With the Oilers only posting a 50.94% goal-share at even-strength (5v5), I thought it’d be worth digging into how the Oilers have been doing at generating and preventing shot attempts and scoring chances this season, and if there might be some hope for the team to improve as they look to secure a playoff spot and (hopefully) do some damage in the playoffs. As I wrote in my last post, the special teams are outstanding, appearing sustainable, and it’s going to be a significant driver for their overall success. But the Oilers should still be targeting a stronger goal-share at even-strength.
- Related: Power up – The SuperFan (2019, November 25)
Quick snapshot of the Oilers current state at even-strength after 26 games. Glossary with a description of the metrics can be found in the appendix.
The good news is that the Oilers are just fine when it comes to underlying shot-share metrics, with the expected goal-share pretty darn close to the actual goal-share. What’s especially encouraging is that their numbers, especially Corsi For% (i.e., a proxy for possession) and Fenwick For% (i.e., a proxy for scoring chances) while appearing to be slightly sub-par, have gradually been improving over the course of the season and have at times hovered closer to the 51.0% mark. Below is a graph showing the Oilers shot-share metrics over rolling 10-game segments this season.
While the Oilers have posted a decent Corsi For percentage over the last 10 games (50.87%, 14th overall), their Fenwick For% of 51.35% has been 9th and xGoals For% of 52.78% has ranked 7th. The expected goal-share is what really stands out, as the team appears to be focusing on and getting better at creating more high-danger opportunities. Have to keep in mind too that this is a new coach, with a new philosophy, and it probably takes 20-25 games to get a group of players up to speed with the system and tactics.
And while the Oilers (including the top line) were struggling to generate shot attempts and chances earlier this season, things do seem to be gradually getting better offensively. Below are the rates of Corsi, Fenwick and Expected Goals for and against over ten game segments (apologies for the non-zero y-axes!).
What’s interesting is that the team appears to be loosening up a bit defensively and perhaps willing to give up more chances in an attempt to create more, something I wasn’t expecting considering the talk all season about being better defensively and just how well they were suppressing shots. The Oilers were near the top of the league limiting opportunities earlier this season but have gradually regressed towards league averages. And the Oilers as a team do appear to be more focused on quality rather than quantity, just based on how strong the expected goal-share has been compared to the shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts.
The good news is that the improved shot-share numbers appear to be a team-wide trend, and not just the top-line driving things. Here’s how the team has done at even-strength after 26 games with McDavid on the ice (used as a proxy for the top line) and without McDavid (proxy for the depth players).
|Goals For%||Corsi For%||Fenwick For%||xGoal
Breaking things down further over rolling 10-game segments, we see McDavid’s numbers drastically improving, perhaps a sign that his injury is healing well, and driving the overall results. But we also see that the team without their captain on the ice has been hovering around the 50.0% shot-share mark for most of the season and even seeing a brief spike in terms of expected goals – signalling that they’re getting quality chances more frequently. While the finishing talent isn’t there, it’s a good sign that the team has the right processes in place to improve their chances of scoring goals at even-strength without McDavid on the ice.
Now most of the Oiler’s shots-share success without McDavid on the ice has been largely driven by the teams ability to suppress chances and basically do nothing else offensively. That appears to be changing as the group has gradually been allowing a lot more, but at least are generating more quality chances offensively.
While the current goal-share at even-strength is just under where they probably should be (~52.0%), there are signs that the Oilers have the right tactics and processes in place that will improve their chances of better out-scoring opponents. The team’s possession numbers and share of scoring chances are trending upwards, and hopefully it continues as they work on holding down a playoff spot. The good news is that this is a team-wide trend with McDavid posting stronger shot-share numbers as he and his line are generating more and more, and with the depth forwards holding their own generating more high danger chances and posting decent shot-share numbers. The concern I would have with the team as a whole giving up more chances (potentially in an attempt to create more offensively) is that their goaltending remains a little suspect, especially with Mike Smith still getting plenty of playing time. He currently ranks in the bottom five among 38 goalies (>500 minutes) when it comes to save percentage and goals-saved above average.
I also wouldn’t mind seeing the talent get dispersed a little more, with perhaps Draisaitl playing a little more frequently on the second line at even-strength, especially with Nugent-Hopkins currently out of the line-up. There clearly aren’t enough finishers on the team, so perhaps with the points accumulated and the upward trend of underlying numbers, it might be time to start exploring the trade market. The focus being of course on trading from areas of strength and constructing a roster that can regularly compete for a championship.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
- Goals For percentage (GF%) – The proportion of all the goals the scored for and against that the Oilers scored (i.e., Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against).
- Corsi For percentage (CF%) – The proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Corsi For/(Corsi For + Corsi Against). This is used as a proxy for possession and can predict a team’s future share of goals (GF%).
- Fenwick For percentage (FF%) – The proportion of all the unblocked shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Fenwick For/(Fenwick For + Fenwick Against). This is used as a proxy for shot quality and considers shot blocking a repeatable skill. It can also predict a team’s future share of goals, slightlty better than Corsi.
- Expected Goals For% (xGF%) – This is a weighting placed on every unblocked shot based on the probability of the shot becoming a goal. This depends on the type of shot, location and uses historical shot and goals data to come up with the probability for each unblocked shot.
- Shooting percentage (Sh%) – The percentage of the team’s shots on goal that became goals (i.e., total goals divided by the total shots on goal).
- Save percentage (Sv%) – The percentage of the team’s shots on goal against that were saved (i.e., 1-(totals goals allowed divided by the total shots on goal against).