Team Defense and Goaltending: Part Two

Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
7 months ago
In part one of this series, we looked at the team defense and goaltending of the top-10 teams in each conference, specifically 5×5. Today we will focus on the penalty kill.
Edmonton was the most penalized team among the top-10 Western Conference teams last season, and they ranked eighth in PK%.
The only playoff teams that were penalized more than the Oilers last year was Boston and Florida. The Oilers were shorthanded 278 times (TS), which ranked sixth across the NHL. LA and SEA made the playoffs despite their woeful penalty kills. And most of their struggles can be traced to goaltending. They didn’t give up many high-quality chances on the PK, but their goalies didn’t make many saves.
Here’s how the top-10 teams in the east looked.
The Oilers’ penalty kill needs to improve this season. It ranked last among the 16 playoff teams in SA/60 at 58.31 and ranked 24th in the NHL. Vegas was 23rd at 57.52. It is odd they were so close in shots against/60, considering Vegas was the least penalized team in the NHL with only 195 TS for an average of 2.38/game. The Oilers were the sixth-most penalized team in the NHL at 3.39 TS/game. They were on the PK 278 times.
However, the Oilers also had the sixth-most power play opportunities at 275. Vegas had the fewest at 207. Oilers games had a combined total of 553 power plays (fifth-most and third-most among playoff teams) while Vegas games had the fewest in the NHL at 402 total power plays. The Oilers ranked 20th in PK% and were 5% away from 10th. Their power play was first in the NHL at 32.4% and they were 6.4% better than second place.
Taking fewer penalties would be a good start in trying to reduce the goals against on the PK, but Boston had the best PK in the NHL last season and ranked fourth highest in TS at 283. If you are going to take a lot of penalties, then your PK has to be good. And the Oilers’ PK was very good in the three previous seasons.
From 2020-2022 the Oilers had the second-best combined PK at 84.4%. San Jose was first at 85.7, while Boston was third at 84.3 followed by Carolina at 84%. What changed last season for the Oilers?
From 2020-2022, among the 66 goalies who played at least 200 minutes on the PK, Mike Smith had the second highest Sv% at .902. Mikko Koskinen was 11th at .881.
In 455 minutes, Smith faced 441 shots and allowed 43 goals. He faced 58.13 shots/60, 13.84 high danger shots/60.
In 494 minutes, Koskinen faced 488 shots and allowed 58 goals while seeing 59.2 shots/60 and 17.59 HD shots/60.
This past season Stuart Skinner played 257 minutes. He posted a .868Sv% while facing 62 shots/60 and 19.58 HD shots/60.
Jack Campbell played 193 minutes and had a .831Sv% while facing 53.41 shots/60 and 14.6 HD shots/60.
Campbell faced fewer shots, and fewer high danger shots, but had the worst Sv% among the four goalies. Skinner faced the most shots and the most high-danger chances. Campbell struggled early in the season, allowing 12 goals in the first eight games on the PK. Then he allowed five over his next seven games and only 12 in his final 21 games.
He stopped 44 of 56 in his first eight games (.785Sv%), then 26 of 31 (.857) in his next seven starts before stopping 73 of 85 (.858Sv%). over his final 21 appearances. Even with a .858Sv% over his final 28 games that was below Koskinen and Smith, but there was improvement.
Skinner, and the Oilers’ PK, also improved as the season progressed.
In his first eight games he stopped 36 of 43 (.837Sv%), then in his next 13 games he stopped 73 of 85 (.859) and over his final 29 games he posted a very solid .887sv% while stopping 125 of 141. In those final 29 games, Skinner faced 58.06 shots/60 and 15.65 HD shots/60.
The goalies made more saves, but they also faced fewer high-danger chances. When the Oilers talk about needing a good start, much of it can be attributed to the penalty kill. Their PK was dreadful to start last season. The goalies didn’t make saves, and the players allowed far too many shots and high-quality shots.
In their first 15 games, the Oilers allowed 19 goals. They were the most penalized team in the NHL with 65 TS. Their PK was 70.8% which ranked 29th. In 58 PK minutes, Campbell faced a whopping 66.32 SA/60 and 21.76 HD shots/60, while Skinner, in just under 33 minutes faced 55.05 SA/60 and 18.35 HDSA/60.
Campbell will need to make a few more stops on the PK this season, but the team will need to be much better in front of him, and Skinner, early on.


Apr 8, 2023; San Jose, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) watches the puck during the second period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
When looking at the PK, we have to take into account Net PK%. This calculates times shorthanded, PP goals against and adds in shorthanded goals for. The Oilers led the NHL with 18 shorthanded goals last year. In PK% they ranked 20th at 77%, but in Net PK% they were 14th at 83.5%.
However, the Net PK% didn’t change in their first 15 games when the PK was brutal.
The Oilers ranked 28th on the PK at 70.8%, and they were also 28th in Net PK% at 75.4%.
In their final 67 games, the Oilers were 18th on the PK at 78.9% and 7th in Net PK% at 85.9%. Their ability to score shorthanded led to large momentum swings in their favour,
Dig a bit deeper and the Oilers’ PK really improved after that dreadful game in Los Angeles on January 9th. The Kings scored four power play goals in their 6-3 victory. It was rock bottom for the PK, and it seemed to jolt the Oilers out of their PK slump.
In their final 40 games, the Oilers’ PK was 12th at 82.3% and second in Net PK% with 92.7%.
The Oilers were first in SHG in 2023 with 18 and tied for third with 11 in 2022. Since Woodcroft took over in February of 2022 Edmonton leads the NHL with 24 shorthanded goals in 120 games. Vancouver is second with 18 and Toronto is third with 15. Being aggressive with the puck and looking to score has become an emphasis under Woodcroft, and Edmonton has 11 different players with a shorthanded goal.
Connor McDavid has four followed by Darnell Nurse, Mattias Janmark, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evander Kane each have three, Ryan McLeod and Derek Ryan potted a pair while Kailer Yamamoto, Warren Foegele, Leon Draisaitl, and Devin Shore scored once. During this time 40 players across the league have at least three shorthanded goals, and the Oilers roster includes five of them.
We can’t ignore their shorthanded goals when evaluating the PK. It is a weapon, and it made their PK rather dangerous over the final 67 games, and really in the final 40. However, the first 15 games were abysmal, and they need to avoid a prolonged slump on the PK this year — from both the goalies and the skaters.

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