Connor McDavid-to-Leon Draisaitl more lethal than ever this year on Edmonton Oilers power play


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Game Day 44: Oilers vs Habs

The chemistry between Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the Edmonton Oilers power play only continues to grow.

Can they unleash their magic against the Montreal Canadiens tonight? I like their odds.

Last year, on the NHL’s best power play Draisaitl unleashed 31 Grade A one-timer blasts on the power play on net in 71 games. McDavid directly set him up on 13 of those 31 one-timers.

This year they’re connecting even more often.,

Draisaitl has launched 22 one-timer blasts on the power play in 43 games. McDavid has directly fed him on 16 of those 22 one-timers.

McDavid is having a bit more success in finding Draisaitl for that deadly shot, but there could be one additional reason for that success, the effectiveness of new power play quarterback Tyson Barrie as a shooter.

As Sportsnet commentator Kevin Bieksa noted on the weekend, the bread and butter of the Oilers power play is McDavid setting up  Draisaitl with a seam pass, but it takes certain conditions to create that shot: “The problem is if nobody is shooting the puck from the point the four penalty killers are going to sit nice and tight and these seams aren’t going to be available… Every once in awhile Barrie has to force these shots from the point, from the top. Even though they don’t go through, they’re for a purpose, to set up these seams, so when he does score here this is an added bonus (Barrie’s power play goal vs Winnipeg)… He doesn’t have a Shea Weber, a Chris Pronger, a Sheldon Souray type of shot. He’s got a good shot. He’s on the power play because he’s a great distributor, he’s got great poise with the puck, he gets the puck to McDavid and Draisaitl.”


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Klefbom vs Barrie

I have no issue at all with the way Oscar Klefbom ran the Oilers power play last year. Klefbom knew his role well: to get the puck and pass it over to McDavid and Draisaitl, right on the tape, right in stride. Almost always he did that.

Barrie is playing the exact same minutes as Klefbom on the power play, 3.7 per game, and he’s taking about the same rate of shots, 8.8 per 60 minutes of power play time for Klefbom last year compared to 8.3 per 60 for Barrie this year. But Barrie is scoring at a higher rate, 1.1 goals per 60, compared to 0.5 goals per 60 for Klefbom. Barrie also has more first assists, some of them coming on tipped shots, 2.3 power play points per 60, compared to 1.3 per 60 for Klefbom last year.

Klefbom lacked a strong shot on the power play, in part because he was less able to walk the line and get a puck through on net, in part because Barrie appears to have a quicker release.

As for the Oilers power play as a whole, it’s about the same as it was last year. It’s creating a slightly higher rate of Grade A chances but slightly few goals, perhaps due to a bit less puck luck.

This year compared to last year, when it comes to making major contributions on Grade A chances on the power play:

McDavid, this year, 0.94 per two power play minutes, last year, 0.85 per two.

Draisaitl, 0.74 this year, 0.72 last year.

Chiasson, 0.80 this year, 0.63 last year

Puljujarvi, 0.62 this year, compared to 0.47 for James Neal last year

RNH, 0.48 this year compared to 0.53 last year


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Barrie, 0.29 this year compared to 0.23 for Klefbom last year

Tonight’s game

This in from Bob Stauffer of the Oilers:









My take

1.  Big test for Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones who have struggled with aggressive forechecking teams like Montreal.

2. I like the Oil’s third line here as Alex Chiasson is smart strong positional defender. Edmonton has plenty of options for a checking line, but this one might be the best bet, with Jujhar Khaira at centre and Josh Archibald on the wing.

3. With this same line-up the Oilers were able to get 9 Grade A chances against Winnipeg, while giving up only three. Can Edmonton replicate that performance against Montreal, a team that has given them trouble? It will be a major challenge.

P.S. The Bakersfield Condors have signed Vincent Desharnais to a two-year #AHL contract extension beginning with the 2021-22 season. Desharnais is a gigantic d-man with huge wingspan who can play a bit. He’s also tough. He’s becoming a solid AHL level depth d-man.


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