Analysis Of A Hot Streak

The Oilers last nine games have even those people with deep concerns about the team (people like me) smiling. There’s something great about watching the home team win, and it has led to surprising levels of optimism.

Even Robin Brownlee, who has seen plenty of highs and lows during his time covering the Oilers, has suggested that a 0.500 record over their next 20 games is a reasonable over/under mark, and 50% of voters in the Oilers Nation poll predict that kind of finish or better.

All of that got me wondering: what are the Oilers doing now that they weren’t doing over their first 17 games? I wanted to see if the underlying numbers have improved along with their record over the last while, so I decided to compare their first 17 games to their last nine.

Team Wins Losses OTL Win% GF/GM GA/GM
Edmonton Oilers, Last Nine Games 6 2 1 66.67 3.11 2.33
Edmonton Oilers, First 17 Games 4 10 3 23.53 2.47 4.06

The difference in win percentage over these two stretches is remarkable. The Oilers won less than one in four games to start the season, but they’ve been winning two out of three since. Their goal scoring has improved significantly, jumping from less than 2.5 goals per game up to over three. Meanwhile, goals against has been nearly cut in half, dropping from a high of more than four goals against per game to just over two.

What’s causing that improvement? A glance at shot totals and shooting/save percentage reveals the answer:

Team SF/GM SA/GM SH% SV%
Edmonton Oilers, Last Nine Games 25.56 33.89 12.17 93.11
Edmonton Oilers, First 17 Games 25.47 35.00 9.70 88.40

The Oilers have made negligible improvements in shots for and against, with a tiny improvement in shots for and a larger one in shots against per game. The total effect is that instead of being outshot by an average of 9.53 shots per game as they were to start the season, the Oilers are being outshot by an average of 8.33 shots per game.

Things aren’t really as bad as they look at first glance – when teams take the lead, they tend to see more shots against and take fewer shots themselves. So the odds are good that the Oilers have made some improvements in their territorial game.

That said, over the last nine games they’ve been outshot eight times – the lone time the Oilers held a shots advantage was in a 4-1 win over Ottawa, where they fired 25 pucks on net to the Senators’ 23.

That said, the real reason the Oilers are on a winning streak right now is because of big percentage swings. The average save percentage of an Oilers goaltender over the last nine games is 0.931, up from 0.884 to start the year.

The first number is incredible – last year, Ryan Miller won the Vezina on the back of his 0.929 save percentage – and the Oilers have been getting that performance from youngster Devan Dubnyk, re-tread Martin Gerber, and a fresh off injured reserve Nikolai Khabibulin.

While I’d suggest, as I did at the time, that an 0.884 SV% is unsustainably bad for these goaltenders, I’d bet heavy money that they don’t finish the season anywhere near an 0.931 SV%.

The other change is in shooting percentage, which jumped from a pretty decent 9.7 percent (that number would have ranked fifth in the NHL last season) up to 12.2 percent. For perspective, here are the league leaders in shooting percentage for the last few years:

Season Team SH%
2009-10 Washington 11.6
2008-09 San Jose 10.9
2007-08 Dallas 10.8
2006-07 Buffalo 12.3
2005-06 Colorado 11.4

In other words, if the Oilers finished the season at their current shooting percentage rate, it would make them the team with the second most accurate shooters since the NHL lockout, behind only the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres.

While I’ll acknowledge that there are some offensively gifted players on the roster, I don’t think this is the greatest group of sharpshooters seen in the league since the NHL lockout.

The Oilers have put forth some strong performances over this mini-streak, but given that they’re still getting lit up on the shot clock every night, I don’t think they’ve turned the corner. I’m going to continue to enjoy the wins while they come, but I’m not willing to bet that this is going to be a 0.500 team anytime soon.

  • Hemmertime

    “The defense have looked unnoticeable lately”

    The improved Save Percentage relly helps with that.

    We spend way less time watching replays – trying to spot the goat.

  • It seems like the whole team has been better much better in their defensive positioning and puck support. This has probably helped decrease the amount of turnovers too.
    Renney seems to have the ear of this team and they are starting to play a system, which is great!
    Great to see more chip and chase rather than the dance at the blue line for a turnover.

  • book¡e

    Improved overall play is a positive , but don’t under estimate what Hall is bringing to the phychie of the Oilers with his difference making scoring . This is why they drafted him in particular , and it’s proving fruitfull already ! The rookies skills are starting to translate into NHL ranks , and that has optimism rising amongst team and fans . If they believe so should we as fans . THE RUN FOR THE CUP ? Parity makes it possible .

  • Cletus Spuckler

    Some would argue that these shooting % numbers are unsustainable but with these kids I am not so sure. It will not be long and teams will be forced to pick their poison. meaning that every ones numbers climb as teams have to spread their best defensive players over mores than one line as we are a threat from 3+ lines. Jones is making me feel much better about the loss of several players to the flames such as GlenX.

    • Horcsky

      Agree with you about Jones and Glencross. Every time I watch the Flames play, it seems he’s taking bad penalties. Also, while I think the Oilers need more nastiness to their game, sometimes GlenX plays just plain dirty and I can’t respect that.

  • Oilertown

    The Oil are winning on chemistry, hard work and goaltending.

    The fourth line is looking like a better skating group then before and maybe that is because of the addition of JFJ. He isnt hitting as much as last year but is a better skater and better player than Stortini, I think Tambo knew what he was doing when keeping him around and giving him a chance, also Renney seems to like him. The third line is playing unbelievable because Penner is giving a crap and playing with a flare. Hes using his body and skating alot harder then before, it is also rubbing off alot on Cogs and Brule. Cogs and Brules game become alot better when Penner is playing hard. MPS is playing tremendous with Gagner and Jones has filled in wonderfully with them and once Hemsky is back that line will be great. Hall and Eberle will be linemates forever cuz they have chemistry and seem to know where eachother is all the time. Eberle will be a top 20 goals and 50 assists player in his career playing with a future 40 goal scorer in Hall (my prediction)

    With all that being said the D are looking good but still a few tweeks will work in favour with the final outcome. The group now isnt great but is getting the job done.

    • Oilertown

      Ebs wil be a 30goal and 40-50 assist guy book it and Taylor will be a 40-50 goal guy and 30-40 assists book that. I think your a little off on eberle for sure the guy came from junior as More of a goalscorer then playmaker not that he doesn’t have the smarts to set em up

  • Cletus Spuckler

    I would have to agree that the team is ultimately not as good as the recent record shows. Conversely they are not as bad as they played during the “blowout” portion of the season. Making it through the long 82 game season and ending up with a .500 record would probably exceed most people’s (mine included) expectations.

    The joy of this season is being able to step back and realize that you’re watching something special. The development of the younger players, on top of the main three I would include 89, 13, 49 and 67 in that group regardless of how many years they have played in the league. The way the team is learning to play together as a “team” under some extremely patient tutelage. Not to mention the renewed excitement surrounding the team from the Ownership all the way through to the fans.

    Don’t forget to take it in cause it could be a lot worse…………you could be a Flames fan……….

  • DJ Dynasty Handbag

    I know this is off topic … but does anyone know anyone who would pay $40,000 to $220,000 for the rights to a seat (of course you would still have to pay for your season tickets or for the events.

    I maybe know of a dentist and possibly the Quick card guy. OK say 3 or 400… max ??

    Am I crazy or is Rich Winter ? This is Edmonton where we don’t even have a upscale furniture store. The Oil patch sure can’t affod these seats right now.

  • My theory is that we are playing simpler. D-Men aren’t reversing the puck and going D to D 3 times before moving it up to the forwards (i.e fewer turnovers). Wingers are chipping pucks out and dumping pucks in when they don’t have a play. Goaltending is much improved. The kids (Cogs, Brule, Gags) are plaing with some swagger and confidence and are working their butts off.

  • Pretty simple. Goaltending has been better (although, I don’t think it’s sustainable) Taylor Hall showed up, Paajarvi is hustling, Eberle is doing what he has done all year but finally has more support.

    There’s your answer to why the Oilers are playing better.