Getting more out of the Oilers powerplay


The Edmonton Oilers powerplay has been one of the few bright spots in a dreadful 2018/19 season.

After 78 games, the Oilers have scored 46 goals with the man-advantage, scoring at a rate of 7.95 goals per hour – good for eighth in the league. They’ve also done a pretty good job at generating offensive opportunities, thanks in large part to their high-end talent, ranking 12th in the league with 52.17 shots on goal per hour and ranking 6th in the league with 23.15 high-danger scoring chances per hour. The Oilers have been fairly consistent throughout the season on the powerplay, posting scoring and shot rates typically above league average rates.

Team GP SF/60 HDCF/60 GF/60
Tampa Bay Lightning 78 50.83 16.44 11.01
Boston Bruins 79 52.86 21.58 10.17
Florida Panthers 79 56.11 18.32 10.09
Winnipeg Jets 78 56.58 21.26 9.33
Pittsburgh Penguins 79 51.05 22.12 8.98
San Jose Sharks 79 59.62 25.33 8.81
Colorado Avalanche 78 51.35 21.55 8.00
Edmonton Oilers 78 52.17 23.15 7.95
Toronto Maple Leafs 78 61.89 34.44 7.87
Washington Capitals 79 51.23 17.99 7.47

The Oilers have relied quite heavily on their top end talent, as we’ve rarely seen the powerplay without McDavid, Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins on the ice together. In fact, Draisaitl, who currently leads the team in total powerplay ice time, has been on the ice for 76.73% of the team’s powerplay ice time and 43 of the team’s 46 powerplay goals. If that ice time sounds high, and that goal-share disproportionate, it is.

Across the entire league, the Oilers rank second overall when it comes to deploying their first powerplay unit. To figure this out, I had looked at the total powerplay time for each team and used their forward with the most powerplay minutes as a proxy for the first powerplay unit. Based on this method, on average team’s have had their top powerplay unit on the ice for 63.72% of their total powerplay time this season. The Capitals currently rely on their first powerplay unit the most, having Alex Ovechkin on the ice for 88.65% of their total time.

Team GF/60 – 1st PP Unit GF/60 – 2nd PP Unit TOI% – 1st PP Unit
Washington Capitals 8.08 2.69 88.6%
Edmonton Oilers 9.68 2.23 76.7%
Chicago Blackhawks 8.59 3.88 75.5%
Tampa Bay Lightning 12.20 7.60 74.2%
Winnipeg Jets 9.87 7.99 71.3%
Pittsburgh Penguins 9.95 6.70 70.2%
Dallas Stars 8.21 5.34 69.8%
Philadelphia Flyers 6.71 3.45 69.5%
Colorado Avalanche 9.39 4.95 68.7%
Buffalo Sabres 7.75 3.65 66.7%
Vancouver Canucks 6.94 2.96 66.1%
Florida Panthers 11.64 7.08 65.9%
Arizona Coyotes 5.77 5.68 65.5%
Boston Bruins 12.52 5.81 65.0%
New York Rangers 8.39 4.87 62.8%
Los Angeles Kings 7.18 3.56 61.7%
Calgary Flames 9.44 3.91 61.3%
New York Islanders 5.83 3.60 61.2%
Carolina Hurricanes 7.71 4.26 60.9%
Toronto Maple Leafs 9.69 5.18 59.5%
San Jose Sharks 9.27 8.14 59.4%
Montreal Canadiens 5.24 3.39 59.0%
St Louis Blues 7.72 6.43 58.7%
Columbus Blue Jackets 5.86 4.34 58.5%
New Jersey Devils 6.64 5.54 58.5%
Vegas Golden Knights 6.96 4.98 56.1%
Nashville Predators 5.09 3.80 55.4%
Minnesota Wild 8.39 6.00 55.2%
Anaheim Ducks 7.40 4.64 52.6%
Detroit Red Wings 7.39 4.95 51.3%
Ottawa Senators 7.14 7.32 49.5%

I also wasn’t sure if getting three goals from the Oilers second powerplay unit (i.e., ice time that did not have the team leader in ice time on the ice) was bad or average. Over the course of 80.80 minutes without Draisaitl on the ice, the Oilers have scored at a rate of 2.23 goals per hour, which is actually the lowest rate compared to every other team’s second powerplay units. Again – the second powerplay unit is when the team’s ice-team leader in powerplay minutes is not on the ice. On average, second powerplay units score at a rate of 5.00 goals per hour, with team’s like San Jose, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Florida and Pittsburgh – all of which have top ten powerplays this season – getting over 7.00 goals per hour from their second powerplay units.

Doing some quick math, if the Oilers were getting a rate of 5.00 goals per hour from their second powerplay unit, they would have approximately four more goals. And if they were getting 7.00 goals per hour – they would have approximately seven more goals. Small increases that don’t impact the overall -37 goal-differential much , but they could have had an additional win in the standings. Combine that with a competent penalty kill, and the Oilers could have been a little more competitive.

There’s plenty of issues for the Oilers to work through this off-season, making it imperative that they collect as much information and insight as they can to better inform their decision-making process. While the powerplay may seem like a positive, management needs to apply a critical lens to their current situation and figure where else they can squeeze out more goals from. It’s great that the Oilers have the high end talent to make the first powerplay work, but it’s obvious that they need to either spread their offensive talent more efficiently or find some depth scoring (even a third or fourth line player) this off-season that could potentially give that second powerplay unit a much needed  boost.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Data compilation: Oilers – PP Analysis – 20190331 – Public

Appendix: Time-on-ice (TOI) proportion of first powerplay units (using team leader in powerplay TOI as a proxy)

PP - TOI percentage of first units


3 thoughts on “Getting more out of the Oilers powerplay

  1. Pingback: Next steps | The SuperFan

  2. Pingback: Powerplay expectations | The SuperFan

  3. Pingback: Boosting the powerplay | The SuperFan

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