The Edmonton Oilers In Seven: Part Five – Behold the power of a 5v5 team

Photo credit:Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
6 months ago
Bookmark the fifth segment of the Oilers in seven series this year as maybe the time when we should have all predicted a long playoff run for the Edmonton Oilers.
In short, this seven-game segment was a master class in 5v5 play. Sheer domination by an incredibly talented team. Far more of what was expected by an Oilers team whose 5v5 play in the past two seasons was underappreciated and whose 5v5 play had disappeared for the first month of this campaign. Before we dig into why it happened, take a look at the numbers and see how they impacted the overall season totals.
RECORD, PTS%1-5-1, .214% — 31st3-4, .429% — T-10th4-3, .571% – T-10th5-2, .714% – 9th6-1, .857% – 1st19-15-0-1, .557% – 17th
GF-GA17-30, 36.17% — 30th22-22, 50% — 16th31-27, 53% – 7th26-18, 57.8% – 6th30-15, 66.7% – 2nd126-112, 52.9% — 11th
5v5 GF-GA10-18, 35.71% —28th13-14, 47.1% — 21st17-18, 48.6% – 19th15-14, 51.7% – 13th26-9, 74.2% – 2nd81-73, 52.6% — 10th
5v5 xGF%54.58 — 8th59.6% — 2nd55.1% – 6th61.2% – 2nd57.2% – 5th57.7% — 1st
POWER PLAY7-for-27, 25.9% — 8th6-for-22, 27.3% — 9th7-for-28, 25.0% – 8th7-for-18, 38.9% – 1st2-for-21, 9.5% – 29th29-for-116, 25% — 6th
PENALTY KILL20-for-27, 74.1% — 24th18-for-26, 69.2% — 27th28-for-31, 90.3% – 7th15-for-18, 83.3% – 9th18-for-22, 81.8% – 13th99-for-124, 79.8% — 17th
SV%.861% —31st.885% — 18th.886% – 29th.904% – 14th.925% – 3rd.888% — 25th
5v5 SV%.886% — 29th.907% — 16th.872% – 29th.909% – 21st.938% – 3rd.903% — 24th
Essentially, this was a 5v5 clinic that was highlighted by great goaltending.  The powerplay was actually quite the weak link in this segment, with the penalty kill performing at good, but not great levels.
There have been some very smart people in Oilersville who have been pounding on goaltending as the reason for the early season woes of the Oilers. To be honest, this segment would give them a lot of credence. When the Oilers started the year 3-9-0-1 under Jay Woodcroft, there was a lot of discussion about whether it was goaltending the quality of chance against or a combination of both.
For me, it was certainly this last option. When I looked at those 13 games using Natural Stat Trick, the Oilers had the following defensive metrics at 5v5:
Fenwick Against –  28.85
Shots Against – 21.5
High Danger Shots Against – 5.69
Expected Goals Against – 1.89
In this past seven-game segment, the Oilers’ numbers for these same metrics were as follows:
Fenwick Against –  28.86
Shots Against – 20.6
High Danger Shots Against – 6.29
Expected Goals Against – 1.95
So very similar numbers across the board. However, I have two other numbers that tell the tale. The 5v5 save percentage in the last segment was .943. In the Woodcroft era, it was .887. That led to the Oilers giving up an average of 1.29 goals against in this last segment at 5v5 versus 2.39 in the Woodcroft era. Plain and simple folks, the Oilers got tremendous goaltending this past segment. For all the kudos being lauded on Knoblauch and Coffey, this segment was more about Skinner and Pickard.
Well, that is not quite true. There was the offensive side of the equation as well. Here is a table comparing the Woodcroft 13 games to the this last seven-game segment for the Oilers.
Shots For Per GameHigh Danger Shots For Per GameExpected Goals For Per GameGoals Scored Per GameShooting Percentage
Woodcroft Games26.
Segment Five26.
I mean, the Tale of Two Cities didn’t have as much diversity of outcome as this Oiler segment did relative to the Woodcroft thirteen-game nightmare. Every shot that could go in, went in this segment. The team simply scored when they were expected to, plus a little bit more. What a segment!
I would love to come on here with some tactical video clips of what the new coaching group is doing that made this segment more successful. However, I really cannot do that. That said, it would not be fair to leave the coaching staff out of this conversation. What I noticed in this seven-game segment is the coach’s committed to playing the players. When times got tough, he never went away from it. He kept all the players involved but did so using a merit-based approach. His time on ice deployment is a real sound indicator of what went on. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, both played just over 20 minutes a night in this last segment. For each, that is over a minute plus less than during the Woodcroft tenure.
Who got those minutes? Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan. We know Foegele’s contributions, but Derek Ryan had a very good seven-game segment, helping the bottom six tread water while also killing penalties. Who got less ice time than under Woodcroft, Evander Kane and Connor Brown. Kane is clearly laboring, but I also like the fact the coach didn’t succumb to a big personality. Instead, he put him in a position to have a positive impact while nursing injuries. Brown will be an interesting experiment for Knoblauch. Again, given how Knoblauch handled Foegele, I think the right coach is there for him. Knoblauch seems to have a plan and he doesn’t seem to deviate from it without the players giving him the reasons to do so. That is empowerment and it is a winning concept in any organization.
The true question is whether the results of a segment like this can hold up over time. I believe there is a better than even chance they can. The Oilers lack of finish on the powerplay will self-correct without a doubt. That is worth a goal per game. This should offset the offence coming back to earth at 5v5, which is certain to happen. Stuart Skinner, to me, is the key to this whole equation. Can he perform as he did in this segment for the remainder of the year? Most definitely not. He will regress. However, if he regresses to a .915 save percentage, this Oiler team will absolutely make the playoffs and be one of the favourites to win the Cup.
That’s it for this segment. Happy New Year to all and see you in seven games.

Previous Oilers in Seven segments

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