Check engine

Tied at two-games apiece, a quick glance at the Edmonton Oilers performance and results in their first round series against the Los Angeles Kings and what their strengths and weaknesses have been.

Starting with even-strength (5v5), the Oilers have done everything they can to increase their odds of out-scoring the Kings and winning games. They’ve controlled the flow of play for the majority of the series, spending more time with the puck as reflected by their 58% Corsi For percentage, and getting a higher proportion of the total shots and scoring chances. The Oilers are currently generating the highest rate of shots on goal in the playoffs with 38 per hour, while keeping the Kings under 28 shots per hour (ranking 11th among the sixteen playoff teams). For context, the Oilers and Kings generated around 32 shots per hour in the last twenty-five games of the regular season, which had them in the top ten league-wide.

Edmonton Oilers Games 1-4 (5v5) Los Angeles Kings
57.75 Corsi For% 42.25
59.04 Fenwick For% 40.96
55.87 Expected Goals For% 44.13
7-7 GF-GA 7-7
5.06 Shooting% 6.99
93.01 Save% 94.94

Using Natural Stat Trick’s methods of calculating expected goals (which uses shot type, shot location and historical scoring data to determine the probability of a shot attempt becoming a goal), the Oilers – in theory – should have scored twelve even-strength goals in the first four games. But because the Kings goaltending has been solid, ranking second in the league with a save percentage of 94.94%, they’ve only mustered seven goals. Had the Oilers converted 9.09% of their shots against the Kings into goals like they did over the full regular season, instead of the 5.06% shooting percentage they’re sitting at right now, they’d easily have scored twelve, and I highly doubt three of the four games would have gone into overtime.

Worth noting too that the Oilers goaltending at even-strength has been good enough this playoff series. posting a 93% save percentage so far. Again using the expected goals method from Natural Stat Trick, the Kings should have scored nine goals based on the scoring chances they’ve had – but they’ve only scored seven. Part of that is missing some of their better scorers like Kevin Fiala for the first three games of their series. But the Oilers goaltending has been decent as well, ranking 6th in the post-season, just behind Boston.

As for special teams, the Oilers powerplay has continued to amaze, generating the highest rate of of shots and scoring six goals in the four games – a rate of 25 goals per hour which is almost double what they posted in the regular season. Worth noting that despite having the puck for the majority of the series, the Oilers have somehow drawn the second lowest rate of penalties in the post-season (3.19). The Kings who took the thirteenth highest rate of penalties in the regular season have apparently changed their ways – amazing, really.

The Oilers have really needed their powerplay to be incredible as their penalty kill has struggled against the Kings, largely because the goaltending has been poor when shorthanded. The Kings had one of the best powerplays in the league this regular season, and the Oilers skaters are doing everything they can to limit their chances. Edmonton’s penalty kill has so far only allowed 21 shots shorthanded, a rate of 46.7 shots per hour, which is the sixth lowest among playoff teams and well below the rate the Oilers were at in the regular season (58.31). Unfortunately, the goaltending is currently posting a 76.19% save percentage, which ranks 13th among playoff teams. If the Oilers struggle to score at even-strength, the powerplay is going to need to bail them out. But if the penalty kill is going to bleed goals like this, it won’t matter. The goaltending needs to be better.

Back to even-strength. It’s really important to emphasize how well the Oilers are performing with and without their star players. In 81 minutes so far without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice – or about 38% of the team’s total time – the Oilers have posted a 57% Corsi For percentage and Expected Goals For percentage. As we’ll see below, players like McLeod, Foegele and Ryan are really taking advantage of the Kings third and fourth lines. The problem of course is that the Oilers depth players haven’t scored a goal (0 GF, 3 GA) despite having the puck more often and getting a greater share of the shots and scoring chances. Unless Draisaitl, who has been on the ice for every Oilers goal scored this series, is getting double-shifted with the depth players, there isn’t much happening on the score sheet.

Below is a breakdown of each player’s on-ice numbers at even-strength in the first four games, sorted by time on ice. I’ve split the table into forwards and defencemen and added a simple heat map to show how each player compares relative to their teammates.

The concerns I would have for the Oilers is their defensive play, and some of the breakdowns when things get chaotic in their own zone. We’ve seen the Kings sustain pressure in the Oilers zone a few times now largely because of the mistakes the Oilers were making. Really have to wonder if this group can keep it together for an entire post-season, and if they can cut-down their recurring mistakes especially by some of the defencemen. There really aren’t any other options for the coaching staff, as this is the group of seven defencemen we’re going to be seeing the rest of the way.

There should also be a little concern with the Oilers depth players. The Oilers posted great numbers without McDavid or Draisaitl in the regular season, but they’ve gone completely dry in this first round. We know the top six group will find ways to score, especially if Draisaitl and McDavid remain healthy. The problem is that a lot of the depth guys posted career individual shooting percentages in the regular season, so this might be when we see the regression. And their decline isn’t completely surprising. Over the full course of the season, the Oilers shooting percentage without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice was 8.34%. But in the last twenty five games, it had dropped to around 7.01%.  This is hockey, so things can turnaround with a lucky bounce or two. But the coaching staff may need to tinker with the line combinations to get something out of the depth (i.e., non top-six) players.

Also worth keeping an eye on the goaltending situation and if the coaching staff has some doubts with Skinner’s play and begins to develop more confidence with Campbell – especially after his performance in game four. Skinner has had a solid season, but his numbers did take a slight dip near the end of the season. He’s always been right around league-average, but with the workload he’s had in his rookie season it’s not totally surprising to see him struggle. The workload of course was driven by the fact that the coaching staff didn’t have as much confidence in Campbell, especially as the season winded down and the Oilers were pushing for a higher playoff seed.

Data: Natural Stat Trick,


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  1. Pingback: CBC Radio Active: Oilers are back in town | The SuperFan

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