The Connor McDavid era in Edmonton is in full flight. And with that comes one of the most lethal power plays the NHL has ever seen. Anchored by the dynamic duo of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and complimented by facilitating artists, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Tyson Barrie, the Oilers’ power play is an unstoppable force.
Power Play Leading the Way
The Edmonton Oilers have topped the league in power-play efficiency the last two seasons and have done so with relative ease. Last season’s power play struck at a staggering 27.6%, which followed a ridiculous 29.5% in the 2019-2020 season. These numbers are defying the norm and the 29.5% is the highest the league has seen since the 1978-79 season where the Islanders posted 31.2%.
So the question being asked is, can the Oilers’ power play break the single-season record of 31.9% held by the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens?
Edmonton’s power play is so good that some may wonder if they should even bother deploying a second unit. Just run Mcdavid and the boys out there for a full two-minute special.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit much, but people are definitely thinking about it.
This Seasons’ Approach
Here’s what assistant coach Glen Gulutzan had to say at the start of the season about his two units.
“I can say with some certainty that you’re probably going to see a little bit more of a second unit this year at times. That’s by design,” Gulutzan noted. “Talking with our top guys, we want to make sure we’re spreading everything out a little bit and getting guys a lot of touches on the puck.”
So that’s what’s being said but that doesn’t mean that’s what will happen. NHL players these days have elite fitness levels. A star player can stay out for a full two minutes of power-play time. And according to dailyfaceoff.com, the Oilers will do just that and keep Hopkins, Draisaitl, and McDavid on both the first and second unit.
Regardless of how Edmonton’s coaches decide to use their stars, the first unit will be getting the bulk of ice-time to generate its scoring chances.
So far this season, the Oilers have not been spreading out the power play ice-time. Let’s take a look at how the ice-time has been divided up for their first 12 power plays.
Power Play Unit 1
Leon Draisaitl 4:13
Connor McDavid 4:10
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 3:50
Tyson Barrie 3:35
Zach Hyman 2:39
Jesse Puljujarvi 1:55
Darnell Nurse 1:23
Evan Bouchard 0:47
Warren Foegele 0:43
Kyle Turris 0:37
Zack Kassian 0:36
Derek Ryan 0:12
Kailer Yamamoto 0:08
As you can see, the ice-time is clearly lopsided. And, frankly, as it should be.
What we’ve seen so far from the Oilers’ man-advantage is that they are rotating players from the “second unit” into the first one but never fully changing all five skaters.
This scheme is clearly working as the Oilers have converted on 5 of their 12 power play opportunities thus far. This hot-start has people wondering, can the Oilers be the first team to break the “30 mark” since 1978 and perhaps even break the single-season record.
So Why Now
What makes the Oilers’ power play so efficient—other than the obvious of having the two best players on the planet—is how many different looks it can give you. Edmonton has used the classic method of getting shots from the point to generate traffic in front to create chances. They have used Draisaitl down low in the corner as a “bumper-man” to either pass the puck to the slot or drive the net himself. McDavid has been put on the point and quarterbacked the group. He draws the play to himself and then dishes the puck to an open man for an easy finish. And this year McDavid has added another weapon to his arsenal—a one-timer from the right side.
McDavid showed off his new trick in a 5-2 win against the Calgary Flames. Setup on the right side of the hash marks, McDavid took a feed from Darnell Nurse and blew one (or fluffed one, as Draisaitl would say) by the Flames netminder.
— Dyl (@dhockey13) October 17, 2021
With so many ways to score, opponents have an incredibly difficult time finding ways to stop this group. And that right there is why this Oilers team can break the power-play record. They have a power-play average of 28.6% over the past two seasons and have now added Hyman and a McDavid one-timer to the mix.
Edmonton will march along this season with arguably its deepest roster since drafting McDavid. A finish atop of the Pacific Division is what’s expected and the effectiveness of this power play will certainly go a long way in making that happen.
A lack of offence surely won’t be a problem this year, especially with the boost from their power play. But as much as Edmonton fans are used to regular-season success, it is the elusive playoff success that fans are truly after. Team records are all fine and dandy but at the end of the day, Stanley Cups are what ultimately matter. And the Edmonton Oilers’ power play will lead the way for success.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images