Discipline, discipline and more discipline.
A lot is being made about the Edmonton Oilers‘ massive 7-0 blowout loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 4, but this series is far from over. Where there is doom and gloom amongst a crowd of individuals on the Edmonton bandwagon, there’s the reality that this is still very much a winnable series for the Oilers. What’s lost in the shuffle is that this is now a best of three, with potentially two games on home ice in front of a raucous crowd at Rogers Place where Edmonton is 26-13-4 through the regular season and playoffs.
For all this to happen though, the Oilers are going to have to find a way to stay out of the box and focus on scoring some goals. The Oilers are currently the most penalized team in the playoffs heading into a pivotal Game 5, and it’s affected every other area of their game because they’ve ruined their flow. Connor McDavid might be a damn good hockey player, but you can’t win a playoff game by saying hold my beer and watch us win by playing the entire game 5-on-4.
The Most Penalized Team in the Playoffs
The Oilers penalty kill (PK) hasn’t been horrendous, but after a disastrous Game 4, it’s fallen to 77.4 percent. It’s the seventh-worst PK among playoff teams since San Jose went 4-for-8 on the power play (PP) in that blowout.
The Sharks are feeding off getting under the skin of a young, inexperienced playoff team that doesn’t know what it takes to win in the postseason. Edmonton’s penalties aren’t just uncharacteristic, they’ve been downright lazy ones. When you break it down 12 of 22 have been unnecessary stick infractions.
EDMONTON’S PENALTY WOES THROUGH THE SERIES
|Delay of Game||Kassian (PPG)|
|High-Sticking||Kassian, Caggiula, Larsson, Lucic, Nurse (PPG)|
|Hooking||Caggiula (PPG), Russell (PPG)|
|Too Many Men||McLellan (Bench Minor)|
Leon Draisaitl (15 minutes), Patrick Maroon (eight), Zack Kassian (six) and Drake Caggiula (six) lead the way. Six Oilers are within the Top 50 in Playoff Penalty Minutes (PIM). On the flip side, only three Sharks (Melker Karlsson, Paul Martin, and Brent Burns) appear on that same list.
Everyone knows the Sharks PP wasn’t very good this season, but the Oilers have played with fire daring them to find a solution. They found it in Game 4, but it’s been otherwise stagnant throughout the series. In every other game combined the San Jose PP has gone 1-for-14 (7.1 percent).
PENALTIES BY SERIES
|Chicago Blackhawks||7||5||Nashville Predators|
|Minnesota Wild||12||11||St. Louis Blues|
|Anaheim Ducks||13||16||Calgary Flames|
|Edmonton Oilers||22||12||San Jose Sharks|
|Montreal Canadiens||13||12||New York Rangers|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||11||9||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Ottawa Senators||13||11||Boston Bruins|
This has been down right uncanny for the Oilers who were the seventh least penalized team in the regular season. The Sharks were third, and so far they’ve given Edmonton 12 PP opportunities in the series, which makes them the sixth-most penalized team in the playoffs, but essentially average.
In three of the eight series’ the team with the most penalties is trailing (Calgary, Chicago, and Minnesota). The Flames have already been eliminated, and it’s likely both the Blackhawks and Wild will be soon as well.
Penalties sink teams in the playoffs, and the Oilers need to be more responsible with their sticks and stay out of the extracurricular activities between the whistles.
Stay out of the box, and stop playing with fire.
Reigniting a Stagnant Offense
Penalties are one side of the problem and an inability to score is another. If you had predicted the Oilers would’ve scored just five goals in their first four games of the series, you should buy yourself a lottery ticket. Only the Blackhawks (two) have fewer playoff goals than the Oilers.
One key might be finding a way to get McDavid away from that Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun pairing that’s done an absolute number on him and rendered him virtually ineffective on the score sheet throughout the series.
Give the Sharks shutdown pairing some credit, they’ve caused McDavid to go scoreless in the last two games and held him to just two points in the entire series. But you can’t hold a player like McDavid down forever and he hasn’t had a three-game point drought all season.
Expect a massive breakout with the pressure amping up and the Oilers potentially two games away from elimination. Todd McLellan has once again reshuffled the Oilers’ offensive units with the biggest changes being reuniting McDavid with Draisaitl and swapping Maroon for Caggiula.
Secondary scoring also seems to be an issue as Edmonton has just one five-on-five goal in this series. The Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle line is a huge contributor to the negativity of that stat. The line has just one goal in the entire series and needs to be better.
In the regular season, the Oilers’ top two lines combined for 147 goals, the equivalent of 62.1 percent of Edmonton’s total offensive production. The rest of the lineup, including defense, produced just 90 goals (37.9 percent). If that second line doesn’t start helping, this series is over.
OILERS RE-SHUFFLE THE DECK
|Drake Caggiula||Connor McDavid||Leon Draisaitl|
|Milan Lucic||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Jordan Eberle|
|Patrick Maroon||Mark Letestu||Zack Kassian|
|Benoit Pouliot||David Desharnais||Anton Slepyshev|
This is still a winnable series for the Oilers. Edmonton just has to score more goals than San Jose in two games. It’s not an unaccomplishable task, they’ve done it twice already and can do it again.
San Jose is a hurting hockey club right now with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture still battling through injuries. Thornton’s a great PP forward, and the Oilers played right into his wheelhouse in Game 4. Limit penalties, and suddenly he’s not as effective. Of Thornton’s 15:35 in ice-time, 7:44 of it was on the PP and didn’t play much at 5-on-5.
Stay out of the box, and you keep Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture off the power play where they’ll burn Edmonton after some new found confidence in Game 4.
Maroon is playing injured and it’s quite apparent after he took a bump in Game 81 against the Vancouver Canucks. He hasn’t been the same since and after scoring 27 goals and 42 points, he’s been pointless in the playoffs and cold down the stretch with just two goals in his last 13 games. Edmonton’s going to need the Big Rig to break through his slump and injury woes to win this series.
Adversity is what builds championship teams and the Oilers are learning the lessons needed to take the next step. It’s now crunch time and a point where they can either answer the bell or fall apart. Inside that room, they’ll have to ask themselves if they have what it takes to win this series, or if it was just nice to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
Game 4 was an absolute disaster but mentally they just have to shelf it and forget about it. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Oilers play after arguably their biggest meltdown of the year.
Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.