Improving the Oilers Penalty Kill

The Oilers penalty kill (4v5) currently ranks 15th in the league, with an 82.1% efficiency. If we look at it in terms of actual goals scored per 60 minutes shorthanded, which serves as a more accurate assessment of a team’s success, the Oilers actually rank 9th best in the league with 5.13 goals against. This has been in large part to their goaltending shorthanded, which ranks 4th best in  the league.

Team TOI Goals Against/60 Fenwick Against/60 Save%
CAR 214.76 3.91 56.16 90.07
TOR 280.87 4.06 65.58 91.08
BOS 310.30 4.25 61.10 89.57
CBJ 248.45 4.83 64.96 89.47
WSH 318.89 4.89 56.45 86.53
ANA 328.82 4.93 70.80 89.93
L.A 278.60 4.95 54.49 86.71
MIN 234.89 5.11 67.69 88.95
EDM 269.08 5.13 68.01 89.59
FLA 279.85 5.15 60.68 88.35

Among the 25 goaltenders who have played at least 150 minutes shorthanded this season, Talbot ranks 3rd with a 90.45 save percentage, only behind Frederik Andersen and Roberto Luongo. He has faced the highest rate of shots on goals against among this group, and ranks around the middle of the pack when it comes to the average distance of the shots against.

Player Team GP TOI Shots Against/60 Save% Avg Shot Distance
FREDERIK.ANDERSEN TOR 39 236.67 45.38 91.06 18.01
ROBERTO.LUONGO FLA 32 159.07 45.64 90.91 16.45
CAM.TALBOT EDM 45 237.62 50.25 90.45 16.61
JOHN.GIBSON ANA 39 234.29 45.33 90.40 15.17
TUUKKA.RASK BOS 41 238.39 39.01 90.32 14.73
MARTIN.JONES S.J 42 209.64 45.79 90.00 13.19
SERGEI.BOBROVSKY CBJ 39 202.77 45.57 89.61 15.88
JAKE.ALLEN STL 35 195.07 42.75 89.21 18.69
PEKKA.RINNE NSH 37 175.05 49.01 88.81 18.16
DEVAN.DUBNYK MIN 38 185.71 46.20 88.81 15.02

When it comes to the rate of unblocked shot against (i.e., Fenwick) however, which serves as a better predictor for future success than actual goals against, the team ranks 21st in the league, allowing 68.01 per hour. This is definitely an area of concern as team’s that can contain shots and scoring chances against are the ones that are likely to have long term success.

What I’ve done below is list the players that have been deployed for at least 30 minutes on the penalty kill this season for the Oilers, and see how the team has done in terms of unblocked shots against with the player on the ice and without the player (i.e., relative to the team). I’ve also included the rate of actual goals against when each player is on the ice and how that number looks relative to the team.

Player TOI Fenwick Against/60 Fenwick Against/60 (Rel) Goals Against/60 Goals Against/60 (Rel)
MATT.HENDRICKS 40.12 58.33 -24.48 7.48 3.42
CONNOR.MCDAVID 53.41 50.55 -19.35 3.37 0.22
LEON.DRAISAITL 40.69 57.51 -11.23 4.42 1.48
ADAM.LARSSON 89.29 62.49 -5.86 6.72 4.23
OSCAR.KLEFBOM 91.99 63.92 -3.12 3.91 0.69
BENOIT.POULIOT 67.79 61.96 -1.99 5.31 3.05
ANDREJ.SEKERA 108.7 66.79 -0.46 4.97 1.11
DARNELL.NURSE 44.11 70.73 4.37 5.44 2.68
ZACK.KASSIAN 55.06 68.65 4.56 3.27 0.18
ERIC.GRYBA 42.71 66.03 8.03 2.81 1.08
MARK.LETESTU 108.65 75.10 19.54 5.52 1.70
KRIS.RUSSELL 108.63 78.98 20.00 5.52 1.24
NUGENT-HOPKINS 100.83 81.52 23.15 7.14 4.54
ANTON.LANDER 38.88 77.16 26.21 6.17 5.04

In terms of the rate of unblocked shots against, the team as a whole has allowed 68.01 per hour. When players like Hendricks, McDavid, Draisaitl, Larsson, Klefbom or Pouliot are on the ice, the team tends to allow fewer unblocked shots against (negatives are a good thing). On the bottom end of the table, we see that when current roster players like Letestu, Russell and RNH have been on the ice, the rate of unblocked shots against takes a significant jump. That’s pretty alarming considering that these three have been deployed the most shorthanded.

Of the three, it’s been Kris Russell’s numbers that are the most surprising and I suspect could be what is driving down the numbers of RNH and Letestu. The rate of shots against has reached just under 80 per hour with Russell is on the ice shortanded, which is odd considering he’s had plenty of experience playing on the penalty kill, with his past team’s often doing better with him on the ice than without him.

Season Team GP TOI Fenwick Against/60 Fenwick Against/60 (Rel)
2012/13 STL 33 25.52 44.67 -2.89
2013/14 CGY 68 67.40 55.19 -6.83
2014/15 CGY 79 112.46 61.36 1.87
2015/16 CGY 51 100.37 63.37 -7.07
2015/16 DAL 11 26.33 41.02 -10.14
2016/17 EDM 44 108.63 78.98 +20.00

Over the past five seasons, Russell has spent plenty of time on the penalty kill, but will likely reach a new high when it comes to total ice time this season. It makes sense if the team wants to rely on him to play shorthanded, as he has had success in terms of unblocked shots against in St. Louis and Calgary. But what the Oilers have failed to do is keep Russell on his natural side, something he often did in Calgary, and have instead paired him with Andrej Sekera and deployed him on the right. In Calgary two of his most common linemates were Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman, both of which were right handed options. Something the Oilers need to consider is getting Russell back on his natural side, especially if they want to continue deploying him on the penalty kill.

It’ll be up to the coaching staff to maximize each shift, whether it be at 5v5 or on special teams, especially as the team gets ready for the playoffs. For the first time in a long time, the Oilers have a competitive roster, but each player needs to be in a position to succeed, especially the defencemen.

Data: Corsica Hockey

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

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