Early into the 2020-21 season, the Edmonton Oilers power play has been nothing at all like the one that led the league in production last year. A group that had the best man-advantage production in decades, an example of just how bad it looks so far this season, the Montreal Canadiens gave the Oilers seven chances on the power play on Monday night and the Oilers capitalized on none of them.
It’s not just the power play that is struggling either. The Oilers have been out-chanced and out-scored over the first four games of the season and things are starting to get worrisome early. As such, there’s some serious consideration going on to switching things up. The team and the head coach just isn’t at that point yet.
As the team took their first stake after arriving in Toronto, numerous reports on Wednesday morning was that the Oilers are sticking with the same top unit power play of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Alex Chiasson and Tyson Barrie. It’s a group that could perhaps use a kick in the pants, but also a group that is so immensely talented, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be kept off the scoresheet for long.
A group that is 2 for 18 to start the year, something’s got to give. Whether it’s the number of shots being taken, the urgency to get the puck on net, who controls the pace… anything has to be better than what the Oilers have been doing. The team was focused on it and there’s an expectation that they’ll be some additional urgency in their first opportunity Wednesday night.
What About 5-v-5?
There are questions in Edmonton as well about how long head coach Dave Tippett will wait to reunite the line of Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto. This was one of the hottest lines in hockey last season but the coach split the trio for the play-in round — an experiment that ended in disaster. Could it be time to see if there’s still magic in this group?
At the same time, it’s only going to be a matter of when Tippett decides to unite McDavid and Draisaitl, not if. Naturally, as the Oilers struggle, it will be everything Tippett has to remain patient and the easy fix is putting his two best players out there and hoping they can ignite a spark to get the team going.
Whatever it takes, should the Oilers go down 1-4 on the season, they’re in real trouble.
Oilers Have a Lousy Track Record When Down Early
Remember, every game lost is like a four-point swing in the new North Division and the history of the Oilers franchise if they are below .500 through the first four games is that they’ll miss the playoffs.
Only two times since the 2012-13 season have the Oilers made it out of the regular season when they’re not above .500 early.
Wednesday Game Notes:
It appears the Oilers will stick with their forward lines but the defense will see some changes again. Ethan Bear slots back in and William Lagesson comes out after being hurt in the game against the Canadiens on Monday. Bear and Nurse will be paired together again.
A bit surprisingly, the Oilers are not giving Evan Bouchard a look. Despite their struggling power play and despite the chances Kris Russell leaked against in his first appearance of the season, the Oilers are keeping Russell in with Barrie on the team’s second pair.
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