Another month of solid results for the Edmonton Oilers with the club ranking second in the Pacific division with 30 points in their first 20 games. Their 0.750 points percentage is tied with Florida for best in the league, due in large part to their special teams, which continues to be strong and is a key driver for their overall goal-differential of +22.
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.
The Oilers continue to struggle at even-strength (5v5), with their 48.31% goal-share ranking fifth in the division, which is even slightly behind Vancouver’s. A big reason for that is their goaltending, which ranks 25th in the league in terms of save percentage (91.23%) and it hasn’t shown any signs of progress so far. The other issue continues to be the depth, as the Oilers continue to get outplayed when McDavid isn’t on the ice. Also worth noting that the Oilers Expected Goals For% has gradually come down since the first month of the season – going from 53.13% at the of October to 48.31% – closer aligning with their Fenwick For%, which has been average so far.
The Flames appear to have even-strength figured out, now posting a +22 goal differential at 5v5, due in large part to strong goaltending and the ability to dominate when it comes to controlling the flow of play. The Flames rank second in the league when it comes to unblocked shot attempts, a proxy for scoring chances, and are allowing the third lowest rate of unblocked shot attempts against. Even if their goaltending slips slightly, the team is doing everything they can to maintain a fairly strong pace and finish higher up in the standings.
The one other team to keep an eye on is Anaheim. At the end of the first month, their shot share metrics were poor, which led me to believe their results weren’t going to be sustainable. However in the last 10 games, they’ve done a much better job at controlling the flow of play as reflected by their 51.41% Corsi For percentage – an indication that while the results might wane, their process is improving. Seattle and San Jose on the other hand have really struggled over their last ten games, posting Corsi For percentages closer to 45% – indicating to me that they’ll likely drop in the standings if things don’t improve.
As mentioned above, the Oilers are very dependent on their special teams, with their powerplay ranking first in the league, scoring 15.21 goals per hour (23 goals in 87 minutes of powerplay time) and their penalty kill ranking fourth in the league, having allowed only 8 goals in 108 minutes – a rate of 4.46 goals per hour. Plus the penalty kill has scored three times, which is more than they scored all of last season (2) and matching the number of shorthanded goals they scored in in 2019/20.
One thing to note is that while the Oilers were able to score 15 powerplay goals in their first ten games of the season (21.62 goals per hour), they came back down to earth and ‘only’ scored 8 powerplay goals in the second set of ten games (10.51 goals per hour). Scoring over 10 goals per hour on the powerplay is still exceptional, and is probably where the Oilers will finish the season. But I think it’s an important reminder that the Oilers powerplay can be handled and that the team’s even-strength play needs to be addressed quickly to prepare for any lulls the powerplay encounters.
Here’s a quick look at how the rest of the Pacific division teams are doing on their special teams. For the table below, I’ve combined the number of goals scored and allowed on the powerplay and penalty kill, as well as the shots all of the teams have generated across their special teams. The table is sorted by the Special Teams Goals +/-.
|Team||Special Teams Goals +/-||Special Team Shots +/-|
When it comes to special teams goal differential, Edmonton and Anaheim are currently number one and two, respectively, in the league right now followed by Toronto (+8), Calgary (+7) and Colorado (+7). When it comes to shot differential, the Oilers rank 11th in the league with +14, while Toronto (+55), Pittsburgh (+34), Chicago (+27), Los Angeles (+27) and Colorado (+23) are in the top five. It’ll be interesting to see if the Kings can turn things around, especially when you consider their powerplay generates the eighth highest rate of shots, but struggle to finish their chances.
Considering how most of the Pacific division clubs are posting average shot-share numbers at even-strength, I get the sense a lot of their results are going to be driven by special teams. It’s become a pretty competitive division and teams cannot afford to struggle on the powerplay and penalty kill and lose out on a playoff spot because of it. Definitely something to track this season.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
- 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).