Sure, Connor McDavid scored all three of their goals, but it was still electrifying to see the Edmonton Oilers open their season with a 3-0 win against the Calgary Flames.
For those who saw red flags, the last week must have felt like retribution, as the Oilers dropped three straight, with their most recent loss (6-1 to the Ottawa Senators) marking a low point.
With that 1-3-0 record in mind and Leon Draisaitl on the shelf, spirits are low and frustrations might be high in Edmonton. Let’s dig deeper to see which patterns should continue and how much this boils down to bad luck.
Plenty of shots, but maybe the wrong guys shooting?
The Oilers lead the NHL in Corsi For rating with 59.42 percent, and Edmonton sports the classic signs of bad luck: they fall in the bottom five in PDO and team shooting percentage. (Fancy stats via Natural Stat Trick.)
The takeaway there is quite basic: more bounces are bound to go their way. Just consider McDavid alone: he hasn’t scored a goal since that thrilling hat trick to start the season.
A lot of those trends will end merely by playing more games.
That said, the distribution of shots on goal is a bit troubling, and it’s something that Oilers head coach Todd McLellan should address either through tweaking lines or his system (or both?).
Check out the Oilers’ top five players in shots on goal:
1. McDavid (19)
2. Oscar Klefbom (15)
3. Darnell Nurse (13)
4. Draisaitl (12 in three GP)
5. Adam Larsson (11)
Yes, three of the Oilers’ top five shooters are defensemen. McLellan pointed out the team’s most glaring offensive deficit, so far, to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal.
“We’re not getting enough from the wingers or our bottom six and if you’re not scoring (as a team), you can’t be giving up six (goals),” McLellan said.
Indeed, the Oilers need more from their supporting cast.
Most of those players should expect a rebound; the more frightening question is: how much can the Oilers really expect? Even in Milan Lucic‘s best days, he’s never been a volume shooter; his career average is well under two shots on goal per contest.
Ryan Strome hasn’t scored a point so far for the Oilers, but some of that might come down to a lack of opportunities. He’s averaging almost one fewer minute of ice time per game vs. his last season with the Islanders, which is a touch surprising since many expected this to be an opportunity for him to break through.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins simply needs to do more. While RNH has two goals so far, he’s only fired five SOG in four games. You can explain some of that away by explaining playmaking leanings, but when your team is struggling, sometimes a passer must be a bit more assertive, too.
Again, expect better things from RNH and Lucic in particular, not to mention Patrick Maroon, Kailer Yamamoto, and Jussi Jokinen. Even so, some of this might come down to the makeup of this team.
Depth can often be key for scoring in the NHL, and the Oilers have something to prove in that area.
Frustrations for Cam Talbot
Credit Edmonton Oilers workhorse Cam Talbot for accepting blame for his part in the Oilers’ 1-3-0 start, as the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones notes.
“I’ll find a way to fix it. I know I will because I’ve always done it before,” Talbot said. “We’re going to turn this around here, no doubt. It starts with me in net. Once I start making the saves I’m supposed to make, the guys in front of me can do what they’re supposed to do. It starts in net and we work our way out from there.”
If you want to look at the surest spot where things will improve for Edmonton, look to Talbot.
Much like a host of other NHL goalies, he’s off to a shockingly bad start. Talbot’s GAA is just under four (3.96) and his save percentage probably gives Grant Fuhr some unpleasant flashbacks (.880). Talbot’s numbers should rise considerably, even if he fails to match the heights of 2016-17.
In the meantime, the Oilers turn to Laurent Brossoit, who’s off to a solid start.
In most cases, the Oilers should settle things down.
Still, it’s important to remember that this team has Stanley Cup aspirations. For all the justifiable criticisms GM Peter Chiarelli receives, if he can identify issues during the season and address at least some of them with savvy “rentals,” then he’ll earn his place as the guy who lucked into having McDavid on his roster.
Things will get better. It’s just going to be a challenge when you consider how high they set the bar for themselves.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
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