Tracking the Pacific division – As of October 31, 2021

Oilers improve to NHL-best 5-0 with win over Golden Knights

It’s been a great start for the Edmonton Oilers this season as they currently rank second in the Pacific division banking 12 points in seven games. Thanks to an incredible powerplay, the Oilers have a +9 goal differential and a division-leading 0.857 points percentage.

Team Record Points Point % Goal diff
Calgary 6-1-1 13 0.813 +14
Edmonton 6-1-0 12 0.857 +9
San Jose 5-3-0 10 0.625 +3
Anaheim 3-4-3 9 0.450 -3
Vegas 4-4-0 8 0.500 -6
Seattle 3-5-1 7 0.389 -5
Vancouver 3-5-1 7 0.389 -3
Los Angeles 3-5-1 7 0.389 -3

The rest of the Pacific is looking a little weak overall as most expected. Three teams currently have a goal-differential above 0, with Vegas and Seattle starting poorly along with Vancouver, Los Angeles and Anaheim having their own issues. Compare this to the Metropolitan division where every team currently has a goal-differential above 0 except for the Islanders who rank second-last with a -1 goal differential.

It’s become apparent that the main driver for the Oilers success this season has been the powerplay, which has scored 11 times in about 30 minutes of ice-time – an incredible rate of 21.45 goals per hour. For context, a rate of 10.00 per hour is what the top powerplays finish a season with. Worth noting that the mythical second powerplay unit has been excellent as well, scoring two goals in under five minutes of total ice-time. We can expect the first powerplay to get over 85% of the team’s total powerplay time for obvious reasons, but it’s good to know another unit is ready to go in case they struggle or deal with injuries. I’m also curious to see if teams eventually figure out a way to stop the Oilers powerplay, similar to what Montreal and Toronto did last season in the North division. Both clubs held the Oilers to under seven goals per hour, with Toronto doing a really good job limiting the Oilers scoring chances.

The concern the Oilers should have is that the powerplay results are masking some of the Oilers deficiencies at even-strength (5v5), where they have scored 13 goals, but allowed 14. The Oilers rate of goals against is ninth highest in the league, as they’re allowing the fourth-highest rate shots against (33.78 per hour) and have a team save percentage that currently ranks 17th in the league with 92.63%.

Below are the even-strength (5v5) numbers for each team in the Pacific division (sorted by the number of points they’ve accumulated) including goal-share results as well as the shot-share metrics that gives us a sense of which teams have the right processes in place and if the results are sustainable or not. I’ve also applied a basic heat-map to show which teams are doing well or struggling relative to their division foes. You can find a description of each metric at the end of this article. Also note that the shot-share metrics are score and venue adjusted based on Natural Stat Trick’s methodology.

Calgary has by far been the best team in the Pacific at even-strength (5v5), posting a goal-differential of +9 with very strong shot-share metrics to back up their success. It’s not likely they’ll finish the season with a goal-share above 60% – only one team has done that since the last lockout, when Washington finished with a goal-share of 61.38% in 2016/17. And their goaltending is obviously the biggest driver right now, with Markstrom in better form than last season. But the Flames are spending a lot of time with the puck as reflected by their 57.09% Corsi For percentage and are dominating in terms of scoring chances as indicated by their 55.60% Fenwick For percentage. It’ll be something to monitor if they can continue their success, especially with their penalty kill looking solid right allowing the third lowest rate of shots against per hour and the tenth lowest rate of goals against (5.38). Their powerplay has been very good as well, scoring at a rate of 10.76 goals per hour at this point.

Edmonton has looked decent when it comes to shot-share metrics, especially their Expected Goals-for percentage which factors in shot quality. But I’m a little skeptical that this number will stay high considering their Corsi For% and Fenwick For% (which also serves as a proxy for scoring chances) are a few percentage points lower. Last season, the Oilers had similar numbers after 10 games – a Fenwick For% of close to 50% and an Expected Goals-for percentage closer to 52%. By game 25, the Oilers Expected Goals-for percentage eventually dropped down to 50%, closer in line with their Fenwick For% which hovered around the 50% mark all season.

And not to sound the alarm too early, but the Oilers are having some of their usual depth issues right now. With McDavid on the ice, the Oilers have posted a +1 goal differential and without him, their -2. That could change quickly, but it’s worth noting the team’s shot share metrics with and without their captain. Definitely something that needs to be monitored, considering how much focus it had in the off-season and the assets that management spent to address it.

Ideally the Oilers should be posting shot-share metrics at or above 50% without their star player on the ice, but that has yet to happen since McDavid’s been here. I do expect the Oilers goal-share without McDavid to improve considering their PDO is close to 93.0 thanks to some poor goaltending. But I’d feel a little more confident if they were playing with the puck more often and generating chances more consistently.

Some other observations of the Pacific division:

  • San Jose and Anaheim – I think it’s safe to assume they’ll come back down to earth a little considering their possession numbers are so poor, hovering around a score-adjusted Corsi For percentage of about 46%.
  • Vancouver looks like a mess right now as their results are in line with how poorly they’ve been playing, posting possession and scoring chance numbers similar to San Jose and Anaheim.
  • Vegas should start to get better results once they get some of their key players back, but I’m starting to think they have some depth issues.
  • And I’d expect Seattle’s results to gradually improve as they’re doing alright when it comes to controlling play, but appear to be having issues in net as the team save percentage ranks second last in the league. Grubauer has been poor starting most of Seattle’s games with his overall save percentage (89.6%), which is below his career average (92.0%).
  • Los Angeles is the most interesting to me, as their goal differential is actually better than Edmonton’s right now and they have some really good underlying numbers as well. Definitely some issues finishing chances as reflected by their team shooting percentage of 6.39% which ranks 26th in the league, but I suspect their results will improve considering they have the puck more often than opponents and are generating chances – currently posting the 5th highest rate of shots in the league, and the 3rd highest rate of expected goals.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Glossary:

  • Points-percentage (Point%) – The total points accumulated divided by the points that were available, including extra time.
  • 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 is the best at predicting a team’s future share of goals (GF%). (Source: Hockey Great Tapes – Draglikepull)
  • 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.
  • Expected Goals For percentage (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.
  • Goals For percentage (GF%) – The proportion of all the goals that the team scored and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against).
  • 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).

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