The Underlying Numbers: The PK Looks Really Good

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.

5-on-5 Play

Season 5v5 Shots For/60 5v5 Shots Against/60 5v5 Shots +/- Per 60
2010-11 26.1 30.5 -4.4
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).

Special Teams

Season 5v4 Shots For/60 4v5 Shots Against/60
2010-11 41.8 56.2
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.

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    I would be interested in seeing some stats on the PP numbers with Mullets. How many goals when a mullet is on the ice, goals, assists and percentages where a mullet is envolved in the play.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I wonder on the 5×5 numbers if that reflects the Oil coming down to surface or a mix of injury, road games (including inability to line match as tightly).. or, of course, both?

    @Hordy… your commitment to Hordichuk while confusing is strangely commendable.

    • Thanks Romulus. You are now my 2nd favorite citizen next to BoBo mar$.

      About hordichuk I dont think I’ve ever seen a guy that committed to the hustle. Hordichuk is so committed that when someone on the opposing bench gives the kid line a dirty look he waits til renney unlocks his cage and punches whoever in the face.. So hard there great grandfather would feel the punch

  • John Chambers

    I don’t think there’s a writer in hockey who dissects this as well as Willis.

    Now if you want to read some crap, pick up the Globe and Mail’s Saturday sports section where Alan Maki says that Ryan Smyth has been playing with Hall and RNH on the Oilers’ top unit, while Eberle has been a linemate of Horcoff and Hemsky’s.

    Eat it, MSM.

  • Aitch

    The fact that both goalies have such high save percentages, gives me some comfort in the shots against. Tells me that the system should get some credit. I know someone has the data, but does this indicate that a lot of the shots are coming from the less dangerous areas? Also, is anyone tracking the grouping of shots? Doesn’t seem to be as many rebound opportunities thus far this year.

    • The Oilers’ even-strength save percentage right now chimes in at a mind-blowing 95.2%. In the last four years, no team has surpassed 93.7% (and that was the Tim Thomas Bruins).

      That doesn’t sound like a big gap, until you think of it in terms of shooting percentage – it’s the difference between opponents scoring on 4.8% of their shots and 6.3%. In other words, even if the Oilers really have the best goaltending/defense in hockey the last four years, we should expect goals against rates to be almost one-third higher than they are.

      That’s too big of a gap to chalk up to skill. Right now, a lot of what’s happening in net is an enjoyable hot streak that’s ultimately going to end.

  • Great analysis Willis.

    This recent trend really is not a good sign if the EV/save % drops back 15-30 points as it very well could – that means we could start to be on the losing end of a few more 1 more goal games very soon. As well think of what the #s might be if Smid did not lead the league in blocked shots!

    Damn those stats! I guess that’s why you still play the games hopefully the result is offset by something else(eg. high shooting % say).

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    It will be nice to get Hemsky back especially for his great 5×5 numbers. I can`t wait to see him facing second and third pairing defencemen. Open up some roadpops and enjoy the shew….

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Does anyone have a firm date on Hemsky’s return? He’s on the road trip right? Will he play tomorrow… and if so when will Renney announce the lines? It will be interesting to see how things shake out… I know the line combos have been a huge point of contention around here lately.

      • Wax Man Riley

        Ya, after a few conversations I’ve* had with Renney, I’m* guessing he plays tomorrow against Montreal.

        *By “I”, I mean Jason Gregor, as my biggest connection to the hockey world is when I saw RNH driving and I gave him a thumbs up.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Don’t teams that are leading in a game get badly outshot as they try to hold on to that lead? And haven’t the oilers led in games for a substantial proportion of this season? Couldn’t this account for much of the seemingly poor even strength shots for/against?