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By the Numbers: McDavid, Skinner fuelling Oilers’ rise under Knoblauch

Connor McDavid Connor McDavid - The Canadian Press

A 3-9-1 start to the 2023-24 campaign cost Jay Woodcroft his job behind the Edmonton Oilers bench, but the tides are turning in favour of the team since the hiring of Kris Knoblauch. 

Since Knoblauch took over as head coach on Nov. 12, the Oilers are 7-3-0 and riding a five-game winning streak that dates back to Nov. 24 when they shut out the Washington Capitals 5-0. 

One of the biggest improvements the Oilers have seen in this stretch has been in net. At the beginning of the season, neither Jack Campbell nor Stuart Skinner grabbed a firm hold on being the starter. Poor play resulted in Campbell being waived and demoted to the American Hockey League in early November. 

Since Campbell’s demotion, Skinner has taken the opportunity and run with it. He has been in net for 11 of Edmonton’s past 12 games, sporting an 8-3-0 record. He has been the goalie of record during this five-game winning streak, including a 39-save performance on Wednesday in a 6-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Another big factor in Edmonton’s improvement is the play of captain Connor McDavid. The 26-year-old centre got off to a slow start by his lofty standards, with only 10 points in 11 games, missing two games during that stretch with an upper-body injury.

But McDavid has 22 points in 10 games since Knoblauch, who was also his coach in junior with the OHL’s Erie Otters, took over. During this current win streak he has 16 points in five games. 

The Oilers have also improved on special teams under Knoblauch, rising from 23.9 per cent to 26.3 on the power play, ranking them fifth in the league. The biggest improvement has come on the penalty kill. The team was 30th at just 70 per cent under Woodcroft but has risen to 78.7 per cent.

Edmonton has also scored more under Knoblauch as the team’s goals-for average has jumped from 2.69 to 3.43, now seventh in the league. They also shoot more since the coaching change, as the Oilers own the third-best shots-for average in the NHL at 33.4 per game.

In shots against, they are the eighth-best team, allowing 29 per game but have improved only marginally in goals-against per game, moving from 3.92 to 3.48.

The Oilers were 31st in the league when Woodcroft was fired and have risen to 27th. But the team still has some work to do as they remain seven points back of the Nashville Predators for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.