Thoughts on the Oilers/Ducks series: Shots, goaltending, line combinations and penalty differentials

Playoffs have been a lot of fun so far. Couple notes.

Over their nine post-season games, the Oilers have been outscored 16-12 at even-strength (5v5), a goal-share of 42.86%, which ranks them 13th among the 16 playoff teams. They have a score-adjusted Corsi For% of 49.75, which ranks them 9th. But over the first three games of the second round, the Ducks have been the better possession team, controlling 55.7% of the shot attempts, and outscoring the Oilers 8-5. I fully appreciate the fact that the playoffs is a crap-shoot, and that anything can happen. I’d just be a little more confident if the Oiler’s goal-share and shot metrics were a little better.

The lack of calls against the Ducks has been frustrating. Anaheim finished the regular season with a penalty differential of -11, which was the 9th worst in the league. The Oilers on the other hand finished the regular season with a penalty differential of +11, which was 11th in the league. In the playoffs? The Oilers suddenly have the worst penalty differential among the 16 teams with -11. And the Ducks? They sit around the middle of the pack with a differential of 0. The league needs to be look into this, it makes no sense.

Goaltending has not been good for the Oilers against the Ducks. After finishing the first round against the Sharks with a 5v5 save percentage of 93.85%, 7th best among the 16 playoff teams, Talbot’s save percentage has dropped to 89.74%. To put things into perspective, the Flames, who were swept by the Ducks, posted a 5v5 save percentage of 90.32% in the first round against the same team. Worth noting that the Flames posted a 5v5 shooting percentage of 1.94% against the Ducks, while the Oilers currently have a reasonable 8.93% shooting percentage against the same team.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the five different line combinations the Oilers have used for at least 30 minutes at 5v5 this post-season, including their Corsi For%, Fenwick For%, Expected Goal% and actual goals for/against.

Lucic-RNH-Eberle 85.37 57.65 58.47 55.13 1-3
Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl 57.6 48.82 41.38 43.53 4-2
Caggiula-McDavid-Draisaitl 33.15 58.23 54.55 66.22 1-0
Caggiula-Letestu-Kassian 44.64 40.00 39.39 37.35 0-1
Pouliot-Desharnais-Slepyshev 46.43 46.51 50.00 53.82 2-0

The trio of Lucic-RNH-Eberle has played the most minutes together for the Oilers, and have Corsi For% of 57.65%, which ranks them 8th among the 45 line combinations that have played at least 30 minutes together in the post-season. Not only have the had great possession numbers, but they’re also getting a higher share of the quality chances. This is pretty impressive considering they’ve been playing tough match-ups (Thornton/Pavelski in round one, and now Getzlaf in round two). Unfortunately for them, the results haven’t come yet, as they’ve posted a shooting percentage of 2.13%. You’d think that their percentages eventually regress towards their career norms, but there really isn’t a lot of time in the playoffs for things to correct themselves. I’d keep this trio together, but would understand if the coaching staff made a tweak. One other thing worth noting is how good of a job this trio has done drawing penalties. They’re +4 together in terms of penalty differentials, which is the best among the 45 line combinations.

The Desharnais/Pouliot tandem has been playing better lately, so I would keep them together. Pouliot has also been very good on the penalty kill, so it really isn’t worth scratching him. The players I’d be worried about are Letestu and Kassian. I understand Letestu’s value on the powerplay, and would keep him in the line-up. But that line just isn’t working at 5v5, and is often allowing a lot of shots by the other team’s depth players.

One last thing: I wanted to see how the Oilers differentials have been at 5v5 over the nine games to see if there were any patterns.

Playoff differentials - 20170501

The Oilers have yet to post good underlying numbers against the Ducks, which has me somewhat concerned. Their goaltending hasn’t been good enough in the second round, but maybe Talbot has another bounce back game on Wednesday and steals one. What also stands out in the graph above is how well the Oilers bounce back after a loss. After both losses against San Jose, the Oilers dominated play in the following game. Anaheim is a different team and might have better game plan, and health, than San Jose. But I do like the Oilers chances of putting together a better effort in game four.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Corsica Hockey

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