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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

By The Numbers: The Trials of (Depth) Goal-Scoring

Hello Nation,

The Edmonton Oilers are once again Rulers of the Pacific, usurping the Arizona Coyotes with a 2-1 victory over the fallen Kings of Los Angeles last night.

But, the victory wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was pretty dicey for the Oilers after the first period, as evidenced by the shot pressure graph shown below:

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That first vertical grey line (55) represents league-average shot frequency during that point in the period, with 110 representing twice-league-average and the dark blue areas represent man-advantages. The Oilers were dominating the Kings during that first powerplay, putting shots on Jonathan Quick at a clip more than triple league average. But after the Kings swung the momentum their way at the close of the first period, the second period bounced back and forth like a game of Pong, and then the Kings took over again through most of the third period.

All things considered, the Oilers got the win, and that’s what matters. However, with Leon Draisaitl picking up a goal and an assist, and the Oilers netting both their goals on the PP, the conversation of depth scoring naturally comes up once more.

So, how poor is the Oilers’ scoring outside of the powerplay, and their two superstars? Let’s compare to the league.

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Team GP GF PP 5v5 GF Goal-Scorers Players w/10+ Goals
Capitals 31 112 24.5% (5th) 69 (T-4th) 17 6
Bruins 29 104 29.4% (2nd) 70 (T-2nd) 19 2
Avalanche 28 103 19.3% (13th) 70 (T-2nd) 19 4
Penguins 29 97 15.3% (24th) 69 (T-4th) 23 1
Canadiens 30 95 19.0% (15th) 71 (1st) 18 2
Lightning 26 94 29.1% (3rd) 58 (T-14th) 20 2
Maple Leafs 30 94 19.0% (14th) 62 (T-8th) 21 3
Canucks 29 94 26.8% (4th) 55 (T-19th) 21 3
Panthers 27 93 22.9% (8th) 63 (7th) 19 4
Oilers 31 93 32.2% (1st) 59 (12th) 17 3
Flyers 30 93 18.6% (17th) 63 (T-7th)* 18* 2*

A couple of additional notes from the chart to keep in mind:

  • Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins only have one player with 10+ goals, Jake Guentzel’s 15, but Evgeny Malkin has seven goals and has missed 11 games and Sidney Crosby has 5 goals, and is currently injured and has missed 12 games thus far.
  • The Nashville Predators (64- 6th), Minnesota Wild (62- T-8th w/ Toronto Maple Leafs), and Buffalo Sabres (61- 10th) are the only teams in the top ten in 5v5 GF, but not in the top ten in total GF.
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There are only five teams with the same or fewer amount of goal-scorers: the Nashville Predators with 17 (88GF-15th), Arizona Coyotes w/17  (81GF-21st), New Jersey Devils w/16 (69GF-30th), San Jose Sharks w/15 (84GF-19th)*, and the Detroit Red Wings w/15 (63GF-31st).

* Joe Thornton remains scoreless but has 10 assists, so he’s likely due to find the net soon, which would bump the Sharks up one more goal-scorer.

So what stands out here? Well, if you want to be cynical about it, the Oilers find themselves in the same depth-scoring demographic as the worst teams in the league– the Devils and Red Wings– two others who are fighting for a playoff spot– the Sharks and Predators– and, interesting enough, the team they’re battling with for the Pacific throne– the Coyotes.

This is not ideal company to be keeping.

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Finding the Deep End

The Oilers have eight players players who have played over an hour TOI and have yet to score a goal: Matt Benning, Patrick Russell, Kris Russell, Joel Persson, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, Adam Larsson, and Caleb Jones.  (Colby Cave is actually the only player who has played less than hour, but has scored a goal. In fact, one of the nicest goals of the season). Larsson and Jones have yet to even record a point, while Benning has the most assists (5) of the goal-less group.* There’s no doubt that they need to start getting some more production out of these players. However, one would have to believe that Larsson will score soon– or at the very least record an assist– while the Danish Viking King Patrick Russell had his first NHL goal pillaged from him, but he has been buzzing all season so he’s likely ripe to get one soon. Both he and Jurco find themselves on the positive side of xGF% (52.09 and 52.24, respectively), so should Jurco be called up again, he hopefully can pot one too.

*I would also be remiss to point out (mostly because Baggedmilk will berate me at Nation HQ if I don’t) that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 5 goals, but has missed six games due to his hand injury, so he is likely to crack that 10+ goal threshold sooner rather than later.

Final Thought

The Montreal Canadiens lead the NHL in 5v5 scoring, and are second in the Atlantic Division, but other than the Boston Bruins, that division is pretty bad, as they’re barely holding down a playoff spot even in second. This also includes the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, and Toronto Maple Leafs, all of whom are in the top-10 of 5v5 scoring, but all are struggling to find themselves in a playoff spot; in the Western Conference the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators round out the top-10 of 5v5 scoring teams, as the former clings to the second Wild Card playoff spot, and the latter is on the outside looking in.

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All of this is to say that for all the consternation over the imbalance of goals on the Oilers’ roster, with a top-heavy reliance on Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid– and to a slightly lesser degree James Neal– to carry the offensive load, what is clear is that overall depth 5v5 scoring doesn’t necessarily lead to success either. The Oilers’ powerplay is nearly unstoppable. When Nuge first went down, there was certainly a slight dip, but against the Los Angeles Kings they were right back on track, as evidenced by the graph at the beginning of this article.

The secondary scoring seems to to be finding its way– slowly, but I think surely– while in the meantime, the Oilers have the luxury to rely on the might of the powerplay, and the consistency of their two best players.

Their PDO is firmly average as well at .999, with a very sustainable shooting percentage of 8.59%, and an on-ice save percentage of .914%. So it’s doesn’t seem like they’re headed for some sort of cataclysmic drop-off anytime soon.

The Oilers have a very unique, if not special, structure to their roster, and if this sort of anomaly of dependence on scoring from-a-few leading to overall team success doesn’t “correct itself,” and start to normalize, then we might just have to accept that it’s the norm and it isn’t going to change.


Traditional stats courtesy of nhl.com | Advanced counts courtesy of naturalstattrick.com | Shot pressure graph courtesy of hockeyviz.com