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Quantifying the lack of defense in Oilers playoff games

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At Oilers home playoff games, anthem singer Robert Clark holds his microphone aloft as the Edmonton crowd belts "O Canada" in unison. When the music ends and the arena brightens for puck drop, the floodgates open.

Paced by Connor McDavid's transcendent production, the Oilers outscored the Kings 18-10 to take a 3-1 first-round series chokehold. Anything can happen offensively when McDavid or Leon Draisaitl has the puck. For years, the team's defense has been about as volatile.

The Oilers routinely play delirious, uniquely high-scoring playoff games, home and away. To watch Edmonton in this era is to see both goalies barraged. Since the Oilers' current playoff streak began in 2020, their average game has produced the most total goals. The Kings, their recurring opponent in Round 1, trail closely behind.

Game 4 in Los Angeles on Sunday, an unusually subdued 1-0 Edmonton win, was the Oilers' 40th postseason contest since 2020. In that time, different exploits strengthened and sabotaged their Stanley Cup potential.

Over the 40-game span, the Oilers:

◾️ Scored at least four goals in 24 games - a healthy majority of their playoff outings - but managed to lose eight of those matchups, including by 9-6, 8-6, and 6-5 scores.

◾️ Lost twice despite scoring three power-play goals, and lost another despite scoring twice on the power play and once shorthanded.

◾️ Bagged a league-best 1.15 power-play goals per game.

◾️ Thrashed the Kings 8-2, 7-4, 6-1, and 6-0.

Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

◾️ Witnessed McDavid and Draisaitl raise their playoff scoring averages to 1.60 points - 0.01 behind the great Mario Lemieux on the career leaderboard.

◾️ Won McDavid's five-assist dissection of the Kings in last week's series opener but lost his four-point game against the 2022 Flames, squandered Draisaitl's four-assist effort against the 2022 Avalanche, and wasted Draisaitl's four-goal outburst against the 2023 Golden Knights.

◾️ Pushed the 2022 Flames to the brink of elimination despite letting in a shorthanded goal slapped from Calgary's defensive zone.

◾️ Blew enough leads to suffer an NHL-high 10 defeats when scoring first.

◾️ Dropped eight of 10 overtime contests - five times by letting in the winner within the first 4:06 of the extra period.

◾️ Recorded and inflicted some cringeworthy save percentages.

The combination of relentless offense and leaky defense grips viewers. Fans can't look away. If there's time on the clock, Edmonton's deficits and leads seem surmountable.

Early in this year's series, the Kings scored on a slo-mo ricochet off Darnell Nurse's foot, a tic-tac passing sequence after Cody Ceci's stick snapped, and defenseman Drew Doughty's chaotic breakaway. Edmonton's heartier defensive stand in Games 3 and 4 - Stuart Skinner saved 60 of 61 shots - was meaningful. Sunday's road win showed these Oilers can grind, count on Skinner to be in position, and bide time to find and exploit a defensive hole.

Edmonton's eight power-play goals on 15 tries have mostly been tap-ins or one-timers set up by McDavid or Draisaitl. Zach Hyman, an eager recipient of their cross-ice feeds, has netted one fewer goal (six) than his lifeless former team, the Maple Leafs, has collectively. Skinner's first playoff shutout was unexpected, but if he foils chances for rounds to come, the Oilers might finally maximize the return on all this scoring.

Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.

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