The January Hot Streak + Radio Spot on CBC Radio Active

The month of January has been excellent for the Oilers, as the team has collected critical points in their pursuit of a playoff berth. Outscoring their opponents 31-20 at 5v5, the Oilers went 9-4-0 in the 13 games and moved into a tie for first in the Pacific with San Jose. With 31 games remaining, the Oilers will need to secure another 36 points to get to 100 for the season, which is higher than what’s being projected to make the playoffs, but would guarantee them a spot.

If we dig into these 13 games in January, we see that the team posted a score-adjusted Corsi For% of 48.53, which is slightly lower what they posted prior to the month this season. In the month of January, the club generated a lower rate of shots-on-goal than the previous months, but posted a shooting percentage of 10.56%, which ranks them 5th in the league, and is a 3.0% jump from the shooting percentage they posted between October and December 2016. The team’s save percentage remained steady at around 92%, as the club has received reliable goal-tending from Cam Talbot, who could arguably be the team’s most valuable player this season. Worth noting that Talbot’s individual save percentage has historically been around 92%, but he’s posted a 93.5% save percentage in January.

Term Games Record Corsi For% (adj) Goals For% Shooting% Save% PDO
Pre January 1 38 19-11-8 51.63 51.47 7.48 92.62 100.11
Post January 1 13 9-4-0 48.53 60.78 10.56 92.94 103.50

It’s usually when a team’s PDO (the combination of the teams save percentage and the teams shooting percentage at 5v5) is below 98.0 or above 102.0 that typically warrants attention. The fact that the Oilers PDO has been over 103 in January, which ranks them 3rd highest in the league for this month, indicates that the club is getting a little lucky, and likely won’t sustain this level of production.

Now this is not a knock on the Oilers at all. NHL teams go through their hot and cold streaks throughout the regular season. The Oilers, over the course of the full year, have been a good-to-average team and fully deserve to be in the playoffs. They’ve held an above average share of shot attempts, which is used to predict future goals, and have posted an above average share of goals without having to rely on the more luck driven factors like shooting and save percentages.

Term Games Record Corsi For% (adj) Goals For% Shooting% Save% PDO
2016/17 Season 51 28-15-8 50.85 54.01 8.24 92.73 100.97

The concern here is that the Oilers will be making some important decisions now to sustain their success and push for the playoffs, and hopefully do some damage once they get in. As fun as January has been, it’s not likely that they’ll continue outscoring their opponents like they have over these past 13 games and continue getting over 60% of the total goals score at even-strength. But because of this great run, the coaching staff will likely want to keep the line combinations as is, even though specific players, like forwards Drake Caggiula and Matt Hendricks, have struggled. Caggiula is a good prospect that should be able to help the club in the future. But he’s struggled in his transition to center and is currently last on the team among forwards in points per 60 at 5v5 with 1.01, and just behind Milan Lucic who has 1.09 points per 60. And with Hendricks, it’s become pretty obvious that he’s lost a few steps and can’t bring any offence to the team. Both players have been part of the winning roster, no question, but the coaching staff has to make adjustments and maximize every shift, geared towards scoring goals. Depth will be critical today and in the playoffs, so the team has to make changes and could look to their AHL roster to meet their needs.

The other issue is the impact a hot streak like this can have on the Oilers long term goals of being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Oilers may begin considering themselves as legitimate championship contenders today, and look into moving away assets in the form of picks and prospects to secure rental players. The team could definitely use a centerman to play in the bottom six or add depth to their right side. But decisions like these could hinder their options in the summer , when they should be targeting long term solutions for their roster and establish a proper window of opportunity to win championships. The team is definitely good enough to make the playoffs this year, but they should not be making decisions that will impact their long term goals based on their recent stretch of games.

Data: Corsica Hockey

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

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