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The Goals Are Coming

For the Oilers, the goals aren’t coming easy. Will that change any time soon?

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs
Leon Draisaitl scored his first goal of the season in Toronto last night. He’ll be looking for more.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Goals are coming at a premium for the Edmonton Oilers so far this year. Through five games, the Oilers have scored 13 total goals, which puts them in the bottom third of the league averaging 2.6 goals a game. Two games against the Canadiens ending in a total of two goals for the Oilers will tend to bring those numbers down. Edmonton has exactly one game this year where they’ve crossed the three goal barrier, and that’s game 2 against Vancouver when they scored five.

Why are the Oilers having such trouble scoring goals? It’s a good question that could have a couple of answers. Maybe there’s some new faces who are still learning to gel with veteran players. Maybe the lack of a preseason and typical training camp is causing some kinks in the hose. Whatever the reason, I think there’s valid reason to be concerned for the time being. I also think that there’s even greater reason that these issues will work themselves out sooner than later.

I don’t think any of us would have figured Leon Draisaitl would have to wait until the fifth game of the season to score his first goal. We certainly wouldn’t have figured that the power play in which it was scored on would be so...bad after hovering around a 30% success rate in 2019-20. So, when are the goals coming? Soon. Here’s why:

  • The top two lines aren’t scoring at evens. That’s not going to last.

Let’s go to Sunil for this one.

Eight goals have been scored by four players who make up the top six. Those players are as follow:

  • Connor McDavid (3),
  • Kailer Yamamoto (2),
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2),
  • Leon Draisaitl (1).

Of those four, Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid each have a power play goal. In short, the Oilers top two lines are scoring an average of one goal at even strength per game. If this continues through game 10, I’ll revisit and temper my expectations a bit. Until then, I’m not going to lose too much sleep

  • As suspect as the top two lines have been, the bottom six have generated next to nothing.

You think the top six haven’t scored a whole bunch? Let me introduce you to some tumbleweeds. Josh Archibald scored a goal as the extra attacker on the ice in Edmonton’s 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs last night. The only other bottom six forward to score a goal at any time in the first five games was Devin Shore, and he did it shorthanded against the Canadiens.

I don’t expect the bottom six to be kicking out two or three goals per game, but it can only go up from here. Jesse Puljujärvi is currently sitting second on the club with a 1.25 XG/60. It’s only a matter of time before he finds the net, whether it’s on the third (or first) line.

  • The power play hasn’t been good. It’s a safe bet that this will change for the better.

Oh, the power play has been a giant slab of disappointment so far, but there’s good reason to think that it’s a blip on the radar. The Oilers are 3-for-21 with the advantage. Normally when I’m crowing about small sample sizes it’s because the team is doing something really well over a short period of time. As bad as things look, this is shaping up to be a good kind of regression to the norm. Three goals in twenty-one appearances is good for a 14.3% success rate, or a hit rate of one in every seven opportunities. Last season, the Oilers finished the regular season with an appetizing 29.5% success rate, and there’s plenty reason to think that it will climb from the depths of where it currently sits.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the loss of Oscar Klefbom is affecting the efficacy of the unit, but there’s just too much firepower with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins not to right itself. James Neal (12 PPG in 2019-20) could be back as soon as tomorrow versus Toronto, he could slide in for Alex Chiasson (0 points in five games) on the first power play unit.

  • So, when do the goals come?

There’s every reason to believe that the Oilers are going to start scoring some goals, and there’s good reason to believe that they’ll begin to do it sooner than later. The top six are good candidates to come around from their current output of one goal per game, the bottom six can’t continue to score zero goals forever. I’m not one to preach very much patience in a shortened season, but there’s good reason to think that the goals will come, and they’ll come soon.