Reviewing the Oilers vs Golden Knights (2023)

Disappointing results for a team that had such high aspirations. Following a regular season where they finished second in the division and had three 100-point players, the Oilers were eliminated by a team that picked them apart a few different ways and had the better goaltending. And it’s not like Vegas was any sort of daunting juggernaut. With a deeper roster, and some better coaching decisions, the Oilers could have been in the western conference finals.

Edmonton Oilers 5v5 Vegas Golden Knights
55.65 Corsi For% 44.35
54.29 Fenwick For% 45.71
53.50 Expected Goals For% 46.50
37.50 Goals For% 62.50
9-15 GF-GA 15-9
6.60 Shooting% 12.35
87.65 Save% 93.40
0.942 PDO 1.058

When it comes to the performance numbers at even-strength (5v5), the Oilers did post better shot-share numbers than Vegas. But it was largely boosted because they trailed so often in games, allowing score-effects to creep in. When the score was ever within one goal (144 minutes, or about 52% of the total time against Vegas in the series), the Oilers posted a Corsi For percentage of 52% and an Expected Goals For percentage of only 46%. So when both teams were pushing for offence and defending their own zone, and deploying more of their depth players, Vegas was the one getting the higher share of quality chances.

What Vegas did really well was limit the Oilers chances to lower probability scoring areas, something the Oilers were slowing getting better at as the series progressed. But after game four when it came down to a best-of-three series things fell apart again. The table below breaks down the Oiler’s proportion of shot attempts at even-strength that were actual shots on goal by game. The orange line indicates the Oilers regular season average.

The other issue I had been tracking was how often the shots the Oilers were taking were coming from the sticks of forwards, who are typically in higher danger areas and have better odds of scoring goals than defenceman. During the regular season, 68.7% of the Oilers shots were from their forwards. But in their series against Vegas, the Oilers had trouble reaching this level, as we saw a lot more point shots from defenceman. In games two and four is when the Oilers forwards got the most opportunities, which is also the games that they won in the series.

And here’s an updated summary of the Oilers skaters and their on-ice numbers at even-strength, sorted by time-on-ice (TOI). Key thing here is that most of the top-end players did well, as the Oilers typically outshot Vegas with them on the ice. But when Kane, Nugent-Hopkins, Bjugstad or Yamamoto were on the ice, the Oilers were typically playing without the puck and in their own zone. An issue that the Golden Knights coaching staff recognized and ensured the deployment of Eichel’s line when they were on the ice.

I was surprised to see that McLeod didn’t get as much ice time at even-strength, considering how well he’s played in the post-season and his head-to-head numbers against some of Vegas’ top performers. For example, in about 18 minutes against Eichel (about 27% of his total ice time), McLeod’s on-ice Corsi For percentage was 66.7%, and the team outshot Vegas 14-6. That’s on the coaching staff for not recognizing his performance numbers and perhaps only looking at goal differential, which doesn’t always reflect a players true value.

As for goaltending, it’s obvious Vegas had the edge in the series. They posted the second highest even-strength save percentage (94.83%) among first round teams, shutting down the Jets. And they did it again in the second round (93.40%), albeit with a different goalie. Maybe that’s the key – having two good goalies to share the workload in case one of them was overworked in the regular season, and could be susceptible to burnout or injury.

The other player that stood out this series was Bouchard, who I thought performed well and had great results. He made some mistakes, but I thought the good outweighed the bad. The concern I would have with his play against Vegas is that when the games were close (looking at when the score was within one goal), he posted some of the worst on-ice numbers among the Oilers defencemen.

When the Oilers trailed by a couple goals, and Vegas would be more risk-averse, that’s when Bouchard’s numbers were stronger. I’d still think very highly of Bouchard and hope that the Oilers sign him to a longer term deal. I would just be leery of his on-ice shot share numbers and point totals, as there does appear to be some things he’ll need to work on.

And he’s definitely not the only one. Nugent-Hopkins was another player whose numbers took a hit when the game score was within one. Something that falls more on the coaching staff who tried to run him as a center to drive his own line, when we’ve known for a while now that he’s more of a complementary player. Ceci is another player who struggled in all situations, which really falls on Holland who signed him to a long-term contract that aligned with the McDavid/Draisaitl window. Improvements need to be made across the roster right away here if the Oilers intend on a deeper playoff run next season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


In the cards

The Edmonton Oilers are currently tied two games apiece in their series against the Vegas Golden Knights after a dominant win on Wednesday night. Vegas was completely flattened, generating only four even-strength shots in the first two periods of game four, while the Oilers generated 21. It was also good to see McDavid and Draisaitl playing on separate lines, which limited the amount of time the Oilers didn’t have one of the two on the ice. That appeared to benefit the depth lines, as they out-shot and out-chanced Vegas by a significant margin.

Below is a summary of how both teams have performed at even-strength this round, and what their results have been like.

Edmonton 5v5 Vegas
54.08 Corsi For% 45.92
51.88 Fenwick For% 48.12
48.37 Expected Goals For% 51.63
7-10 GF-GA 10-7
41.18 Goals For% 58.82
7.99 Shooting% 11.34
88.66 Save% 92.01
0.966 PDO 1.034

Over the first four games, the Edmonton Oilers have done a better job controlling the flow of play as reflected by their 54% Corsi For percentage. But they haven’t been able to convert their puck possession into actual scoring chances, with Vegas holding a slight edge. Of their 172 shot attempts against Vegas, only 87, or about 50% of those, have been shots on goal. In the regular season, the Oilers were one of the league’s better teams at this with a little over 55% of their shot attempts being shots on goal.

The good news is that the Oilers have gradually been getting better at this, as the club appears to be adjusting to Vegas’ defensive schemes. In game four, for example, 65% of their shot attempts were actual shots on goal, and likely a big reason why they out-scored Vegas 3-0 at even-strength in the first two periods. That’s a big improvement from game one when only 38% of their attempts were shots on goal. Note that in the graph below, the orange line represents the Oilers 2022/23 regular season proportion.

The other positive from game four was the lower proportion of shots that were coming off the sticks of defencemen, an issue I covered after game three. Of the 24 shots the Oilers took in game four, 19 were from forwards (79%) – a significant improvement from the first three games of the series when defencemen were getting a higher-than-normal share. If the Oilers can continue breaking through Vegas’ structure and avoiding taking shots from lower probability scoring areas, they should be able to have more success at even-strength.

Here’s a quick look at how the Oiler’s skaters have performed against Vegas at even-strength, and the team’s results with them on the ice.

Somewhat surprised to see Kane’s on-ice numbers in the red considering he’s spent 73% of his ice time with either McDavid, Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins. His main issue is that in the 27% of his ice time that he isn’t in the top six, his on-ice Corsi For% and Expected Goals For% plummets to around 35%. He basically needs to be playing top six minutes to provide any sort of value to the team. If you’re Vegas, you can definitely continue targeting him and some of the secondary forwards, including Yamamoto, Bjugstad and Kostin who’ve all posted poor on-ice shot-shares in the series. On the plus-side – nice to see Foegele and McLeod performing well, the latter of which is well suited for more responsibility if need-be.

Quick review of the Oilers special teams, which has had excellent results against Vegas.

Starting with the Oilers powerplay – Vegas is actually doing a pretty good job limiting shots and chances against, holding the Oilers to a rate of 59 shots per hour (about 8 shots lower than their regular season rate, which was the highest in the league). Issue of course is the finishing talent of the Oilers who have converted on 24% (!) of their shots, which is an increase from the 19% shooting percentage they posted in the regular season – which was the highest in the league. Hard to see the Oilers powerplay slowing down any time soon.

The Oilers penalty kill continues to perform well in front of the goaltending, allowing 56 shots against per hour, which is around the regular season league average. And in this round, the Oilers are finally getting good goaltending with the team posting a 92% save percentage. That’s a significant improvement from the first round against Los Angeles when the Oilers were doing a really good job limiting opportunities against, but were let down by their goaltending that stopped only 75% of the shots against.

Should be an interesting best-of-three series. If the Oilers intend on moving on to the western conference finals, they will need their special teams to be an area of strength, and hope that their even-strength results (i.e., goal-share) improve. Main concern should be around the goaltending and Skinner’s play, as there’s been some inconsistency in his game – something that may have carried over from the regular season. And the secondary forwards, who Vegas’ coaching staff can target more often with home-ice advantage.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Shots from defencemen

Typically wait until after game four before doing a check-in on a series, but there’s currently some pretty pressing issues for the Edmonton Oilers.

The club is currently trailing in the second round against the Vegas Golden Knights, who have a done a pretty solid job keeping the Oilers shots and scoring chances to a minimum at even-strength (5v5). After three games, the Oilers have posted a Corsi For percentage of 51.67% , but an Expected Goals For percentage less than 45% – second worst among the second-round playoff teams. And that’s a big reason why they’ve been outscored 4-9, and have the worst goal-share in this group of eight (30.77%).

What’s even more alarming is how the Oilers have performed without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice at even-strength, which is about 55% of the team’s total ice time. They’ve been outscored 1-5, driven largely by their expected goal-share of 39%. That’s a big drop off from the first round, when the Oilers took advantage of a Kings roster that lacked significant depth. If these results continue, the Oilers may need to separate McDavid and Draisaitl more often, which would reduce the team’s ice time without one of their stars down to around 30-35%.

What Vegas has done really well in this series is not just limit the overall chances against. But when they do allow shots at even-strength, they’re often from the sticks of Oilers defencemen, which are typically from low probability scoring areas. Compared to the regular season, and especially the first round, the Oilers forwards are getting a lower proportion of the shots on goal, which the Vegas coaching staff has to be thrilled about considering the talent level up front that they’re slowing down.

In the 2022/23 regular season, the Oilers as a group generated 2,090 shots on goal at even-strength, with 68.7% coming from the sticks of forwards. That’s pretty close to the league average of 70.1%. Against the Kings, the share of shots from forwards was 72.8% as the Oilers did a really good job controlling the flow of play and generating higher quality chances.

Vegas seems to have figured something out, as the Oilers as a whole have only generated 63 even-strength shots in the first three games – a rate of 27.17 per hour which ranks seventh among the eight second-round playoff teams. Compare that to their numbers against Los Angeles, when the Oilers generated the second highest rate of shots with 34.19. And in the regular season, the Oilers ranked 9th in the league with 31.83.

Of the 63 shots the Oilers have been able to muster against Vegas, 42 have been from forwards – a share of 66.7%. In their game one loss, the Oilers forwards took 57.1% of their teams total shots. And in the game three loss, they took 61.5% of the team’s total shots. In the game they won, the Oilers forwards had a much higher proportion of shots, something the club really needs to replicate to improve their odds of winning games. The table below breaks down the proportion of shots from the forwards by game, with the orange line representing the Oilers regular season average.

So far in this second round, defenceman Darnell Nurse is currently tied for first on the team in shots with seven (8.49 shots per hour), something Vegas has to be happy with. Nurse only had eight shots total in the Oilers six-game series against the Kings, a rate of 4.09 shots per hour – half of what he’s producing in the current series. In the regular season, his rate of shots per hour was 6.50 per hour. For whatever reason, Nurse is shooting more which is going to be a problem considering he hasn’t been a significant scoring threat; his personal shooting percentage was 4.50% this season.

If the Oilers want to improve their odds of winning games against Vegas, they need to do a better job of creating scoring chances at even-strength. Something that won’t get done if the offence continues flowing through the blueline. Hopefully the coaching staff is aware of this and can make adjustments – either tactical or deployment. If not, they’ll need to rely heavily on the powerplay to bail out their failures at even-strength.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


Previewing the Oilers vs Golden Knights (2023)

Should be an entertaining second-round series between the Oilers and Golden Knights. Vegas took care of the Jets in five games, out-scoring their opponents 15-6 at even-strength and had strong underlying shot-share numbers to support their results.

Vegas Golden Knights 5v5 Winnipeg Jets
50.81 Corsi For% 49.19
50.04 Fenwick For% 49.96
55.77 Expected Goals For% 44.23
71.43 Goals For% 28.57
15-6 GF-GA 6-15
11.32 Shooting% 5.35
94.65 Save% 88.68
1.060 PDO 0.940

Vegas might be at risk of some regression as their shooting percentage and save percentage were higher than what they posted in the full regular season and in the final twenty five games before the playoffs. Vegas finished the season with a 8.85% shooting percentage and a 92.14 save percentage.

Worth noting that Vegas’ special teams were pretty poor in the first round. The powerplay scored only three goals in about 25 minutes of powerplay time – a rate of 7.06 goals per hour, which ranked tenth among the playoff teams. The penalty kill allowed five goals, and the second highest rate of goals against in the playoffs. And while their goaltending was poor shorthanded (similar to Edmonton), the skaters also didn’t do a very good job defending, allowing the highest rate of shots and chances against in the playoffs. Considering the Oilers have been so dominant on the powerplay, and doing a good job suppressing shots on the penalty kill, the Oilers definitely have a competitive advantage here. That is of course if their goaltending holds up when shorthanded.

A quick glance at Vegas’ skaters, their on-ice performance numbers at even-strength and what the results have been. The table below is separated into forwards and defencemen, and sorted by ice time.

The top end forwards appear to have been in good form against the Jets, with Stone and Stephenson leading the way with eight points each. Really looking forward to seeing how Eichel does as well. Do have to wonder if some of the players are due for a little regression as some are posting on-ice PDO’s above 110.

The bottom of the Vegas roster looks a little suspect and is something the Oilers should be able to exploit. Without Stone or Marchessault (who I’m using as a proxy for the top two lines) on the ice, Vegas posted a Corsi For percentage of 47% and an Expected Goals For percentage of 49%. This is in about 42% of the team’s total ice time. But due to some outstanding goaltending, the depth players outscored the Jets 4-1.

Looking forward to seeing how the Oilers coaching staff handles match-ups against a deeper, more talented roster. And if they’re willing to play McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines. As I wrote in my series review, McDavid is due for some scoring as his personal shooting percentage is well below his career levels. And it’d be a massive gain if he finds success at even-strength with linemates other than Draisaitl.

The one area that I’d be a little concerned with is the Oilers goaltending, and if Skinner can bounce back from some shaky moments in the first round. Among 22 goalies who have played at least 30 minutes in this years playoffs, Skinner ranks 17th with an 89% save percentage in all situations and a -2.88 goals saved above average. Brossoit on the other hand ranks 9th in save percentage (91.5%) and 10th in goals saved above average (+1.25). Both netminders have been solid at even-strength, but are struggling on their penalty kill.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


Reviewing the Oilers vs Kings (2023)

Pretty entertaining first round series against the Los Angeles Kings who didn’t quite have the tactics, depth or goaltending to overcome the Edmonton Oilers. The Kings managed to get some positive results earlier in the series, but eventually dropped three straight games.

The Oilers were pretty dominant at even-strength (5v5) over the course of the series, controlling the flow of play as reflected by their 54% Corsi For percentage, and consistently out-shooting and out-chancing the Kings. Their expected goal-share was second best among the teams in the first round (second only to Vegas), and they were able to translate this territorial dominance into actual goals. The Oilers team save percentage ranked fifth in the playoffs, while their shooting percentage ranked sixth.

Edmonton 5v5 Los Angeles
54.64 Corsi For% 45.36
56.30 Fenwick For% 43.70
55.70 Expected Goals For% 44.30
57.69 Goals For% 42.31
15-11 GF-GA 11-15
8.21 Shooting% 7.03
92.97 Save% 91.79
1.012 PDO 0.988

Here’s how the Oilers skaters performed in the first round, sorted by their time on ice.

The Kings did a pretty good job slowing down McDavid, who finished the series with goal differential of zero. His main success occurred playing with Draisaitl, who he was re-united more regularly with after game three when the Oilers were trailing in the series.

Below is a breakdown of how the Oilers performed with and without McDavid and Draisaitl. The captain is definitely due for a breakout as his personal shooting percentage (5v5) so far has been 6.67%, significantly lower than his regular season shooting percentage of 15.31% and his career shooting percentage of 13.73%. Last year in the playoffs, it was 14.29%. His career shooting percentage in 37 playoff games prior to this year is 11.95%.

And while the 11-7 strategy is working great for the Oilers coaching staff and was a key driver for their series win, it does increase the workload for the Oilers top players. Currently, McDavid, Kane and Draisaitl are top three in the league among forwards when it comes to 5v5 ice time per game (all over 18.5 minutes per game). It’ll be interesting to see if this continues, and if we see any sort of performance drop off or injury issues due to the workload.

Worth noting how well the depth players, including McLeod, Foegele, Ryan and Kulak performed, due in some part to having Draisaitl mixed in with them as-needed to create some mismatches against the Kings depth. Over the six game series, the Oilers posted a positive goal differential (4 GF, 3 GA) without either of McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice. The teams Corsi For percentage was 51.62%, while their Expected Goals for percentage was 55.92%.

The concern I have with the roster is the play of the other top six players, and if they could either (a) be trusted with more minutes against other top lines or (b) at least play and produce with McDavid, which would allow him and Draisaitl to be on separate lines, spreading the offence. Most of the remaining playoff teams are deeper than the Kings, so the onus really has to be on guys like Nugent-Hopkins, Hyman and Yamamoto, and I guess Bjugstad, to improve their overall play. In the series against the Kings, the Oilers allowed the highest rate of shots and chances against with them on the ice. The coaching staff had to revert to the McDavid/Draisaitl option when things got tough, which says a lot about how the rest of the top six was producing. I also wouldn’t mind seeing McLeod get some more responsibility, as he’s done well in the past against tough competition in small doses.

Quick note on special teams. The Oilers powerplay was again outstanding, scoring 9 times in the series, but they also allowed one shorthanded goal and seven more on the penalty kill. So their special teams was only +1 in goal differential against the Kings. A lot of that had to do with the goaltending, which despite playing behind a group that allowed the sixth lowest rate of shots against shorthanded, posted a 75% save percentage that ranked second last in the league (only ahead of the Kings).

Plenty of work ahead with some issues to address.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

CBC Radio Active: Oilers are back in town

I joined Jessica Ng on CBC Radio Active to talk Oilers and preview their fifth game against the Los Angeles Kings. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2023, April 25)

Topics we covered:

  • How the Oilers have started in each of their first four games, and what needs to improve.
  • The Oilers overall performance, what they’ve done well and where they’ll need to improve. Had posted an article last night on this as well.
  • Why Stuart Skinner should remain as the starting goalie for the Oilers.
  • The Oilers scoring issues, and how the Oilers depth players can make an impact.
  • The penalties being called and why we should expect the volume of calls to drop. Referenced this piece by Cam Charron from The Athletic.
  • The idea of Dylan Holloway getting some minutes in the playoffs.

Thanks as always to the team at CBC for putting it all together.

Check engine

Tied at two-games apiece, a quick glance at the Edmonton Oilers performance and results in their first round series against the Los Angeles Kings and what their strengths and weaknesses have been.

Starting with even-strength (5v5), the Oilers have done everything they can to increase their odds of out-scoring the Kings and winning games. They’ve controlled the flow of play for the majority of the series, spending more time with the puck as reflected by their 58% Corsi For percentage, and getting a higher proportion of the total shots and scoring chances. The Oilers are currently generating the highest rate of shots on goal in the playoffs with 38 per hour, while keeping the Kings under 28 shots per hour (ranking 11th among the sixteen playoff teams). For context, the Oilers and Kings generated around 32 shots per hour in the last twenty-five games of the regular season, which had them in the top ten league-wide.

Edmonton Oilers Games 1-4 (5v5) Los Angeles Kings
57.75 Corsi For% 42.25
59.04 Fenwick For% 40.96
55.87 Expected Goals For% 44.13
7-7 GF-GA 7-7
5.06 Shooting% 6.99
93.01 Save% 94.94

Using Natural Stat Trick’s methods of calculating expected goals (which uses shot type, shot location and historical scoring data to determine the probability of a shot attempt becoming a goal), the Oilers – in theory – should have scored twelve even-strength goals in the first four games. But because the Kings goaltending has been solid, ranking second in the league with a save percentage of 94.94%, they’ve only mustered seven goals. Had the Oilers converted 9.09% of their shots against the Kings into goals like they did over the full regular season, instead of the 5.06% shooting percentage they’re sitting at right now, they’d easily have scored twelve, and I highly doubt three of the four games would have gone into overtime.

Worth noting too that the Oilers goaltending at even-strength has been good enough this playoff series. posting a 93% save percentage so far. Again using the expected goals method from Natural Stat Trick, the Kings should have scored nine goals based on the scoring chances they’ve had – but they’ve only scored seven. Part of that is missing some of their better scorers like Kevin Fiala for the first three games of their series. But the Oilers goaltending has been decent as well, ranking 6th in the post-season, just behind Boston.

As for special teams, the Oilers powerplay has continued to amaze, generating the highest rate of of shots and scoring six goals in the four games – a rate of 25 goals per hour which is almost double what they posted in the regular season. Worth noting that despite having the puck for the majority of the series, the Oilers have somehow drawn the second lowest rate of penalties in the post-season (3.19). The Kings who took the thirteenth highest rate of penalties in the regular season have apparently changed their ways – amazing, really.

The Oilers have really needed their powerplay to be incredible as their penalty kill has struggled against the Kings, largely because the goaltending has been poor when shorthanded. The Kings had one of the best powerplays in the league this regular season, and the Oilers skaters are doing everything they can to limit their chances. Edmonton’s penalty kill has so far only allowed 21 shots shorthanded, a rate of 46.7 shots per hour, which is the sixth lowest among playoff teams and well below the rate the Oilers were at in the regular season (58.31). Unfortunately, the goaltending is currently posting a 76.19% save percentage, which ranks 13th among playoff teams. If the Oilers struggle to score at even-strength, the powerplay is going to need to bail them out. But if the penalty kill is going to bleed goals like this, it won’t matter. The goaltending needs to be better.

Back to even-strength. It’s really important to emphasize how well the Oilers are performing with and without their star players. In 81 minutes so far without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice – or about 38% of the team’s total time – the Oilers have posted a 57% Corsi For percentage and Expected Goals For percentage. As we’ll see below, players like McLeod, Foegele and Ryan are really taking advantage of the Kings third and fourth lines. The problem of course is that the Oilers depth players haven’t scored a goal (0 GF, 3 GA) despite having the puck more often and getting a greater share of the shots and scoring chances. Unless Draisaitl, who has been on the ice for every Oilers goal scored this series, is getting double-shifted with the depth players, there isn’t much happening on the score sheet.

Below is a breakdown of each player’s on-ice numbers at even-strength in the first four games, sorted by time on ice. I’ve split the table into forwards and defencemen and added a simple heat map to show how each player compares relative to their teammates.

The concerns I would have for the Oilers is their defensive play, and some of the breakdowns when things get chaotic in their own zone. We’ve seen the Kings sustain pressure in the Oilers zone a few times now largely because of the mistakes the Oilers were making. Really have to wonder if this group can keep it together for an entire post-season, and if they can cut-down their recurring mistakes especially by some of the defencemen. There really aren’t any other options for the coaching staff, as this is the group of seven defencemen we’re going to be seeing the rest of the way.

There should also be a little concern with the Oilers depth players. The Oilers posted great numbers without McDavid or Draisaitl in the regular season, but they’ve gone completely dry in this first round. We know the top six group will find ways to score, especially if Draisaitl and McDavid remain healthy. The problem is that a lot of the depth guys posted career individual shooting percentages in the regular season, so this might be when we see the regression. And their decline isn’t completely surprising. Over the full course of the season, the Oilers shooting percentage without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice was 8.34%. But in the last twenty five games, it had dropped to around 7.01%.  This is hockey, so things can turnaround with a lucky bounce or two. But the coaching staff may need to tinker with the line combinations to get something out of the depth (i.e., non top-six) players.

Also worth keeping an eye on the goaltending situation and if the coaching staff has some doubts with Skinner’s play and begins to develop more confidence with Campbell – especially after his performance in game four. Skinner has had a solid season, but his numbers did take a slight dip near the end of the season. He’s always been right around league-average, but with the workload he’s had in his rookie season it’s not totally surprising to see him struggle. The workload of course was driven by the fact that the coaching staff didn’t have as much confidence in Campbell, especially as the season winded down and the Oilers were pushing for a higher playoff seed.

Data: Natural Stat Trick,

Previewing the Oilers vs Kings (2023)

With the first round of the playoffs set to begin, I wanted to get a sense of how both teams finished the season, what their key drivers were and how individual players performed.

The Oilers we know have been outstanding this year, going 20-4-1 in their final twenty-five games of the regular season, a points percentage of 0.820 – second best in the league only behind Boston who went 21-4-0 in their last twenty five games. The Oilers had the second highest all-situations goal-share in the league to finish the season, posting a +42 goal differential due in large part to their outstanding play at even-strength (offensively and defensively), and their production on the powerplay and penalty kill.

The Kings had excellent results as well over their final twenty-five games, going 15-7-3 – which translates into a 0.660 points percentage that ranked ninth highest in the league. Similar to the Oilers, they posted an excellent all-situations goal-share in this period, with a +21 goal differential that was sixth highest in the league. A lot of their success was at even-strength, as well as their powerplay.

Even-strength (5v5)

Here’s how the two teams performed at even-strength (5v5) over their final twenty-five games. Both clubs ranked near the top of the league for the majority of the metrics.

Team Oilers Kings
Points% 0.820 0.660
Corsi For% 56.03 54.91
Fenwick For% 55.60 56.01
xGoals For% 57.19 55.64
Goals For% 56.03 57.61
Shooting% 9.64 8.05
Save% 91.14 92.10

The two clubs are fairly evenly matched when it comes to shot-share metrics, with both teams posting a Corsi For% and Fenwick For% around 55% – right around what top teams typically post. Where the Kings have struggled recently is finishing their chances, as their 8.05% shooting percentage ranked 25th league-wide. The issue has been the absence of Kevin Fiala, who the Kings need healthy and ready for the playoffs. With him on the ice this season, the Kings have a 9.77% team shooting percentage at even-strength. And without him on the ice, it drops down to 7.60%. Full details on how the Oilers and Kings rank within the western conference can be found here. 

Goaltending (5v5)

Both teams got decent goaltending to end the season, with the Oilers ranking 13th with a 91.14% team save percentage, while the Kings ranked slightly better at 11th. Below are the Oilers and Kings goalies from the last twenty-five games, with their rankings for each metric among the 59 goaltenders who played at least 250 minutes.

Goalie (5v5), last 25 GP TOI Save% GSAA High-danger Save%
Joonas Korpisalo 11 501 93.2%
Pheonix Copley 14 641 92.1%
Stuart Skinner 20 943 91.9%
Jack Campbell 6 273 89.5%

Among the four goalies, Korpisalo appears to have had the strongest stretch at even-strength, with his save percentage and high danger save percentage among the top ten league wide. Skinner on the other hand has been slightly above average for the most part, and should be able to get the job done. Concern I would have is with his high danger save percentage, which might be a problem against a Kings team that generated the eighth highest rate of high-danger shot attempts in their last twenty five games.

Special Teams

The Edmonton Oilers powerplay had a strong finish to the season, generating the second highest rate of shots per hour (68.40) in the league over the final twenty-five games, and scoring over 14 goals per hour – the best in the league. These numbers were consistent with their full-season results on the powerplay, largely driven by their top end players and their overall tactics.

While not at the Oilers superhuman levels, the Kings did have some success on the powerplay, generating 8.39 goals per hour in their last twenty-five games, which ranked ninth in the league. The Kings team shooting percentage was one of the best in the league with 17.71%, which was critical considering they generated some of the lowest rates of shots and scoring chances.

Powerplay (Last 25 games) Oilers Kings
Shots for/60 68.40 (2nd) 47.37 (26th)
Goals for/60 14.32 (1st) 8.39 (9th)
Team shooting% 20.93% (1st) 17.71% (5th)

Neither team had anything special going on with their penalty kill, with the Oilers rate of goals against ranking 11th, while the Kings ranked 19th. Both teams were around average when it came to allowing shots against, with the Oilers getting the better goaltending as the team posted the ninth best save percentage in the league with 88.79%.

Penalty Kill (Last 25 games) Oilers Kings
Shots against/60 52.50 (17th) 50.03 (12th)
Goals against/60 5.88 (11th) 7.77 (18th)
Team save% 88.79% (9th) 84.47% (23rd)

The Oilers did score nine shorthanded goals over their last twenty-five games, a rate of 4.07 goals per hour which is more than what the best teams score at even-strength. Nice little competitive edge if the Oilers have figured out how to make this repeatable.

Skaters (5v5)

Another thing I wanted to see ahead of the series was how the players on each team did in terms of on-ice shot and goal differentials at even-strength (5v5) over their teams final twenty-five games. Just to get a sense of which players are playing well, but might not be getting the results.

Below are all of the Oilers skaters, sorted by their on-ice goal differential (Goals +/-), with the Oilers top end players leading the way.

As mentioned in my previous post, one of the Oilers strengths this season has been their depth scoring. In their last twenty-five games, the team has posted a Corsi For percentage of 53% and an Expected Goals For percentage of 56% without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice. Unfortunately, they just broke even when it came to goal-differential, something that should improve with McLeod now back from injury.

On the back-end, the Oilers have an excellent tandem in Bouchard and Ekholm, which has helped alleviate some of the workload that was on Nurse and Ceci. It’ll be worth monitoring how the two pairs will be deployed on home ice, and with which of the top two lines they spend more of their time with. Both Ceci and Kulak are going to be critical for the Oilers; both struggled to close the season so it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff deploys them.

Up front, I’d have some concerns with guys like Kane and Janmark, who have received plenty of opportunity but can’t seem to break even when it comes to shots, scoring chances and goals. The Kings can definitely target the lines these two will be on when the series moves to Los Angeles. Suspect the line that could have the biggest impact for the Oilers is the one McLeod and Foegele are on. They were gradually getting more ice time to close the season, and I suspect they’ll get a lot more responsibility.

And here’s a quick glance at the Kings skaters.


While the Oilers should be favorites to win this series, I think it’ll be a lot more competitive than people expect. The Kings were very good defensively, allowing the fourth lowest rate of shots against in the league and the second lowest rate over their last twenty-five games. If it does become tighter checking, with low-event hockey on both ends of the ice, I do wonder how much will come down to goaltending where the Kings have a slight edge.

My other concern would be with the Oilers coaching staff over-thinking things like they did last season, trying to play inferior players higher up in the line-up to solve problems that don’t exist. And when issues do come up, hopefully they’re identified faster than they were in the past. We saw last post-season that the Kings, and even the Flames, controlled the flow of play against the Oilers – especially the depth forwards. Teams did figure out the Oilers in every facet, even after they posted excellent shot-share numbers and special team numbers in the regular season. Whatever happens, the Oilers have put themselves in an excellent spot, and they should be expected to win more than a round this time.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 52 – Previewing the Edmonton Oilers post-season with Dennis King (@dkingbh)

Joined by Dennis King (@dkingbh) on the show to talk about the Edmonton Oilers finish to the regular season, and what to expect in their first round series against the Los Angeles Kings. We also covered the rest of the western conference, who the contenders are and what the Oilers will need to do right to make a deep run.

Full segment below:

Related articles:

Podcast channels:

Music: Anitek. “Show me.” Anitek Instrumentals Vol. 4, 20

Tracking the Western conference – As of April 14, 2023

Last check-in on the western conference before the 2023 playoffs begin next week.

The Oilers finished second in the Pacific division, going 18-2-1 since my last check-in at the end of February. They’re easily one of the best teams in the league, and should be considered one of the favorites coming out of the west this post-season.

Couple reasons for optimism.

The Oilers have consistently posted some of the best shot-share numbers in the league, ranking highly when it comes to the rate of generating shots and scoring chances as well as preventing them. I think that’s something that tends to get overlooked – the Oilers have over the course of the full season been a pretty solid defensive team, doing everything they can to help their goaltending.

The Oilers actual results have been very good. They finished with the second highest number of regulation wins in the league with 45 – a good indicator that they’ve been winning games decisively and not leaving things to chance in overtime and shootout. Three other teams in the west rank amongst the top ten teams with the highest number of regulation wins – Dallas ranks 6th with 39, Vegas ranks 7th with 38 and Los Angeles ranks 10th with 37.

The Oilers have also been able to control the flow of play really well, as reflected by their shot-share numbers. And they’ve actually outscored opponents without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice at even-strength. In 1,831 minutes without one of both of them on the ice, or 46% of the team’s total time, the Oilers posted a Corsi For percentage and an Expected Goals For percentage of 53%. And they posted a +14 goal differential (74 goals for, 60 against).

The one area that could be an issue is goaltending. It’s been a great story this year with Stuart Skinner, and how he had to take on a starting role with Campbell struggling. But the team’s 91.34% save percentage finished 16th in the league and 8th in the western conference. Among the eight teams from the west that have qualified for the playoffs, their save percentage is only better than Los Angeles’ and Seattle’s. It could be good enough for the playoffs, but I don’t expect the Oilers goaltending to win the team any games if games get tighter.

Quick glance into how each team played in their last twenty five games (since around mid-February). Helps get a sense of what each team’s strengths and weaknesses are and how it could translate into their post-season results.

The team that stands out is Vegas, as it appears their possession numbers have slipped significantly and are relying on their goaltending to bail them out. They might be okay, considering how much of an impact goaltending has on playoff results. Plus they do also have Mark Stone coming back into the lineup. Winnipeg does have their own x-factor in net with Connor Hellebuyck, so it should be a good first-round match up.

Seattle is another team that might have some issues in the playoffs, especially with their goaltending which hasn’t performed well recently. They still have a good balance of forwards and can outscore you with different lines, as reflected by their 56% goal-share this season (second best in the league). But they lack that high-end talent to match some of the more offensive teams in the west.

The rest of the top teams in the western conference really turned it up in this last stretch of the season. Suspect, based on the table above, that some of the weaker teams knew they were out by the all-star break, and maybe didn’t dress their optimal rosters to increase their odds of landing Connor Bedard.

Data: Natural Stat Trick,