Thoughts on the Oilers: Recent success, depth players, defensive pairings and special teams

The Oilers have been getting excellent results recently, going 7-3 in their last 10 games and outscoring opponents 40-31. Posting a 0.700 points percentage in a competitive division over a shortened season is massive. Toronto has gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 (a 0.800 points percentage), while both the Flames and Canadiens have gone 6-4 (a 0.600 points percentage).

Over this recent stretch, the Oilers have outscored opponents 26-22 at even-strength (a goal-share of 54.17%), just breaking even when it comes to the flow of play posting a Corsi For percentage of 50.04% and scoring chances posting an expected goal-share of 50.23%. The Oilers have done a much better job converting their chances into goals, especially the depth players, posting a team shooting percentage of 11.10%. And it’s good timing considering their goaltending has struggled over this stretch, posting a team save percentage of 90.84% at even-strength, just barely better than Ottawa’s and three percentage points better than Vancouver’s.

The goaltending has also been poor on the penalty kill, posting a save percentage of 83.67%, and part of the reason why they have allowed over nine goals per hour over this stretch. The other issue is that the skaters have allowed the highest rate of shots against in the North division. Thankfully the powerplay has really clicked, generating the highest rate of shots per hour in the North division as well as goals per hour with 11.01. I suspect the Oilers powerplay should remain productive based on their talent level and their ability to generate chances. It’s the penalty kill that’s concerning considering the goaltending is unreliable, which could be offset by making some deployment adjustments among the skaters.

A quick look at the on-ice numbers for the forwards who have played at least ten minutes this season, including the rate of shots, unblocked shot attempts and goals against; sorted by time-on-ice per game. Haas has only dressed in a few games, but he’s been effective with the team allowing some of the lowest rates of shots against. On the other end of the spectrum, we see guys like Turris, who has historically been poor on the penalty kill and Nugent-Hopkins struggle. A lot goes into selecting who the forwards are, and we know coaches base a lot of their decisions on results (i.e., goals against per hour), but I’d be curious to see Yamamoto get some more time considering his speed playing style.

PlayerGPTOITOI/GPFA/60SA/60GA/60
Gaetan Haas313.824.6143.4334.740.00
Josh Archibald1844.502.4783.6068.765.39
Jujhar Khaira920.202.2480.2068.322.97
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins1837.052.0689.0772.8712.96
Kailer Yamamoto1825.231.4057.0742.8011.89
Kyle Turris1824.031.3487.3864.9112.48
Devin Shore1113.181.20109.23100.1313.65
Leon Draisaitl1812.470.6977.0152.949.63

Here’s how the defencemen have done, again sorted by time-on-ice per game. The Oilers have been effective limiting shots and chances against when Nurse or Lagesson have been on the ice, which is great news considering special teams was a concern when Klefbom was declared unfit to play this past off-season. It’s the play of Russell that’s very concerning considering the Oilers allow the highest rate of shots against when he’s on the ice. Hopefully the coaching staff is aware of this, and look at potentially giving Koekkoek more time there or getting someone like Jones up to speed.

PlayerGPTOITOI/GPFA/60SA/60GA/60
Darnell Nurse1848.852.7172.4761.416.14
Adam Larsson1846.852.6083.2465.3110.25
Kris Russell1023.882.3982.9072.8510.05
Slater Koekkoek1531.972.1391.9765.699.38
Ethan Bear918.302.0385.2572.139.84
William Lagesson814.171.7746.5938.124.24

What’s also been encouraging has been the play of the bottom six over these last ten games. Without McDavid or Drsaitlt on the ice, the Oilers have outscored opponents 10-7 (a goal-share of 58.82%). That’s massive progress considering they were badly outscored, allowing 13 and only scoring once in the first eight games of the season. Despite the excellent results over the last 10 games, I wouldn’t say the bottom six is out of the woods just yet. They’re still getting outshot and out-chanced, posting a Corsi For% of 46.15% and an expected goal-share of 45.54%. It’s not great, but at least it’s an improvement from the 34.95 Corsi For% and 30.65% expected goal-share they posted in the first eight games of the season. We’ll still take it as progress, but it needs to get better for the Oilers to be a competitive team. Depth players typically play close to 40% of the team’s total ice time and the Oilers can’t risk over-playing their star players and risk injury. Reducing Turris’ ice time is a good start – he’s been getting absolutely caved at even-strength this season, with the Oilers posting some of their worst shot and goal-share numbers when he’s been on the ice.

One other thing to note is the Oilers defensive pairing of Nurse and Barrie. They’ve been getting positive results together, playing over 158 minutes together this season, posting a goal-share of 59.09% (13 GF, 9 GA). The Oilers shot-share numbers have been okay as well, with the team just breaking even when it comes to Corsi For%, but tend to get outchanced, posting an expected goal-share of 46.26%. What I’d really like to see from this pairing are improved numbers when playing without McDavid on the ice. Without him, Nurse and Barrie have posted a Corsi For% of 42.07% and an expected goal-share of 30.56% this season. That’s within 69 minutes, which also includes time with Draisait’s line. Something to monitor if the Oilers expect to improve their goal differential, as they should not have to rely solely on the top players for positive results.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

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