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Tracking the NHL’s Pacific Division as of Halloween

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Sunil Agnihotri
6 months ago
It was a rough start to the 2023/24 regular season for the Edmonton Oilers, who currently rank sixth in the Pacific division with a 0.313 points percentage and 30th in the league – only ahead of Calgary and San Jose. And with Seattle sitting 27th, four of the bottom six teams in the league are currently from the Pacific. On the other end of the standings, Vegas, Vancouver, and Los Angeles have had good starts to their seasons, banking points early and often.
There are still plenty of games to play, so it’s worth assessing how teams have done in terms of results measured by goal-differential and goal-share. And also evaluating how the team has played using shot-share metrics like corsi for percentage, which is used as a proxy for puck possession, and expected goals for percentage that factor in shot quality and tells us how well the team has done at out-chancing opponents.
Below are the even-strength (5v5) numbers for each team in the Pacific division (sorted by points percentage), including goal-share results as well as the shot-share metrics that give us a sense of which teams have the right processes in place and if the results are sustainable or not. At the end of the table are each team’s shooting percentage and save percentage. I’ve also applied a basic heat map to each metric to show which teams are doing well or struggling relative to their division foes (i.e., green is good, red is bad). You can also find a description of each metric at the end of this article. Please note that the shot-share metrics are score and venue adjusted based on Natural Stat Trick’sTrick’s methodology.
From an Edmonton perspective, it’s frustrating to see the team struggle to convert on their offensive chances, not get decent goaltending and post a paltry -4 goal differential at even-strength. But it is encouraging to see that they have done a good job controlling the flow of play and out-shoot and out-chance opponents over the course of these eight games. Their corsi for percentage and expected goals for percentage are near the top of the league and in the same group as some of the cup contenders this season, including Colorado, Dallas, New Jersey, and Carolina. I’ll note again that these shot-share numbers are score-adjusted, which takes into account the fact that the Oilers have trailed in a lot of games this season. It’s worth noting, too, that the team is doing well when it comes to shot-share numbers with and without their best players. Without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice this season, the team has posted a corsi for percentage of 54 percent and an expected goals for rate of 52 percent. If the bottom six forward group can get an ounce of finishing talent, either from their existing roster or from Bakersfield, this team could make some considerable progress, which leads me to my next point.
The Oilers’ even-strength shooting percentage of 7.47 percent currently ranks 19th in the league, while their team save percentage of 89.59 percent ranks 29th. Had the team’s shooting percentage been just league average, which has been 8.47 percent over the last three seasons league-wide, the Oilers would have scored 16 goals this season instead of 14. And had their team save percentage been league average, which has been 91.6 percent over the last three seasons, the Oilers would have allowed 14 goals instead of 18. An extra six goals would have given them at least another win in October and a couple of places higher in the Pacific with a +2 goal differential.
Based on my recent review of the Oilers’ individual players and their on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage, I would expect a few players to start scoring pretty soon here. For example, the Oilers have posted good shot-differentials with Brown on the ice, but he has zero even-strength (5v5) points to show. So, I expect him to start producing soon. It’s the same with Holloway, who has posted some decent shot differentials further down the line-up but has yet to be on the ice for a goal. I’m also expecting McLeod to have better on-ice results, as he has a good history now of being a dependable bottom-six player. It’s likely the injury he dealt with in training camp that’s slowing him down, so hopefully, he can get into form soon and help improve the team’s overall shooting percentage. It might also help to have a shooter like Raphael Lavoie on a line with McLeod where they can play against lesser competition and get Lavoie acclimated to the national league.
As for the rest of the Pacific, I’m expecting Vancouver to gradually drop down to the middle of the pack as the club is doing well but posting an Expected Goals for percentage of 45.51 percent – one of the lowest in the league. While their goaltending is pretty solid, I don’t think they’ll be able to sustain a shooting percentage of almost 12 percent. Vegas is another team I’m skeptical about. They obviously have the talent to make up for their poor underlying numbers, but they’re still likely to regress. Their shot-share numbers weren’t anything special last season either, so their progress will be something worth monitoring. Los Angeles is the other interesting team as, once again, they’re doing everything right to improve their odds of out-scoring teams at even strength. But they still need to solve their goaltending issue.
It’s going to be an interesting race for the top spots in the Pacific. And the Oilers have their work cut out for them. We’ll do another check-in at the end of November.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
Glossary:
  • Points-percentage (Point%) – The total points accumulated divided by the points that were available, including extra time.
  • Corsi For percentage (CF%) – The proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., corsi for/(corsi for + corsi against). This is used as a proxy for possession and is the best at predicting a team’steam’s future share of goals (GF%). (Source: Hockey Great Tapes – Draglikepull)
  • Fenwick for percentage (FF%) – The proportion of all the unblocked shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Fenwick for/(Fenwick for + aenwick against). This is used as a proxy for shot quality and considers shot blocking a repeatable skill.
  • Expected goals for percentage (xGF%) – This is a weighting placed on every unblocked shot based on the probability of the shot becoming a goal. This depends on the type of shot, location and uses historical shot and goals data to come up with the probability for each unblocked shot.
  • Goals for percentage (GF%) – The proportion of all the goals that the team scored and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Goals for/(Goals for + goals against).
  • Shooting percentage (SH%) – The percentage of the team’steam’s shots on goal that became goals (i.e., total goals divided by the total shots on goal).
  • Save percentage (SV%) – The percentage of the team’steam’s shots on goal against that were saved (i.e., 1-(totals goals allowed divided by the total shots on goal against)).

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