The Edmonton Oilers have not been a particularly stingy defensive team over the last five or six seasons, which is something like saying that winter in Canada isn’t especially balmy. But even against that bar, this year’s edition of the team is primed for record-setting badness in at least one category.
The chart above shows two things: the number of games per season where the Oilers surrendered 40-or-more shot, and the number of times the total was 50-or-more. The numbers for 2012-13 have been projected over an 82-game schedule, as have the numbers for this season.
Against Los Angeles on Sunday, the Oilers allowed 50+ shots against for the second time this season. It’s the first campaign since 1994 where the team played more than one game in which they allowed that many shots on net, and with 17 games left to play Edmonton is on pace to match the franchise’s all-time high for games allowing 50-or-more shots in a single season (in 1992-92 the team did it three times).
It’s more than fair to wonder about the state of the Oilers’ rebuild at this point. This season’s group hasn’t had better results than Tom Renney’s crew in 2011-12, and the decision to can Ralph Krueger (keep in mind that his team only played games against Western opponents) has not had results.
We can talk about shot quality, as Dallas Eakins has in recent days, but the reality is this: when a team allows shot after shot after shot, it means they’re pinned in their own end. That can be mitigated a bit by allowing low quality shots, and it can be further alleviated by tremendous goaltending (as Ben Scrivens has so excellently demonstrated lately). But hanging around in the defensive zone is a recipe for disaster.
Eventually, bad things will happen. Eakins described the puck deflected in off Philip Larsen as a heart-breaker; it’s true, but that’s what happens to teams that hang around in the defensive zone.
And the worst part is that things are getting worse. Via ExtraSkater.com, the following chart shows Edmonton’s 10-game rolling Fenwick rating in 5-on-5 situations. That’s a fancy way of saying that the line shows the percentage of unblocked shots Edmonton is taking at evens while the game is still within reach:
They’re winning games now, but that’s only because Ben Scrivens is playing like Dominik Hasek. That can’t last; it’s good that he’s capable of it but it’s not enough to keep the team winning. And despite the wins, that chart is a decent argument that things are getting worse. Or, you know, the 50 shots Edmonton allowed against Los Angeles.
That strong goalie play is masking extremely serious problems, or at least generally it’s doing so. Sometimes, as with Sunday’s game, even incredible goalie performances aren’t enough because the team in front of that goaltender is being lit up like a Christmas tree by competent opposition.
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