One-Goal Games

Jonathan Willis
August 21 2011 04:32PM

The Edmonton Oilers’ record in one-goal games last season was 9-10-12; put another way they won nine and lost 22 of the games they played that were decided by just one goal.

This statistic has been cited by various figures with the team at various points of last season and over the summer as a reason for optimism – after all, if the Oilers lost that many close games, it follows that if they compete a little harder in those contests they could significantly improve their record, doesn’t it?

My initial reaction was to dismiss the comment out of hand. After all, the Oilers were bad in one-goal games, bad in two-goal games, and bad in three-goal games, so there seemed no logical reason to expect the Oilers to be any better in close games than they were in blowouts.

However, as someone dedicated to checking my gut reaction with data in other areas, I thought it might be worth checking to see how other teams with a similar record in one-goal games had performed. Here’s the list of teams since the lockout to have a 0.305 record in one-goal games, as well as their overall record and their performance the following season:

First Year One-Goal Games Overall Second Year One-Goal Games Overall
2008-09 0.297 0.333 2009-10 0.442 0.385
2008-09 0.256 0.326 2009-10 0.395 0.432
2006-07 0.273 0.388 2007-08 0.512 0.537
2005-06 0.263 0.273 2006-07 0.606 0.306
2005-06 0.304 0.417 2006-07 0.568 0.579
Average 0.279 0.347 Average+1 0.505 0.448

The Oilers’ numbers are a little different than the average. Their record in one-goal games (0.290) more closely mirrors their winning percentage in other games (0.313) than the teams we considered.

That said, it is interesting to note what happened for this small group of teams the following year. Their one-goal game winning percentage went from trailing their winning percentage in other situations to leading it the following year. Both their overall and one-goal percentages jumped sharply upward, which should at least show Oilers fans that this is a possible outcome for the team next year.

Overall, it’s a fairly encouraging exercise. The Oilers’ record in one-goal games should improve next season – almost certainly not by enough to make the playoffs, despite what some of those figures near the team have suggested, but significant improvement is possible all the same.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 YFC Prez
August 21 2011, 04:51PM
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I hope your right and those one goal games do turn a little more in the Oilers favor. I also hope that they can figure out how to play with the lead. so what do you figure about a 3 game tilt for the win column from last season

EDIT Wow! ummmm FIST! I feel glorious!

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#2 Apples&Hay
August 21 2011, 04:59PM
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damn...missed my fist FIST...missed it by THAT MUCH!! :p

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#3 ubermiguel
August 21 2011, 05:00PM
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I'd be curious to see if faceoff % is correalated at all. I'm convinced the addition of Belanger equals a few more wins in those 1 goal games.

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#4 m3sh
August 21 2011, 09:22PM
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ubermiguel wrote:

I'd be curious to see if faceoff % is correalated at all. I'm convinced the addition of Belanger equals a few more wins in those 1 goal games.

I recall a Cam Charron article recently that went so far as to claim there is little statistically meaningful evidence that backs up the theory that face-off wins actually correlate to less GF or GA. Then again that somehow doesn't jive with what my lying eyes are showing me.

JW, curious about your take on that article.

And I swear this is the first time a JW stats analysis actually introduced a positive spin on the Oil's chances. 5 yrs of oil sucking probably biases things a bit.

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#6 Eulers
August 24 2011, 12:31AM
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Jonathan, I submit that this is just regression towards the mean. For instance, short parents are likely to have taller (average) children.

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