Last check-in on the western conference before the 2023 playoffs begin next week.
The Oilers finished second in the Pacific division, going 18-2-1 since my last check-in at the end of February. They’re easily one of the best teams in the league, and should be considered one of the favorites coming out of the west this post-season.
Couple reasons for optimism.
The Oilers have consistently posted some of the best shot-share numbers in the league, ranking highly when it comes to the rate of generating shots and scoring chances as well as preventing them. I think that’s something that tends to get overlooked – the Oilers have over the course of the full season been a pretty solid defensive team, doing everything they can to help their goaltending.
The Oilers actual results have been very good. They finished with the second highest number of regulation wins in the league with 45 – a good indicator that they’ve been winning games decisively and not leaving things to chance in overtime and shootout. Three other teams in the west rank amongst the top ten teams with the highest number of regulation wins – Dallas ranks 6th with 39, Vegas ranks 7th with 38 and Los Angeles ranks 10th with 37.
The Oilers have also been able to control the flow of play really well, as reflected by their shot-share numbers. And they’ve actually outscored opponents without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice at even-strength. In 1,831 minutes without one of both of them on the ice, or 46% of the team’s total time, the Oilers posted a Corsi For percentage and an Expected Goals For percentage of 53%. And they posted a +14 goal differential (74 goals for, 60 against).
The one area that could be an issue is goaltending. It’s been a great story this year with Stuart Skinner, and how he had to take on a starting role with Campbell struggling. But the team’s 91.34% save percentage finished 16th in the league and 8th in the western conference. Among the eight teams from the west that have qualified for the playoffs, their save percentage is only better than Los Angeles’ and Seattle’s. It could be good enough for the playoffs, but I don’t expect the Oilers goaltending to win the team any games if games get tighter.
Quick glance into how each team played in their last twenty five games (since around mid-February). Helps get a sense of what each team’s strengths and weaknesses are and how it could translate into their post-season results.
The team that stands out is Vegas, as it appears their possession numbers have slipped significantly and are relying on their goaltending to bail them out. They might be okay, considering how much of an impact goaltending has on playoff results. Plus they do also have Mark Stone coming back into the lineup. Winnipeg does have their own x-factor in net with Connor Hellebuyck, so it should be a good first-round match up.
Seattle is another team that might have some issues in the playoffs, especially with their goaltending which hasn’t performed well recently. They still have a good balance of forwards and can outscore you with different lines, as reflected by their 56% goal-share this season (second best in the league). But they lack that high-end talent to match some of the more offensive teams in the west.
The rest of the top teams in the western conference really turned it up in this last stretch of the season. Suspect, based on the table above, that some of the weaker teams knew they were out by the all-star break, and maybe didn’t dress their optimal rosters to increase their odds of landing Connor Bedard.
Data: Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com
4 thoughts on “Tracking the Western conference – As of April 14, 2023”
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