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The Edmonton Oilers’ extra special teams

Edmonton Oilers Zach Hyman Connor McDavid
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sunil Agnihotri
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers special teams have kept the championship drive alive. The question now is if we can expect it to continue having success against the Florida Panthers.
One of the Edmonton Oilers’ major drivers for success this post-season has been their powerplay and penalty kill, which have produced outstanding results.
It’s been a factor in all three playoff rounds so far, as the Oilers have struggled to outscore opponents at even-strength, having only posted a +1 goal-differential over their 18 playoff games. They broke even in terms of goal-differential against the Los Angeles Kings, went +2 against the Vancouver Canucks and were a -1 against the Dallas Stars.
It’s really been the Oilers’ performance without McDavid’s line on the ice that’s caused these poor even-strength results. The team tends to get outshot and out-chanced consistently (46.54 percent expected goals for percentage), resulting in a -8 goal differential without their captain’s line and a +9 goal differential with him. The team, especially the depth players, are having issues converting on their chances at even-strength. And goaltending ranks as one of the worst among playoff teams in terms of save percentage and goals-saved above average.
 
Make no mistake, the special teams – featuring the top-end players and a lot of the depth players who are struggling at even-strength – have bailed this team out. And it’s hard to imagine the Oilers making it this far without the power play and penalty kill performing so well.

Power play

The Oilers have scored 19 power play goals in just under 74 minutes this post-season, a rate of 15.44 goals per hour. That’s one of the highest team rates in playoff history and isn’t even a level that the Oilers were running at during their regular season. The table below shows the Oilers’ regular season goal-scoring rate over rolling 18-game segments, with a blue line representing their current playoff scoring rate.
 
The Oilers’ results appear to be sustainable considering their skaters’ talent and overall health. Their current team shooting percentage of 19.39 percent is high, but this group was able to post a very similar rate over the full 2022/23 regular season – so it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility. Plus the group is currently generating 76.66 shots per hour, again one of the highest rates in playoff history and well ahead of the rest of the post-season teams.
It’s worth noting that the Florida Panthers have the potential to slow the Oilers power play down in this upcoming series. Their penalty kill has only allowed six goals in 85 minutes this post-season, a rate of 4.20 goals per hour that is second lowest among playoff teams – only behind Edmonton. The Panthers’ success is largely driven by their ability to prevent shots and chances, as their rate of 44.08 shots against per hour is the third-lowest in the league. And their goaltending save percentage ranks third best in the league. This post-season success appears to have carried over from their regular season. The Panthers finished with the fourth-lowest rate of shots against per hour (46.64) and the sixth-lowest rate of goals against per hour in the league (6.16).

Penalty kill

It’s remarkable how great the Oilers’ penalty kill has been this post-season, having shut down Los Angeles, who scored the 10th-highest rate of powerplay goals in the regular season, and Dallas, who scored the fifth-highest rate of powerplay goals in the regular season. The last power play goal the Oilers allowed was in game three against Vancouver on May 12th. In the ten games since, they’ve allowed zero.
A big reason for their success has been their ability to suppress offensive chances, as the club has allowed the second-lowest rate of shots against (39.87) among playoff teams. This strong defensive play in front of their goaltender is something that’s carried over from the regular season when the Oilers allowed the sixth-lowest rate of shots against (49.27 per hour). So it’s reasonable to expect the penalty kill success to continue, depending of course on if the goaltending can hold up. When shorthanded during the regular season, the Oilers team save percentage was the sixth worst in the league (84.68 percent). But it’s currently sitting at 94.92 percent in the playoffs, so there’s the possibility of some regression in the upcoming round.
The Panthers’ powerplay is generating plenty of chances this post-season, ranking third in terms of shots per hour (57.84). And it’s a carryover from the regular season when they finished with the second highest rate of shots per hour in the league. But they’ve had trouble converting on their chances during their playoff run, likely due to playing against some pretty elite goaltending. Tampa Bay, New York and Boston all finished top-five league wide when it came to shorthanded save percentage during the regular season. This has resulted in the Panthers’ powerplay scoring at a rate of 8.18 goals per hour, which is closer to league-average levels. Considering all this, it’s even more critical that the Oilers penalty killers continue to play strongly in front of Skinner, who, as mentioned above, could be at risk of some regression.
Data: Natural Stat Trick

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