Despite stumbling into the playoffs in one of the worst ways possible, the Winnipeg Jets have been all systems go so far through three games. They are up 3-0 and even won games without Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nikolaj Ehlers. On the other side of things, this couldn’t be more of a disaster for the Edmonton Oilers. Game 3 summed things up pretty well. The Oilers blew a 4-1 lead in a matter of six minutes and went on to lose in overtime. A massive talking point has been around how well the Jets have shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. However, we knew that had to be the game plan heading into things. What really needs to change if the Oilers want any chance of coming back is that the Edmonton Oilers depth players need to step up.
Edmonton Oilers Depth Is Non-Existent
McDavid and Draisaitl Getting Their Looks
The obvious area of improvement for the Oilers to come back and win this series is McDavid and Draisaitl taking it over. While even that wasn’t enough on Sunday night, the Oilers can’t be worried about that. They are too good to routinely be shut out like they were through the first two games. It is also very fair to say they have been generating their chances at 5v5 too.
So far in this series, at All Strengths, when Draisaitl has been on the ice the Oilers have generated 6.77 expected goals for (xGF). McDavid is at 6.32. Now, they do play a bunch together, especially on the power play so it’s not 12 expected goals total. However, this is a crazy number for three games, and they only have three goals to show for it. This is also why advanced stats in a small sample size need to be taken into account, as a hot goalie or bad shooting luck can offset them. Still, with the two generating this many chances, they are bound to turn into goals if they keep playing the same way.
What About the Depth?
The Edmonton Oilers depth is where things need to change if they want any chance of winning. Yes, it needs to work in tandem with the big guys scoring. However, there is much more faith in McDavid and Draisaitl finding the back of the net. The biggest issue is that we haven’t seen the depth carry things. Edmonton has won just two times this year and Draisaitl and McDavid were held scoreless.
To say that is an issue would be an understatement. No other top team in any division has that kind of trouble. In fact, the best teams have two or three elite players and another five or six really good players you need to worry about all over the lineup. The issue for Edmonton is they can’t seem to find that. Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto have both been great stories this season. However, when off of a line with McDavid and Draisaitl, it hasn’t quite been the same. If they want to put the two together, a second line led by someone like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the key. That way, if the top line is taking most of the matchups, the second line can come out and score too. Without a secondary scoring option, there is no hope in the playoffs.
Bottom-Six Is a Real Issue
Now for the massive question mark. Can the bottom-six of the Oilers do anything to help this series? If not, it’s likely all but over. If we want to call the “top-six” of Edmonton McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, and Zack Kassian (the sixth man can rotate but he has played the fifth-most with Draisaitl and McDavid so far), the stats don’t shake out very well for Edmonton.
In three games, the top two lines have scored four goals. Three of them from Draisaitl and McDavid, and one from Puljujarvi. The bottom two lines have managed to score just one goal in over nine periods of hockey. That simply put is not good enough. The Jets on the other hand have seen contributions from all kinds of depth options. Nate Thompson, Tucker Poolman, Dominic Toninato, Mathieu Perreault, and Andrew Copp are all players that would be considered bottom-of-the-roster players. That is not a slight against any of them, they can be extremely effective at what they do. In fact, you can argue they have been the difference in this series.
Yes, the big guys for Winnipeg have put up some points too. But the stark contrast in what each team’s depth has brought is really making the difference so far. When down 3-0, you are going to need everything going your way. It won’t be good enough for McDavid and Draisaitl to do everything on their own if Edmonton wants a shot at coming back.