Last night’s Ducks-Oilers game was quite a strange one. After a dull first two periods that saw one power play goal from each team, you never expected a high-scoring 5-3 win by the road team in the end, but that’s how the game finished in the end.
To start the scoring in the third period, Edmonton had the last of its five power play opportunities thanks to great skating by Connor McDavid that led to Jakub Silfverberg holding him to prevent a goal-scoring opportunity. All game, Edmonton was trying to generate rebounds off of John Gibson from the right hand half-wall or behind the net of all places and it paid off a second time as it squeaked toward’s Mark Letestu’s vicinity for him to tap home the rebound.
Letestu’s career is quite a strange one. The 31-year old veteran may play like a fourth line forward type thanks to his horrific on-ice production (according to Domenic Galamini’s HERO charts, Letestu is below the 10th percentile when it comes to generating on-ice shot attempts and having shot attempts go in his favor at even strength), but it is quite amazing to see how 30 of his 80 goals have come from the man-advantage. Some of the best of the best like Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Wayne Simmonds have better ratios, but Letestu’s share of his power play goals compared to his overall total is also better than the likes of Corey Perry and Patrick Kane. You could only find David Jones and Shawn Matthias as perfect comparisons to Letestu when it comes to their roles on the power play with so little playing time at even strength.
However, Letestu would never have gotten those goals if it wasn’t for the work of the rest of Edmonton’s skaters on the man-advantage. Despite going 2-for-12 in the San Jose series, only the Pittsburgh Penguins have generated more than the Oilers’ 117.0 power play shot attempts per hour according to Natural Stat Trick. With their two goals last night, Edmonton finally been rewarded for their persistence.
That being said, their production would not have been possible if not for Anaheim’s lack of avoidance from staying out of the penalty box. While I have complained about Edmonton’s early postseason problems and Washington’s issues all season long of taking penalties, no team has done it worse all year than Anaheim. During the regular season, Randy Carlyle’s men were on the penalty kill 281 times in comparison to the 251 that they drew. This also included being on the penalty kill 16 times in their series sweep of the Calgary Flames and while they did give up six power play goals in the process, it is not that far off from the 4.54 that they were expected to give up according to corsica.hockey. In fact, Anaheim’s 122 shot attempts per hour while shorthanded is only worse than the Columbus Blue Jackets this postseason. In other words, that is being compared to the team that had to suffer through Pittsburgh’s lightning quick attack.
This is very uncharacteristic for the Ducks, who despite losing their discipline, still managed to have a +6 special teams plus-minus thanks to their efficient penalty kill unit (a fourth-best rate of 84.7%) and their ability to manage a league-average 98.0 shot attempts against per hour in those situations. Along with that, Gibson was the league leader in save percentage among goaltenders with over 200 shorthanded minutes according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. While the Ducks have proven that they can be capable of saving themselves from hemorrhaging penalties, they are facing a completely different beast in Edmonton’s power play unit.
So if Anaheim can get the game back to even strength, the Ducks showed that they can be fine. Both of their third period goals came from that situation thanks to carried entries from the right wing that resulted in rebounded shots feasted upon Silfverberg and Patrick Eaves, respectively. After having almost the same score-adjusted shot attempts in two periods, Ryan Getzlaf and Co. really pour it on the Oilers with a 24.2 to 9.8 adjusted shot attempt advantage, including a 8.1 to 1.1 advantage in adjusted high-definition chances according to Natural Stat Trick.
If anything the Andrej Sekera-Kris Russell pairing was massively getting pinned in their own zone in comparison to Anaheim’s second pair of Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson. If games were solely decided on shots instead of goals, round one of the Kesler vs. McDavid matchup was a draw with each getting nine on-ice shot attempts. That led to the rest of the Ducks lines getting the upper hand on the Oilers opposition. In particular, Corey Perry’s line made everyone forget how great Zach Kassian and Drake Caggiula were last series and reminded everyone of Letestu’s limitations thanks to a 10-3 shot attempt scoreline.
This series isn’t over one bit, but with Edmonton getting the first road win of this series, they struck the first blow. Already, Game 2 will be a must win for the team that calls Honda Center home, otherwise, the Orange Crush could completely turn the tide of this intriguing battle.