Previewing Round Two Against the Ducks on the CBC Edmonton News (TV)

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I joined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News this evening to preview round two between the Oilers and Ducks. Our segment starts 12 minutes into the newscast: CBC Edmonton News (2017, April 25)

Topics we discussed:

  • What the keys were to beating the Sharks
  • How the Oilers and Ducks finished the regular season; looked at even-strength numbers (Data from Natural Stat Trick)
  • How the Oilers matched up head-to-head against the Ducks in their five games
  • The Ducks strengths and who has the edge
  • My own prediction (Oilers in 7) 😉

Comparing the Regular Season Match-ups Between the Oilers and Ducks

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With the Oilers preparing for round two against the Anaheim Ducks, it’s worth checking out how the two teams did against each other during the regular season, and focus on what the on-ice match-ups were like.

In their five games against the Ducks, the Oilers went 3-2, outscoring them 14-12, and 9-6 at even-strength. Neither team allowed a shorthanded goal against, but the Oilers did score three powerplay goals, while the Ducks scored four with the man advantage. The Oilers had the edge in goaltending, as their team save percentage against the Ducks at even-strength was 94.4%, while the Ducks’ team save percentage was 92.9%.

Over those five games, the Oilers posted a better share of the total shot attempts with 54.2% (247-209). Heading into the playoffs, the Oilers struggled possession-wise as they had a 48.09% share of shot attempts over their final 25 games (one of the lowest in the league), while the Ducks posted a 49.85% share.

There’s going to be plenty of chatter about how each coach will deploy their personnel, so I thought it’d be interesting to break down how each of the Oilers regular centermen did against the Ducks centermen over the five regular season games. As we saw in the first round, there’s plenty of line-matching going on, not only in the past series but across the league, and it’ll likely continue against the Ducks.

Here’s how McDavid did against the three most common centers for Anaheim.

McDavid Vs TOI CF-CA CF% GF-GA
Kesler 50.01 49-37 56.98 3-1
Getzlaf 21.61 34-17 66.67 2-0
Vermette 10.45 14-6 70.00 1-0

McDavid saw a lot of Kesler in those five games, and won the share of shot attempts (56.98%). What’s worth noting is that Draisaitl was with McDavid for 36 of the 50 minutes and posted a Corsi For% of 57%. Without Draisaitl with him, McDavid still posted a strong Corsi For%, 56.1%. And when Draisaitl was away from McDavid, or didn’t have him on the ice with him, the coaches tried not to send him out against Kesler at all (less than two minutes total). And in 20 minutes against Getlzaf and 10 minutes against Vermette, McDavid was pretty dominant. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ducks try to contain him over a seven-game series.

Below is how Nugent-Hopkins did against the same trio of Ducks. His most frequent opponent was Getzlaf, who he fared well against possession-wise, but the results (i.e., goals) weren’t there.

RNH Vs TOI CF-CA CF% GF-GA
Getzlaf 37.77 31-30 50.82 0-2
Vermette 15.75 19-14 57.58 1-0
Kessler 13.53 14-10 58.33 0-0

We saw how well Nugent-Hopkins did shutting down Pavelski and Thornton on a line with Lucic and Eberle in the previous series, so his performance will be something to watch. RNH struggled over the course of the regular season, but his results improved as the playoffs approached.

Below is how Mark Letestu did over the regular season against the Ducks. His most frequent opponent was Antoine Vermette, who he’ll likely see a lot of in the upcoming series.

Letestu Vs TOI CF-CA CF% GF-GA
Vermette 12.55 12-9 57.14 1-0
Getzlaf 11.10 9-11 45.00 0-1
Kesler 4.85 4-2 66.67 0-0

Some decent results for Letestu against the Ducks over the year, which has me thinking the coaching staff will start the series keeping Draisaitl on the top line with McDavid to take on Kesler’s line, which include Silfverberg and Cogliano. Letestu should probably get more of the depth minutes than Desharnais, but I’d expect Draisaitl, or maybe even McDavid, get double-shifted to give the third line a boost. The problem for the Oilers is that Corey Perry has been moved around the roster, and has spent time alongside Vermette as well. So the Oilers really can’t take that line for granted. Letestu also struggled possession-wise against the Sharks depth players, so it’ll be imperative that the coaching staff make adjustments against a deep Ducks roster.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Puckalytics, Hockey Reference

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

The Secret Weapon

There are plenty of reasons why the Oilers are heading to San Jose with a 3-2 lead in the series. The goaltending has been solid for the most part. The powerplay has been looking good. And the club has received contributions from across their roster, as the defence, as well as the third and fourth lines provided offence on Thursday night.

One player that may not be getting any recognition for his contributions thus far in the post-season is 24-year old centerman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He recently completed his sixth NHL season, collecting 43 points in 82 games, playing predominantly in a secondary role alongside Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic. The trio completed the regular season with a 50.5% Corsi For at even-strength and had a 50.0% goal-share, which are solid numbers considering they often played against the other team’s top lines. The coach clearly has a lot of faith in the trio as a tough-minutes option, and they have remained intact for the first five games of the playoffs.

Nugent-Hopkins in particular has stood out in this series, as his play has been reliable across all areas of the ice. He’s shown flashes of offence, creating plenty of chances for his linemates. And he’s been playing sound defensive hockey, breaking up plays and leading his team in takeaways. Nugent-Hopkins has seen plenty of Logan Couture’s line this post-season, as well as Joe Pavelski’s, and has received regular minutes against the Brent Burns/Paul Martin pairing. What’s been interesting after five games is that the team’s Corsi differential has been mostly respectable with him on the ice, but has taken a dip, especially in games three and four in San Jose, when Nugent-Hopkins is on the bench.

Game Oilers Corsi For% Oilers Corsi Diff with RNH Oilers Corsi Diff Without RNH
1 36.47 -10 -13
2 69.12 6 20
3 47.96 4 -8
4 46.25 3 -9
5 63.76 10 31

In games 2 and 5 at home when the Oilers dominated play, the team did well with and without Nugent-Hopkins. He spent over 70% of his ice time at even-strength against Pavelski in both of those games and had a Corsi differential of +6. And in those two games, Nugent-Hopkins spent over 50% of his time against Burns, the defenceman he’s seen the most of in the series, and finished with a +9 Corsi differential.

RNH - TOI - 20170421

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Re-capping Game Five on the CBC Edmonton News (TV)

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers

I joined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News to talk about game five between the Oilers and Sharks. Clip is here, starts a few minutes in: CBC Edmonton News (2017, April 21)

Topics we discussed:

  • Overtime thriller
  • What the Oilers did well against the Sharks
  • Compared the shot attempts (Data from HockeyStats.ca)
  • Emergence of Nugent-Hopkins
  • Importance of depth players
  • Martin Jones vs Cam Talbot

 

Reviewing the first four games

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After the first four games, the Oilers have scored a grand total of five goals: two at even-strength, two short-handed and one on the powerplay.  San Jose is the better team right now when it comes to actual goals, thanks to their outburst in game four and the four powerplay goals.

Team Even-strength Powerplay Shorthanded
Edmonton 2 1 2
San Jose 5 5 0

I’m fairly confident that the Oilers powerplay will start to click again, considering they had great, sustainable results during the regular season, as they generated a lot of chances with the man-advantage.

The Sharks penalty kill wasn’t that great in the regular season as they allowed a lot of shots and realied heavily on their goaltending to bail them out. And the Sharks powerplay, which was one of the worst in the league in terms of goals and ranked below league-average in terms of shots, isn’t likely to ever score four again in a game.

Related: The Oilers Powerplay Could Be the Difference Against San Jose – The Copper & Blue (2017, April 11)

I think the issue for the Oilers is their even-strength play. Here’s how the two teams have done over the first four games.

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Across all three metrics, Corsi (proxy for possession), Fenwick (proxy for shot quality) and scoring chances, the Sharks have been in control. It was only in game two that the Oilers had a share of 50% or more: CF% – 69.12, FF% – 72.09 and SCF% – 82.76. What’s interesting is that even when they dominated that game, they still could not score at even-strength, as both goals came shorthanded.

Another thing worth noting here is how poorly the Oilers have played when the score has been within one. In 135 minutes (of a total 172 5v5 minutes), CF% – 46.62%, FF% – 44.44%, SCF% – 45.38%.

What has to be emphasized are the shooting and save percentages for each team over these four games.

Team (5v5) Shooting% Save%
San Jose Sharks 5.88 97.30
Edmonton Oilers 2.70 94.12

Both the Sharks and Oilers were around league average when it came to shooting percentage in the regular season, 7.82% and 8.28% respectively. While the Sharks shooting percentage started correcting itself in game four, I think it’s safe to assume that the Oilers will eventually start converting more of their shots into goals, at least in the next two games.

As for the save percentage, we know Martin Jones is a good goalie. But I highly doubt he’ll maintain a 97% save percentage, considering he finished the regular season around the 92-93% range.

We can take the team’s struggles at 5v5 one step further and look at how the players are doing. What I’ve done below is list out the four centers, sorted by ice time, and listed their Corsi, Fenwick and Scoring Chance differentials, along with their on-ice shares.

McDavid RNH Letestu Desharnais
TOI 51.25 45.45 39.25 31.38
CF Diff 5 3 -7 -4
CF% 52.34 51.69 45.07 45.83
FF Diff -6 8 -11 -2
FF% 45.45 56.06 39.62 46.88
SCF Diff -2 3 -2 -1
SCF% 47.62 54.29 46.43 45.45

When it comes to possession, McDavid and RNH appear to be doing well, which is great news considering that they play against the other team’s top players. Letestu and Desharnais, despite playing the secondary lines, aren’t exactly getting the job done at 5v5. Letestu is a valuable piece on the powerplay, but I’d be curious to see if the Oilers move him to wing, and play Draisaitl more often at center. Desharnais on the other hand could easily be replaced by Lander or even Hendricks, who can both play on the penalty kill (unlike DD). I mention the penalty kill because RNH is seeing a ton of minutes shorthanded, which disrupts his 5v5 line that’s been very reliable over the past four games.

When it comes to shot quality (again, I’m using Fenwick as my proxy), it appears that every center except for RNH is doing poorly. McDavid with a -6 differential is very surprising considering his talent level, but it might have to do with San Jose sending out Vlasic and Braun out against him on a regular basis. With game five at home, it’ll be important for McLellan to get McDavid out there as much as possible and away from the pairings that have been causing him issues.

Looking at the Oilers defence, it appears that the usual suspects are on the ice for a higher rate of shot attempts and scoring chances against. The Sekera-Russell pairing, which played similar competition as the Klefbom-Larsson pairing, continues to struggle suppressing shots.

Player TOI CA/60 FA/60 SCA/60
Larsson 66.02 57.26 39.99 20.90
Klefbom 60.07 51.94 33.96 17.98
Russell 57.83 69.51 45.65 24.90
Nurse 54.97 57.85 42.57 22.92
Sekera 54.87 67.80 45.93 27.34
Benning 39.10 46.04 36.83 21.48

The fact that the Oilers are posting lower than 50% shares of shot attempts and scoring chances should be a concern for the club. A lot of the issues they’re currently having (poor outputs from depth centers, higher than normal shots against when certain defencemen are out) were identified in the regular season, but weren’t addressed by management. Now that they’re in the playoffs, they’ll have to hope McDavid and the top line can break out, and the team shooting percentage regresses towards their season long average. I know I’d have a lot more confidence if their shot-shares were better.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Talking Oilers and Re-capping Game 4 on the CBC Edmonton News (TV) and CBC Radio Active

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I joined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News to talk about the blowout loss in San Jose and what we can expect for game five. Clip is here and starts around the 10 minute mark: CBC Edmonton News (2017, April 19).

Topics we covered:

  • What went wrong in game four
  • What areas the team will need to improve on
  • Compared the goal and shot metrics at even-strength over the first four games

 

I also joined Portia Clark on CBC Radio Active in the afternoon to talk about the loss and preview game five. Clip is here: What Happened to the Oilers Last Night? – CBC Radio Active (2017, April 19)

Big thank you to the crews at both shows. They do an awesome job putting it all together and make it all very enjoyable.