Previewing the Oilers vs Kings (2023)

With the first round of the playoffs set to begin, I wanted to get a sense of how both teams finished the season, what their key drivers were and how individual players performed.

The Oilers we know have been outstanding this year, going 20-4-1 in their final twenty-five games of the regular season, a points percentage of 0.820 – second best in the league only behind Boston who went 21-4-0 in their last twenty five games. The Oilers had the second highest all-situations goal-share in the league to finish the season, posting a +42 goal differential due in large part to their outstanding play at even-strength (offensively and defensively), and their production on the powerplay and penalty kill.

The Kings had excellent results as well over their final twenty-five games, going 15-7-3 – which translates into a 0.660 points percentage that ranked ninth highest in the league. Similar to the Oilers, they posted an excellent all-situations goal-share in this period, with a +21 goal differential that was sixth highest in the league. A lot of their success was at even-strength, as well as their powerplay.

Even-strength (5v5)

Here’s how the two teams performed at even-strength (5v5) over their final twenty-five games. Both clubs ranked near the top of the league for the majority of the metrics.

Team Oilers Kings
Points% 0.820 0.660
Corsi For% 56.03 54.91
Fenwick For% 55.60 56.01
xGoals For% 57.19 55.64
Goals For% 56.03 57.61
Shooting% 9.64 8.05
Save% 91.14 92.10

The two clubs are fairly evenly matched when it comes to shot-share metrics, with both teams posting a Corsi For% and Fenwick For% around 55% – right around what top teams typically post. Where the Kings have struggled recently is finishing their chances, as their 8.05% shooting percentage ranked 25th league-wide. The issue has been the absence of Kevin Fiala, who the Kings need healthy and ready for the playoffs. With him on the ice this season, the Kings have a 9.77% team shooting percentage at even-strength. And without him on the ice, it drops down to 7.60%. Full details on how the Oilers and Kings rank within the western conference can be found here. 

Goaltending (5v5)

Both teams got decent goaltending to end the season, with the Oilers ranking 13th with a 91.14% team save percentage, while the Kings ranked slightly better at 11th. Below are the Oilers and Kings goalies from the last twenty-five games, with their rankings for each metric among the 59 goaltenders who played at least 250 minutes.

Goalie (5v5), last 25 GP TOI Save% GSAA High-danger Save%
Joonas Korpisalo 11 501 93.2%
Pheonix Copley 14 641 92.1%
Stuart Skinner 20 943 91.9%
Jack Campbell 6 273 89.5%

Among the four goalies, Korpisalo appears to have had the strongest stretch at even-strength, with his save percentage and high danger save percentage among the top ten league wide. Skinner on the other hand has been slightly above average for the most part, and should be able to get the job done. Concern I would have is with his high danger save percentage, which might be a problem against a Kings team that generated the eighth highest rate of high-danger shot attempts in their last twenty five games.

Special Teams

The Edmonton Oilers powerplay had a strong finish to the season, generating the second highest rate of shots per hour (68.40) in the league over the final twenty-five games, and scoring over 14 goals per hour – the best in the league. These numbers were consistent with their full-season results on the powerplay, largely driven by their top end players and their overall tactics.

While not at the Oilers superhuman levels, the Kings did have some success on the powerplay, generating 8.39 goals per hour in their last twenty-five games, which ranked ninth in the league. The Kings team shooting percentage was one of the best in the league with 17.71%, which was critical considering they generated some of the lowest rates of shots and scoring chances.

Powerplay (Last 25 games) Oilers Kings
Shots for/60 68.40 (2nd) 47.37 (26th)
Goals for/60 14.32 (1st) 8.39 (9th)
Team shooting% 20.93% (1st) 17.71% (5th)

Neither team had anything special going on with their penalty kill, with the Oilers rate of goals against ranking 11th, while the Kings ranked 19th. Both teams were around average when it came to allowing shots against, with the Oilers getting the better goaltending as the team posted the ninth best save percentage in the league with 88.79%.

Penalty Kill (Last 25 games) Oilers Kings
Shots against/60 52.50 (17th) 50.03 (12th)
Goals against/60 5.88 (11th) 7.77 (18th)
Team save% 88.79% (9th) 84.47% (23rd)

The Oilers did score nine shorthanded goals over their last twenty-five games, a rate of 4.07 goals per hour which is more than what the best teams score at even-strength. Nice little competitive edge if the Oilers have figured out how to make this repeatable.

Skaters (5v5)

Another thing I wanted to see ahead of the series was how the players on each team did in terms of on-ice shot and goal differentials at even-strength (5v5) over their teams final twenty-five games. Just to get a sense of which players are playing well, but might not be getting the results.

Below are all of the Oilers skaters, sorted by their on-ice goal differential (Goals +/-), with the Oilers top end players leading the way.

As mentioned in my previous post, one of the Oilers strengths this season has been their depth scoring. In their last twenty-five games, the team has posted a Corsi For percentage of 53% and an Expected Goals For percentage of 56% without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice. Unfortunately, they just broke even when it came to goal-differential, something that should improve with McLeod now back from injury.

On the back-end, the Oilers have an excellent tandem in Bouchard and Ekholm, which has helped alleviate some of the workload that was on Nurse and Ceci. It’ll be worth monitoring how the two pairs will be deployed on home ice, and with which of the top two lines they spend more of their time with. Both Ceci and Kulak are going to be critical for the Oilers; both struggled to close the season so it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff deploys them.

Up front, I’d have some concerns with guys like Kane and Janmark, who have received plenty of opportunity but can’t seem to break even when it comes to shots, scoring chances and goals. The Kings can definitely target the lines these two will be on when the series moves to Los Angeles. Suspect the line that could have the biggest impact for the Oilers is the one McLeod and Foegele are on. They were gradually getting more ice time to close the season, and I suspect they’ll get a lot more responsibility.

And here’s a quick glance at the Kings skaters.


While the Oilers should be favorites to win this series, I think it’ll be a lot more competitive than people expect. The Kings were very good defensively, allowing the fourth lowest rate of shots against in the league and the second lowest rate over their last twenty-five games. If it does become tighter checking, with low-event hockey on both ends of the ice, I do wonder how much will come down to goaltending where the Kings have a slight edge.

My other concern would be with the Oilers coaching staff over-thinking things like they did last season, trying to play inferior players higher up in the line-up to solve problems that don’t exist. And when issues do come up, hopefully they’re identified faster than they were in the past. We saw last post-season that the Kings, and even the Flames, controlled the flow of play against the Oilers – especially the depth forwards. Teams did figure out the Oilers in every facet, even after they posted excellent shot-share numbers and special team numbers in the regular season. Whatever happens, the Oilers have put themselves in an excellent spot, and they should be expected to win more than a round this time.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


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