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Photo Credit: Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

By the Numbers: Life is Good

Well, we’re just over a quarter of the way through the Edmonton Oilers’ 2019-20 season, with the team sporting a gorgeous 14-6-3 record after 23 games. They’re sitting upon the Pacific division throne with a three-point cushion on the second place Arizona Coyotes, and tied with the defending champion @St. Louis Blues as rulers of the Western Conference.

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Oh, and Connor McDavid had another casual three points last night against the Sharks, while Leon Draisaitl had an assist, extending the German Terminator’s point streak to 13 games, and remaining in the lead for the Art Ross Trophy, one point ahead of Connor and nine points clear of third-place Brad Marchand.

Boy, is life good!

It was a statement game, to say the least, exacting revenge on the same San Jose Sharks team that dealt the Oilers a, frankly, embarrassing loss last Tuesday.

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So, what can we take away from where the team is midway through November?

The Oilers Are Near Perfect With Leads (… and not so great without them)

“Getting a lead is important.” It’s the most obvious and annoying “key” to a game that broadcasters and analysts will harp on, but the Oilers are taking that to the extreme so far this season. When the Oilers are leading after the first period, their record is 8-0-1. It’s amazing and absolutely fantastic. But that record gets even better when they’re leading after two periods (9-0-1). That one blemish on the record? Yup, that was the 4-2 lead they blew to the Dallas Stars this last Saturday, but hey, it’s a learning experience.

When trailing, though? Eh, it’s not so pretty. The team is 2-3-0 when trailing after the first period, and are a miserable 1-6-1 when trailing after two periods. The lesson here? Get those leads, boys, and don’t look back.

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If you’re wondering what the goal-scoring spread has been like from period-to-period, it’s an even spread. They’ve scored 24 first period goals, 24 second period goals and 25 third period tallies.

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Team shooting has been a bit of a struggle for the Oilers as they’re currently ranked fourth-last in shots/gm with 29.0, but have allowed the thirteenth least shots against with 30.9/gm. The good thing is that it has really had that much of an effect on their overall performance. Their record when out-shooting opponents is 5-2-2, while their record when being out-shot by opponents is 8-4-1 (when shots are even they’re 1-0-0).

Special Teams are Life

The Oilers went 1-2 against the Sharks last night, with James Neal tallying his ninth powerplay goal of the season. This puts the powerplay atop the NHL, first overall at 32.4% which is almost a full 3% ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 29.6% (FWIW, the Lighting have only played 18 games). Last night, the penalty kill units were a perfect 2/2 against the Sharks, lifting the PK unit to third overall at 88.0%, behind only the San Jose Sharks (89.9%) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (89.8%). The Oilers are one of four teams with both units in the league top ten, along with the Vegas Golden Knights (PP: 6th; PK: 4th), the Washington Capitals (PP: 5th; PK: 7th), and the Carolina Hurricanes (PP: 8th; PK: 9th). What stands out there is that the Oilers are the only team with both units in the TOP FIVE.

Oscar Klefbom leads the team in average SH TOI with 3:17/gm (well, technically it’s actually Adam Larsson with 3:31), with Kris Russell following closely at 3:10. The Oilers have taken the 13th least amount of penalties, averaging 3.22 minor penalties/60, killing penalties far more efficiently than other teams with top five units. The Flames have taken the most penalties (107) and have the 5th-ranked PK, the Sharks have taken the third most (98) and have the top-ranked PK while the Golden Knights have taken the sixth-most (94) and have the 4th ranked PK. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, have taken the second least amount of penalties (58) and have the 2nd-ranked PK.

The powerplay operates almost in the inverse, as the Oilers have drawn the fourth-least amount of minor penalties/60 with 2.79. Compared to the other teams with top five powerplays, the Lighting are 16th (3.13), the Boston Bruins are 3rd (3.60), the Florida Panthers are 18th (3.11), and the Capitals are 10th (3.40). In fact, the only team who have drawn fewer are the New York Islanders (who are dead-last with 1.87). The Oilers are just incredibly efficient, scoring 20 PPG (all 5v4), behind only the Canucks (who have scored 20 5v4 PPG, but also have one 5v3 PPG).

Special Teams are life.

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Above-Average Goaltending

There’s no doubt that the play of both Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have been more than a welcome surprise.

GS Record SA GA Sv% 5v5 Sv% GAA 5v5 GAA GSAA HDSV% HDGSAA
Koskinen 11 8-1-2 363 28  .923 .929 2.39 2.18 3.74 .919 7.12
Smith 12 6-5-1 343 29 .915 .909 2.53 2.60 -2.01 .838 1.06

Both have been outstanding, and the duelling competition has only yielded ideal results. There was an interesting narrative that Tippett was tending to lean on Smith a little bit more, even though it appears that Koskinen has been– according to the stats– the better goaltender, but their playing time has evened out. Koskinen’s goals-saved-above-average is actually remarkable, “saving” just over 3.5 more goals than a goalie facing the same workload as he is, but it’s the High Danger GSAA that’s ludicrous. It leads the league, and shows how much Koskinen has improved technically and using his size down low.

But, the question that has to be asked: were the playoffs to start tomorrow, who would be the starter?

Fancy Stats Could Be Better

CF% CF/60 GF% xGF/60 xGF% HDCF% HDGF% PDO
48.04 51.62 52.17 2.3 50.01 51.81 59.52 1.014

So these aren’t ideal. Possession numbers at 5v5 as far as Corsi is concerned is 25th in the NHL, CF/60 is 26th, Expected Goals % for is 17th, while Expected Goals/60 is 11th. It’s in the High Danger area that they really thrive, 9th in HDCF% and 6th in HDGF%. This means that yes, they’re allowing shots towards their net but they’re lower percentage opportunities, and are capitalizing on the scoring chances coming off of rebounds and in the slot. And there’s no doubt that Mikko Koskinen has been a huge factor in that as well.

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Final Thought

There’s a lot of talk that what the Oilers’ success is unsustainable, with McDavid and Draisaitl contributing to almost 44% of the team’s total points. That might be true, but the systems in place are just as important to the team’s early surge, and it’s put them in a place that has them moving closer and closer to remaining in a healthy position in standings for the long haul.

Frankly, it’s also just fun to be an Oilers fan right now. It’s been awhile since anyone’s been able to say that, so let’s all just bask in the glory.

Life is good.


Traditional stats courtesy of nhl.com | Advanced counts courtesy of naturalstattrick.com