Oilers Struggling Early With Scoring & Non-Existent Power Play

It has been a tough start to the 2019-20 season for the Edmonton Oilers. After three losses in the first four games, the team has to improve in many areas. One of those things is the power play. The poor result on the man advantage is something that has started to become a problem for the team that had the best power play in the NHL last season.

Oilers Are Just 2-for-18 on the Power Play

The Oilers are having a real hard time scoring goals on the man advantage. During the two games against the Montreal Canadiens, the Oilers had 10 powerplay chances without being able to score on a single one. Instead, they allowed the Habs to score two shorthanded goals.

The team that had the best power play in the NHL in over 40 years last season really can’t seem to get it right on the man advantage. Apart from the two goals in the second game against the Vancouver Canucks, the power play has so far been a total failure for the Oilers this season. Out of 18 chances, they have scored on only two of them.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins thinks the Oilers need to play better on the power play. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was a frustrated Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that was asked about the Oilers’ inability to score after the second game against the Canadiens on Monday night.

“We were moving around pretty well we were getting some good looks, but I think that when teams are pressuring you like that and things aren’t clicking, maybe we need to shoot the puck more to get rebounds and create chaos,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We had tons of opportunities on the power play and we got to find a way to put those in.”

Oilers’ Power Play Is Key to Season

With an 11.1 power play percentage, Edmonton is in the bottom half in the NHL so far this season. That is really bad for a team that relied heavily on its power play last season. They only ranked 14th when it comes to goals scored per game in 2019-20, but their 29.5% on the power play, on the other hand, was the best any team has accomplished since the New York Islanders in 1978-79 converted 31.2 percent of their power play chances. A result that was almost as good as the Canadiens team in 1977-78, which was able to turn 31.9% of their power play chances into goals, which is the NHL record.

Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid scored the most points on the power play in 2019-20. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Historically the teams with the best power play usually keep performing well in the man advantage the seasons after. The two seasons that followed after the Canadiens set their power play record, they had an efficiency of 28.3% and 29.1% on the power play. The same goes for the Islanders that had a power play percentage between 31.4 and 27.8 between 1977-78 and 1981-82 (with the exception of a dip during the 1979-80 season). If the Oilers want to accomplish something similar they have to improve their power play as soon as possible.

Power Play Woes Need to Be Fixed ASAP

With so many good players on the power play units one would believe that this is a problem that can be fixed. Maybe the new units just need some time to work properly since there have been some changes in the lineup, with Oscar Klefbom out for the season and James Neal yet to make his season debut.

Neal scored 17 power play points in 2019-20 and Klefbom contributed in a big way as the quarterback with 18 power play points, so they are, of course, missed in the lineup. With new players added to the man advantage squad, it might take a while for the Oilers to have a power play that works the way it should.

Tyson Barrie is new as a quarterback and, understandably, it will take some time for him to adjust to his new teammates. But let’s not forget that the best point producers are still in the lineup — Leon Draisaitl (44 points) and Connor McDavid (43 points) were the two players that scored the most points on the power play in the entire NHL in 2019-20. Nugent-Hopkins, who scored 24 power play points last season, is also still playing on one of the units, so there is certainly no doubt that the firepower is still there.

Tyson Barrie Edmonton Oilers
Tyson Barrie is a new addition to the Edmonton Oilers power play unit (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

So far, it hasn’t looked good, though. McDavid and Draisaitl have two power play points while Barrie and Nugent-Hopkins have one each. The Canadiens penalty kill was good in the two last games, but that is no excuse for not to being able to score on so many chances. In the first game against the Canucks the Oilers weren’t able to score on the power play either, so there is something that has not worked for the Oilers on the power play regardless of what team they have played against. 

Maybe it is just a question of time until the units start working well again. But, for a team that has been depending on the power play so much, as the Oilers did last season, one must hope that it is a moment that comes soon…hopefully tonight in the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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