side had gone just 2-for-16 on the power play in their six wins but it had yet to come back and bite them…that all changed last night.
Not surprisingly, the Oilers struggles on the man advantage happened to coincide with the departure of Connor McDavid from their starting lineup and in order for this group to stay in the playoff picture in the Western Conference, they are going to have to make teams pay for putting them on the power play. With the first overall selection of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft likely still four to six weeks away from returning to action, Edmonton will need to find a way to right-the-ship in his absence.
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We are now 32 games into the season and the Oilers sit in the middle of the pack with an 18.3% rating on the man advantage. While on the surface that is by no means an awful number, if you take the time to dig a little deeper into the totals, you will find just how far it has dropped off since No. 97 was taken out of the equation. Despite their recent climb up the Pacific Division ladder, this roster is still not good enough to win on a consistent basis without a productive power play.
As of this moment, Edmonton has gone 19-for-104 when they are up a man but have seen those numbers fall to 9-for-59 (15.3%) since losing McDavid to a broken collarbone against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 3rd. Meaning with the 18-year old in the lineup, the Oilers were 10-for-45 (22.2%)…which is the exact same percentage the Dallas Stars and their fourth ranked power play currently have. Not too shabby.
Injuries to Pouliot and Yakupov Have Also Hurt PP
Not convinced yet? Try this one on for size. If you remove Edmonton’s first four games of the year in which the team looked completely lost in the offensive zone, the power play ran at a 29% clip over their next nine outings before McDavid was sidelined. While there is no question we are talking about a rather small sample size, the fact of the matter is the Oilers were just starting click and had yet to have Jordan Eberle dress for a single game.
That all changed with McDavid’s departure and they were further hampered by injuries to Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov. In other words, McLellan had to go to battle without what had essentially become his second line and key contributors to the man advantage. With that being the case, we now see the likes of Matt Hendricks, Lauri Korpikoski and Mark Letestu seeing regular duty on the power play and the results speak for themselves.
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If the Edmonton Oilers can find a way to reverse this trend until Connor McDavid is healthy enough to return to action, and at the same time continue to receive solid netminding and be carried up front by the quartet of Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins they could very well end up playing a far bigger role in the Western Conference playoff race than anyone thought possible back in early November.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.