I joined Rod Kurtz on CBC Radio Active today to talk about the NHL’s Return to Play plan and what to expect in the Oilers qualifier series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2020, July 10).
While it’s exciting to have hockey starting up again, it’s difficult to ignore the health risks these players and team staff members are taking on. The harsh reality is that we’re likely to see players test positive for COVID-19 and there’s no guarantee that the protocols like social distancing and masking along with regular testing will limit the spread of the virus and prevent serious outbreaks. There’s also the mental health impact of playing away from family and friends for an extended period of time in a restricted bubble. And then you have the heightened risk of players getting injured with teams scheduled to play a lot of hockey withing tight time-frames. Make no mistake, this is driven by money, not the “love of the game”. Here’s hoping players and staff stay healthy and avoid the long-term health impacts of the COVID-19 virus.
The actual series between Edmonton and Chicago I think is going to be interesting and could be closer than we’d like to think. The Oilers definitely have the edge when it comes to overall talent and the powerplay, but I think the Blackhawks had some things going for them in the latter half of the season, especially at even-strength.
Over the final twenty-five games of the season, the Oilers went 13-8-4, a points percentage of 0.600 – placing them in the top ten league wide. Chicago wasn’t too far behind and actually posted stronger results with a +11 goal differential compared to Edmonton’s +2. Chicago also did a slightly better job when it came to controlling the flow of play as measured by shot attempts (i.e., Corsi) as well as scoring chances which uses unblocked shot attempts as a proxy.
|Final 25 Games (2019/20)||Chicago||Edmonton|
|Points%||0.560 (14th)||0.600 (9th)|
|5v5 – Goal-share||55.05 (7th)||50.93 (14th)|
|5v5 – Goal-differential||+11||+2|
|5v5 – Corsi For%||50.22 (14th)||49.26 (18th)|
|5v5 – Fenwick For%||50.42 (14th)||48.83 (21st)|
|5v5 – Shooting%||8.73 (10th)||9.22 (5th)|
|5v5 – Save%||92.76 (7th)||91.76 (22nd)|
What’s interesting is that while Chicago and Edmonton ranked 19th and 20th respectively when it came to preventing scoring chances, Chicago did a much better job generating scoring chances ranking 6th in the league while Edmonton ranked 22nd. The other area where I think Chicago has the slight edge is in net, which plays a significant role in the playoffs. Edmonton finished the season 14th overall with a 90.55% team save percentage at all strengths, while Chicago finished 6th with 91.30%.
- Related: Re-connecting – The SuperFan (2020, June 16)
- Related: A statistical look at the Oilers vs. Blackhawks play-in series – TSN (2020, June 18)
The other area where Chicago did well with consistently was their penalty kill, which finished ninth best in the league when it came to the rate of goals against with 6.34 per hour. And that was due in large part to their goaltending, which ranked third in the league when it came to save percentage shorthanded. The fact that Chicago got consistent goaltending throughout the season, and the fact that the Oilers struggled to generate offence in the latter part of the season should be of concern and will hopefully be recognized and addressed by the coaching staff during training camp.
Data: Natural Stat Trick