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Kraken vs Oilers PREVIEW: Opportunism’s the Key to Beating McDavid

Oct 2, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Kraken forward Tye Kartye (52) skates against Edmonton Oilers defenseman Cam Dineen (85) and defenseman Cody Ceci (5) during the second period at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts:

  • The Time: 7 pm PST
  • The Place: Climate Pledge Arena
  • Place to Watch: ROOT-Sports Northwest, ESPN+/SportsNet+ out of market
  • Place to Listen: KJR 93.3-FM
  • An Opposing ViewpointCopper & Blue, For Oilers Fans

Know Your Enemy

To be frank, it’s hard not to know tonight’s enemy. What with their swift descent from Stanley Cup favorites to the pits of divisional standings, the Edmonton Oilers’ business has been the entire league’s business. Between two separate four-game losing skids, slumping stars, a crisis in the crease, and rumors swirling of coaching changes, the Oilers have hit a franchise’s worth of obstacles in just 12 games, going 2-9-1 in that span.

Edmonton is tied with the San Jose Sharks for worst points total in the league (5). It’s safe to say the Oilers are in a vulnerable position.

But off-ice theatricality shouldn’t distract opponents from on-ice production, the metrics of which are indicating their attack is a dominant force unrealized. Despite Edmonton’s hardship in the scoring department– they’ve owned only 38% of the total goals scored this season (30th) and have scored at a rate of 2.71 goals per game (28th)– the Oilers have controlled a league-leading 57.29% share of the total shot quality generated. By all accounts, Edmonton is doing more than enough to enjoy offensive success.

So what’s the hold up? Unlucky finishing. Edmonton’s been ridiculously unfortunate in all offensive situations (with a PDO sitting at .934), a pattern that will let up as regression takes its course. Eventually, the dam will break.

Edmonton offensive pressure heatmap versus finishing heatmap (Hockeyviz.com; markups added).

For now, the only weapon to Edmonton’s name is a theoretical strength. Shot quality advantages mean little if a team is completely unable to convert on them. Defensively, things might not look so bad if the tandem could pull itself together. Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner have a lot to do with the eight goals Edmonton has allowed above expected (the most in the league).

Game Preview

Two glaring weaknesses stand out that Seattle may be able to exploit: goaltending and the penalty kill.

Calvin Pickard is set to replace Campbell at the NHL level after the latter was assigned to the minors to work out consistency issues. Pickard’s a tried and true AHL goaltender whose numbers have yet to translate to the top level and maybe never will – he hasn’t played a game for the Oilers since the 2021-22 season, where he posted a 4.30 goals against average and .875 SV% in three appearances.

While Skinner has taken three starts in a row this season and he’ll enter tonight’s contest with a day’s rest, he’s started the last two consecutive games and five of Edmonton’s last six.

If Skinner takes the crease, his tendency to give surrender goals averaging 20 feet from the goal line is one fitting for Seattle’s own offensive habits– Kraken skaters fire an excess of shots from the faceoff circles, right around the 20-foot mark, and favor the left side of the ice, Skinner’s apparent weak side.

Stuart Skinner’s save percentage by region (NHL Edge) versus Seattle’s offensive pressure heatmap (HockeyViz.com).

Jay Woodcroft will be forced to choose a starter from two less-than-ideal options: a worn down Skinner, already leaky to begin with, or Pickard, who hasn’t seen the front lines in more than a year. Seattle, should they stick to their strong offensive habits, can take advantage of both.

Edmonton’s got an impressive 16.4 shooting % on their power play, ranked 10th in the league (23.3%), however Seattle’s power play sits at 26.2% (8th), a clear advantage against Edmonton’s 30th-ranked penalty kill (70.2%). The Oilers are the 10th-most penalized team in the league, and the Kraken have scored a power play goal in each of their last five games, a franchise record.

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