Oilers’ Power Play Keeping Team Afloat
By Kathryn Uggerholt
The Edmonton Oilers have found themselves in a place they know all too familiar over the past few seasons — hovering around the bottom of the NHL standings. With only two wins in their last 10 games, the team has 33 points to place them 26th overall in the league, and 13th in the West. Their current placement in the standings is troubling after getting off to such a great start to the season.
The key to the Oilers offense has been their surprisingly successful power play. Surprising may not be the right word, but they did finish with the League’s 27th ranked power play (14.5%) last season, scoring only 44 power play goals.
This year has been a different story, as only two teams have a better man-advantage percentage. Edmonton’s power play is ranked 3rd (20.7%), with only the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators succeeding on a more consistent basis. The Oilers are also third in power play goals scored with 30, the same amount as the Pittsburgh Penguins. The only teams ahead of them are the Canucks with 36 goals, and the Philadelphia Flyers with 32.
A fiery power play is due in part to the dynamic “Kid Line” of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle. The trio, whose combined age is only 59, has combined for 16 of the club’s 30 power play goals.
Sophomore forward Eberle has scored the most man advantage goals of the three with seven, which also ranks him 5th in the league. He also has six assists on the power play to give him 13 points, or a third of his overall points, in his 3:40 average man advantage ice time per game. Eberle is also riding a six-game point streak, which dates back to the December 15th game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Prior to the current streak, Eberle had been on another six-game point streak that was snapped when the team was shut out by the Calgary Flames on December 9th.
Hall is also in the NHL’s top 15 players in power play goals scored with six. The winger has actually recorded more power play goals than he has scored at even strength (four).
While his total of three power play goals doesn’t place him among the leaders, Nugent-Hopkins is second in the league in power play assists to Florida Panther’s defenseman Brian Campbell, and fourth in power play assists just behind the Sedin twins and Claude Giroux. The rookie has only three goals on the power play but 15 assists. Having logged an average of 3:39 of power play TOI per contest, Nugent-Hopkins has posted the team’s highest ratio of man advantage points at 51.4% (18/35).
The Oilers have many ingredients in place with which to win games, but they have not been successful as of late. The major difference in the team’s results has been the rise in goals-against average — from a microscopic 1.5 goals per game allowed over the first 14 games (21 goals), at which point they were 9-3-2, to the current 2.77 (100/36). That means over the course of the past 22 contests, Edmonton has yielded 79 goals, or an unacceptable 3.59 GAA. Not so coincidentally, the Oilers have gone 6-15-1 in the last 22 outings.
For Edmonton to get back on track, a more defensive-conscious effort is necessary, along with better play while five-on-five. Until those adjustments are made, one can only hope the power play continues to produce in the interim.
David Strehle contributed to this story