Oilers @ Rangers Play Notes: Score First – OILERSNATION


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There are some stats you can manipulate to make your point more valid, but scoring first isn’t one of them. The teams that score first win more often. In the last five seasons, only five teams have managed to have a points percentage above 50%, essentially one team per season. It doesn’t matter if you are a good, average or bad team. Score first more often and your chances of winning increase dramatically.

– The Washington Capitals lead the NHL with 48 points. They are 16-4-3 (.696P%) when they score first and they are 4-2-5 (.364P%) when they allow the first goal.

The Winnipeg Jets are 16th in the NHL. They are 11-2-2 (0.733P%) when they score first and 5-9-3 (0.295%) when they don’t.

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The Montreal Canadiens occupy the 31st. They are 5-4-3 (.417P%) when they score first and they are 2-19-1 (.091P%) when the opposition scores first.

– The St. Louis Blues are the only team with a better P% in allowing the first goal. The Blues are 10-4-4 (0.556P%) when they score first and 9-5-1 (0.600) when they give up first. These are the outliers. The rest of the NHL is much better when it scores first.

– The Oilers are no exception. In fact, they’re the only team in the NHL that didn’t suffer a loss when they scored first. They are perfect 10-0. The problem is, they have scored the fewest times of any NHL team first. They lit the lamp first in just 31.2% of their matches. And it’s been a lot worse recently, with Edmonton only scoring the first goal four times in its last 23 games, which equates to a horrific 17.3% of total games.

– How do they fix it? There is an easy answer. They have to play faster. Edmonton isn’t moving the puck fast enough. I find far too often that they just kick the puck down when no one is chasing or when they have possession in the defensive zone and simply return it to the ice. It is a problem. The other is their ability to deliver goals. Edmonton can self-destruct as well as any team in the NHL. When they make a mistake, it’s a 10-bell mistake. And a lot of times that comes after they’ve played well for five or 10 minutes, but then they make a huge decision with or without the puck, and all of a sudden they’re behind. Until they figure out how to be more mentally and emotionally ready to play, they will find themselves chasing after the game. And that’s not a recipe for winning.

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– The Rangers shut out Tampa Bay 4-0 yesterday. They did so without Artemi Panarin who was placed on the COVID protocol. He won’t be playing tonight and neither will starting goalie Igor Shesterkin. Well, I guess he won’t be playing in quick succession after getting his second shutout of the season yesterday. He only started once in his consecutive nights career. The Oilers will therefore likely see replacement Alexandar Georgiev. It’s a big break as Shesterkin was one of the best in the NHL with a .936Sv% in 20 starts and Georgiev has a .902Sv% in 11 starts. When you’re fighting as badly as the Oilers, any potential weakness is a good thing. We’ll see if the Oilers can take advantage of it.

– Edmonton scored six goals against Georgiev in a 6-5 overtime win in Edmonton on November 5. Edmonton trailed 1-0 just 1:53 in that game and trailed 4-1 at 6:56 of the second period before coming back to win. The Rangers are the fifth-best NHL record since that loss at 15-6-1, so Edmonton can’t expect a miraculous comeback again. They need to be aggressive from the first face-off and bring the play to the Rangers, rather than waiting to lose a goal before starting to play.

– I’ve seen a lot of them suggest the Oilers should replace Dave Tippett. I understand why many think a change in coaching is necessary, but does it matter? I think it’s a mistake to try to compare the Oilers to Vancouver. The Canucks brought in Bruce Boudreau and the Canucks have played really well since. However, the day he got hired I said he was in a good position to be successful because the top Canucks players weren’t playing well back then. Now they are, and the addition of a new trainer looks good. But Edmonton’s top players currently sit at the top and second in scoring in the league. What more can they do with a new coach? The Flyers fired their head coach and promoted assistant coach Mike Yeo and the results were no different.

– Will a new coach suddenly make the goalkeeper more consistent? Will he make the last six better offensively and defensively? Perhaps, but it is far from certain. I think if the Oilers don’t get a win tonight or Wednesday in Toronto, the heat under Tippett’s siege will intensify. No doubt about it. The NHL is poised to win and the Oilers had to be better than the wildcard spot they currently hold. Tippett has to take some responsibility, but the management and the players too for their performances so far this season. They have to be better, and scoring first would go a long way to rectifying that.

– A new coach might have a different message, and that might be enough to get the group going again. However, I feel that Ken Holland will be patient. His record of dismissal of coaches during the season bears witness to this. He has never fired a coach during the season. He will be patient, but if the recent losing slippage persists for a few more weeks, he may have no choice but to take a step. If the players like Tippett, then they have to play better if they want him to stay. It’s easy to blame one person and look for a scapegoat, but there isn’t a single person responsible for the Oilers’ recent game. It’s total teamwork. But the harsh reality is that the GM cannot change all the players, and often the coach takes one for the team. I don’t think Holland gives it serious thought yet, but with every loss the tension mounts.

– I would play Warren Foegele or Brendan Perlini instead of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Devin Shore doesn’t have the same attacking potential as these two.

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– Edmonton has had just four power-play advantages in its last four games. And I don’t think the officials missed too many calls from opposing teams. The Oilers just haven’t put opposing players in a position to take penalties. The Oilers have been on the perimeter far too often lately. Usually when you play fast and move the puck quickly it puts teams in more difficult positions to defend and that’s when the penalties happen. Edmonton can’t just wait for a power play. They need to put the Rangers on the defensive and force them into bad positions.

– A current goaltender analyst shared this about Smith: “He’s the hardest working goaltender who finds a way to look good when he contributes losses. He made two superb overtime saves against the Devils, but allowed three weak goals. You can’t use free time as an excuse. It needs to be more consistent. We’ll see if Smith or Mikko Koskinen (I’m assuming Koskinen) takes the start tonight. Whoever it is, he can’t afford a weak goal. The Oilers are just too fragile to get over that right now.

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