a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Monday, 11 February 2013

02/11/13 Confidence Waning

A 14 shot effort on Sunday evening is something that the Oilers should not allow from themselves, but it's a symptom of a larger problem. Players that were shooting at the beginning of the season have stopped doing it. No really, it's bad.

Here's a look at some key players' shot rates over the first six games and how those rates have changed over the last six:

Jordan Eberle:

Shots in first six games: 24 shots (4 per game)
Points in first six games: 3-3-6
Shots in last six games: 12 shots (2 per game)
Points in last six games: 0-2-2

Nail Yakupov:

Shots in first six games: 13 (2.2 per game)
Points in first six games: 4-0-4
Shots in last six games: 6 (1 per game)
Points in last six games: 1-3-4

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:

Shots in first six games: 11 (1.8 per game)
Points in first six games: 0-4-4
Shots in last five games: 9 (1.8 per game)
Points in last five games: 0-2-2

Sam Gagner:

Shots in first six games: 16 (2.7 per game)
Points in first six games: 2-4-6
Shots in last six games: 12 (2 per game)
Points in last six games: 2-4-6

Granted, Nugent-Hopkins may be battling a bum shoulder and Yakupov is a rookie, but it's still fair to expect a little more from two first overall picks.

In the KHL, Yakupov had 76 shots on goal in just 22 games (3.5 per game). The NHL is a higher league, but for whatever reason the young Russian is no longer shooting the puck with frequency.

In Nugent-Hopkins' case, it's not so much that he's been shooting less over the last six games, but he has been shooting less (or hitting the net less, if you prefer) compared to last season (2.2 shots per game last year to 1.8 this year).

Jordan Eberle's 7 game goalless drought coincides with a dip in his shot output. In fact, over his first five games he had 22 shots (4.4 per game) and three goals. Since then he's got 14 shots (2 per game) and no goals.

Sam Gagner is still riding high despite falling victim to the same ailment as some of his teammates. His shooting percentage went from 12.5% in the first six games to 16.7% in the next six, and included an empty net goal. His play overall has been good, but how much longer will the points keep coming?

Ales Hemsky, who is much maligned for his unwillingness to shoot, is actually shooting more now than he was to start the year. Justin Schultz is a shot machine from the back end. So is Taylor Hall up front.

Right now Hall has not scored in five games, despite his 19 shots in that span. But even he has slowed down a little recently, as the last three games are his longest stretch of the year so far without registering at least a 4-shot game.

When you add it all up, there's too much of the top six that simply isn't playing a simple game and getting pucks to the net. It's no coincidence that the Oilers are 1-2-3 in their last six games. In fact, it's a miracle that their record is that good. A miracle named Devan Dubnyk. It's time for the Oilers to give that man some run support, but it won't happen unless they play a simple game, and shoot.

Shoot. Shooting. Shots. There, you're sick of those words. Let's hope the Oilers are tired of hearing about them too.

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