Principe on NHL: What’s wrong with the Oilers?

The Edmonton Oilers haven't scored a goal in two straight games.

It’s a question that’s being asked around Edmonton and the entire hockey world.

On Friday night, Edmonton hit what should be the lowest point of the season. In Nashville, they were beaten 6-0 by the Predators. A shocking result against a team that came into the game with the fewest goals scored in the NHL. If anyone is supposed to be winning 6-0 games it should be the Oilers.

At least that was the belief going into the season. The Edmonton Oilers will score goals, lots of them. It hasn’t worked out that way just yet. They have 54 goals on the season which, heading into play on Saturday night, was the fourth fewest in the league. Only the previously mentioned Predators along with San Jose and Minnesota have scored fewer.

It’s hard to imagine names like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov being attached to a team that’s not scoring. It was the one thing that Edmonton could count on this season. In fact, it’s the one thing that other teams seem solely focused on in game planning against the Oilers.

Every opponent heaps mounds of praise on the Oilers talent and then does everything humanly possible to prevent them from scoring. It’s become a frustrating dilemna which Edmonton has to find a way to work through.

Coach Ralph Krueger has said, ad nauseam this season, that there are certain things he feels his players, especially the ones with all the skill, have to do. They have to get pucks deep and get in on the forecheck.

It sounds like advice given to a fourth line, but it’s something Kruger has been preaching to his top two lines — shots, shots and more shots. Against Minnesota last Sunday, Edmonton went an entire period without a single shot on goal. The math is almost always in your favor in that the more you shoot, the more you score. Sounds like a simple formula and the Oilers have proven that it works. A franchise-record 56 shots and they scored 6 goals on Colorado — most shots and most goals.

Some stats don’t lie and I believe this is one of them. When Edmonton outshoots their opponent they are 5-1-1. When they are outshot they are 3-9-4 (one game they finished tied in shots and lost). That’s a pretty harsh contrast.

When your record is 8-11-5 there isn’t only a single issue or problem, but there is one that stands out. As Edmonton moves onto Chicago for a Sunday night game, they’re riding a season high five-game winless streak.

Five is a not so magical a number right now as in 5-on-5 goals. The Oilers have 27 at even strength, which is the lowest total in the league. In the beginning that wasn’t a concern as Edmonton’s powerplay was so hot it made it up for everything that ailed them elsewhere. However, the Oilers haven’t scored a power-play goal in five games. In fact, they haven’t even generated a man advantage in the last two games. It would be easy to blame it all on the referees but that can’t be the only answer.

The Edmonton Oilers are coming off goal-less games against Nashville and Detroit. The last time they were blanked in back-to-back games was Oct.25 and Oct.27, 2009. Players like Patrick O’Sullivan, Ryan Potulny and Gilbert Brule were on the team back then.

The names may have changed, but results haven’t. Edmonton has a half a season to fix their scoring, otherwise all the talent in the hockey world won’t be enough to make the playoffs a real possibility.

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