Power Play Fuelling Edmonton Oilers Offence

Ryan Whitney
The Oilers have the 3rd ranked PP in the league (Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE)

The Edmonton Oilers do not have trouble scoring goals.

Not exactly surprising based on the firepower they have at their disposal to put out on the ice.

How those goals are being scored however, is raising some questions.

The issue is that almost all of their offence is coming from the power play.  So far they have scored 18 goals for on the season, with 11 of those goals via the man advantage.  That’s 61% of their offence, second only to Florida in terms of dependency in the league.

The success on the power play isn’t exactly shocking, considering the depth of offensive prowess they have to choose from.

Currently the two units breakdown like this;

1st Unit:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Shawn Horcoff, Justin Schultz.
2nd Unit:  Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner, Ryan Whitney.

What team wouldn’t like to be able to trot out 2 minutes worth of that kind of offence.  Many teams may have one unit to match them but very few have two that can do that much damage.

The Oilers PP currently sits third in the league in power play efficiency and have 11 goals scored.  The 11 goals are second only to San Jose.

The addition of Justin Schultz to the first group this year has been huge and has rounded out the unit.  A true puck moving defenceman and PP quarterback, he makes an already potent group extremely deadly.  RNH, Eberle and Hall move the puck with expert efficiency and can finish with the best.  Horcoff provides the net front presence as well as being strong in the faceoff circle, key for puck possession.

On the second unit, the obvious big addition is #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov.  A deadly sniper, a key to their success is looking for him for a one-timer from his off-side.  A natural fit with gifted passer Ales Hemsky and a guy like Ryan Smyth who has made a living in the crease, and a nice complement is emerging.  Add in Sam Gagner feeling comfortable playing the point and a healthy Ryan Whitney and there isn’t much drop off between unit number one and two.

The early power play success is undeniable, but it’s leading some people to question whether there is an issue with the fact it seems to be the sole source of offence.

Yakupov leads the team with 4 goals, 3 of which have been scored on the PP.  Jordan Eberle is next with 3, and only 1 scored 5 on 5.  Justin Schultz and Ales Hemsky have done all their scoring on the PP.

The Oilers have scored just 7 total goals at even strength this season, which has only Florida scoring less at 5 on 5 across the league than the Oilers.

The year is just seven games young, and those numbers will no doubt balance out to some degree over the course of a season.  However, it is not a new situation for the team as they faced similar issues last season.  At the end of 82 games, they sat 22nd in goals scored at even strength, but 3rd in PP goals scored. Last year 26% of their offence came from the power play.  Only Florida (27%) had a higher percentage.

That is not to say there should be correlations made between this season and the Oilers 29th place finish last year.  After all, they are sitting at 4-2-1 and have the bulk of the season to address their 5 on 5 issues.  What it does suggest is just how deadly a weapon their power play is to have.

Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall don’t see a major issue:

“When you’re struggling five-on-five it’s great to have that. The five-on-five goals will come, but in the meantime if we’re scoring (power-play goals) and we’re winning games you don’t have to worry about it.” – Eberle

“We feel that if we take our power-play game into our five-on-five game eventually it’s just going to turn out for us,” Hall said.

With the improvements made to the roster from last year, there is far more confidence that the Oilers even strength play will round into form.  One of the biggest issues last season was a lack of puck movement from the defence, especially moving the puck out of their own end.

The addition of Justin Schultz, an emerging Jeff Petry in the lineup for a full season and a hopefully healthy Ryan Whitney should drastically improve the puck moving abilities.

The insertion of Yakupov in the second line is also key as it makes the offence that much deeper, and more difficult for opposing teams to match up and contain the scoring.

The same reason that the Oilers are getting their power play opportunities is the same reason their 5 on 5 game will eventually come around, and that is pure speed. 

With one of the youngest, fastest lineups in hockey they are hard to contain on most nights, especially on the rush.  Teams are forced to take penalties on many nights when trying to corral the young forwards.

With another year of maturity from the roster and the addition of more speed in Schultz and Yakupov, it won’t be long before the Oilers are just as dangerous 5 on 5.

The good thing for the Oilers is that their power play is taking care of business allowing the rest of the offence to find its footing.

When it does come around it could be scary for opposing goaltenders.