Oilers’ Offence Will Fuel Dominant Playoff Run

After a painful late third-period loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their first-round series, the Edmonton Oilers stormed back and dominated offensively as we knew they could do in the regular season. Since playoffs are a much tighter style of game, it wasn’t expected that they would have two outbursts so soon into postseason action, but it has fueled their playoff resurgence and has them on the right track.

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The offence isn’t just coming from one place, either. 16 of the 19 skaters who have played at least one game for the Oilers have a point, and the team has scored in bunches to stun the Kings through three games.

Oilers’ 1st Line Shines

The Oilers’ first line has been something to marvel at since Evander Kane has found a permanent home alongside Connor McDavid. He is the first legitimate scoring winger the Oilers have had in a long time that allows McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to play on separate lines.

Kane had 22 goals and 39 points in 43 games this season, and he and McDavid lead the NHL in playoff points thus far with six apiece. Jesse Puljujarvi, the third man on that line, hasn’t done poorly and has picked up a goal and an assist, one coming in each of the past two games. McDavid knew he needed to help get Puljujarvi’s confidence back in the scoring department and set him up with a perfect pass in Game 2.

Connor McDavid Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid and Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

In three games, the top line has combined for seven goals and seven assists. McDavid has played very well, and the mid-season Kane addition just keeps looking better and better as he has five playoff goals, including a hat trick in Game 3 (from ‘In playoffs, Evander Kane’s game makes headlines as Oilers take control of series’, Associated Press, May 7, 2022). The Kings have found no answer for this line, and neither had any of the teams the Oilers played down the stretch. Despite how good the rest of the team has been, the Oilers will only go as far as their top line and stars take them.

Oilers’ Depth Scoring

I would include everyone who isn’t in the top-six as depth, regardless of if they play on the power play. With that said, the Oilers have only gotten three goals from their depth in three games, but it’s better than other teams can say so far and better than the Oilers have gotten in the past.

The goals have come from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is playing as the third line centre, and Ryan McLeod, who is the fourth line centre. Nugent-Hopkins scored his first two and only goals of this postseason in the 8-2 win over the Kings in Game 3 in a span of 81 seconds to lock the game up. Nugent-Hopkins has added two assists, while McLeod recorded one. Among the other four bottom-six wingers, all but Warren Foegele have assisted on a goal.

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Derick Brassard and Devin Shore haven’t suited up for a game yet, and if the Oilers continue to play very well offensively as they have the past two games, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Josh Archibald was cleared to play games in the U.S., so he got into Games 2 and 3, where he has had tons of energy.

If the forward depth can at least continue to score at a rate of a goal per game, the Oilers’ top two lines are more than capable of handling the rest of the offence, and it will likely mean the Oilers’ depth is outplaying the Kings’ depth.

Defencemen in on the Scoring

The Oilers’ defence scoring was very underrated this season. Evan Bouchard, Darnell Nurse, and Tyson Barrie all topped 35 points, and they had five defencemen record at least 20 through all the injuries the back end suffered this season. Though they don’t have an elite scoring defenceman yet, like how Roman Josi, Cale Makar, or Victor Hedman are, the contributions have been spread out.

Evan Bouchard. Edmonton Oilers
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Bouchard broke out this season for 43 points after playing just 21 games in two previous seasons combined. He led the Oilers in points by a defenceman, followed closely by Barrie with 41 and Nurse with 35. This series has seen Bouchard be a big contributor with assists, as he has already recorded five and is third on the team in playoff points. Cody Ceci has three assists, while Nurse scored a big shorthanded goal in Game 2.

Related: Oilers’ Trade Candidates Barrie & Kassian Can Boost Value in Playoffs

With 40 goals from defencemen this season, expect the Oilers to start getting some goals from the blue line, and it will make a difference in games soon.

Oilers’ Special Teams

The Oilers are 5/11 on the power play in their first series and have scored as many shorthanded goals as the Kings have scored power-play goals. That’s six goals in total by the Oilers from their special teams, while the Kings have just six goals in total.

The Oilers are much better at five-on-five under Woodcroft, as he has given the depth more opportunities and generally made it better. Regardless, if the Oilers can produce offensively on the penalty kill, their power play is at a level it was at to begin the season when the team looked unbeatable despite poor goaltending.

The first power-play unit is one of the best in the league and has been with some of their main fixtures for a few seasons now. As for their second unit, they have stepped up and gotten more time on the ice and opportunities to produce, paying off. All 10 power-play regulars have at least one point in the playoffs thus far, with second unit players Kailer Yamamoto and Bouchard tied in first with two each.

Many other factors will go into a long and successful playoff run for the Oilers in 2022, but offence goes a long way, especially when production can come from anywhere and the defensive side of the game is at least average. The offence has been dominant to this point, and for at least the rest of the first round, there’s no reason to think it will slow down now that the Oilers are in the Kings’ heads.

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