Seven games into the season, we took a look at the Oilers’ underlying numbers, and we found substantial improvements on the power play, penalty kill and at even-strength. I noted two caveats at the time: the Oilers’ overly-friendly schedule, and the relative newness of the season.
It’s still early in the season, but the Oilers have now played back-to-back games as well as seen some time on the road. Are the underlying numbers still as impressive?
All shot data comes from Behind the Net.
|Season||5v5 Shots For/60||5v5 Shots Against/60||5v5 Shots +/- Per 60|
|2011-12, 7 games in||26.4||25.3||1.1|
|2011-12, 13 games in||25.5||29.2||-3.7|
|Difference from 2010-11||-0.6||-1.3||0.7|
The shots-for data at even-strength remains quite poor. It was poor last year, it was poor seven games in this year, and it is poor now. This is reflected in the team’s goals-for rate at even-strength – they’re near the bottom of the league in shots for and also in goals for in 5-on-5 situations. The teams below them right now are the usual mix (the Avalanche, Islanders, Panthers and Ducks) plus the Kings (!).
The shots-against data is a little more discouraging, but I’d caution against reading too much into it yet – just 13 games in, the effects of the Washington and Colorado games could be skewing it significantly. Still, the team does appear to have dropped closer to last season’s shots-against totals, and the only reason that hasn’t showed up in the team’s record yet is because Nikolai Khabibulin has an unbelievably good 0.962 even-strength save percentage while Devan Dubnyk is hot on his heels with a 0.950 SV% (Tim Thomas, last season’s leader, had a 0.947 SV% at even-strength, and no other goalie had more than a 0.935 SV% in that situation).
|Season||5v4 Shots For/60||4v5 Shots Against/60|
|2011-12, 7 games in||57.5||43.4|
|2011-12, 13 games in||47.3||43.2|
|Difference from 2010-11||5.5||-13|
The Oilers’ power play numbers have fallen back somewhat, as expected. Had they been able to keep up their early pace they would have been on track for one of the most effective power plays in the game of hockey; as it stands, they’re on pace for a middle of the pack performance. Unfortunately, over the last six games the Oilers have been close to last year’s shot levels on the man advantage, so it’s possible the unit hasn’t really seen substantial improvement.
The penalty-kill is one area where fans can really take solace. After a truly terrible showing in 2010-11 and years of wretched performances, the unit has actually improved on its shot prevention numbers from the team’s first six games. As it stands, they’re on pace to be one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league. The influx of veteran talent on the penalty kill – six new players are getting substantial minutes – seems to have made a substantial difference in the team’s performance in those situations.