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Who has the special teams edge in Round 2 between the Oilers and Canucks?

Warren Foegele Corey Perry Edmonton Oilers
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sunil Agnihotri
1 month ago
With the Edmonton Oilers set to face off against the Vancouver Canucks in the second round, I wanted to get a sense of how each team’s special teams have performed in the regular season and this year’s postseason. Both teams finished at the top of Pacific Division table in the regular season, largely due to their dominance at even-strength (5v5). The Canucks posted the second-best goal-share in the league (57.89 percent, +51 goal differential), while the Oilers ranked fifth (55.78 goals for percentage, +40 goal differential). So the difference in this upcoming series could come down to how well each team executes on special teams.
So far in the playoffs, the Oilers have been absolutely dominant on the penalty kill. They didn’t allow a single goal in the 24 minutes they were short-handed against the Los Angeles Kings in their five-game series. This was largely because they limited the Kings to only 16 shots in total. That translates to a rate of 40.20 shots per hour, which ranked 13th in the playoffs. The Kings weren’t great at generating powerplay shots during the regular season – ranking 27th in the league with 49.05 shots per hour – so it wasn’t overly surprising to see them struggle against an Oilers club that allowed the sixth lowest rate of shots against and had league average goaltending. And this is an area where the Oilers might have an edge over the Canucks.
In their first-round series against the Nashville Predators, the Canucks powerplay generated only 10 shots in about 21 minutes (28.35 per hour) and scored twice. This wasn’t overly surprising, considering the Predators’ penalty kill allowed the tenth-lowest rate of shots against in the regular season (52.05) and really suffocated the Canucks in all aspects of the game. The Canucks powerplay has to be better to overcome the Oilers penalty kill. Still, it’s hard to have too much confidence in them when they generated a league-average rate of shots on the powerplay during the regular season. Not expecting the Oilers penalty kill to have another stretch where they allow zero goals – but they have a good chance of being a difference-maker against a Canucks powerplay that is struggling to create opportunities.
The Oilers’ powerplay should also continue to do well in the second round, but they might not post the same numbers that they did against the Kings. The Oilers’ powerplay really had their way in the first round, posting the highest rate of shots and leading the league with nine goals in 27 minutes. This wasn’t overly surprising since the Kings, while having excellent results on the penalty kill during the regular season, had some underlying issues that indicated their results weren’t sustainable. The reasons for the Oilers’ success are obvious: they’re running with the same cluster of players who are healthy and have had great results over a long time together. And there’s little reason to believe that the Oilers’ powerplay would stall in the second round.
The Canucks penalty kill, however, should put up a better fight against the Oilers than the Kings did. The Canucks posted the third-lowest rate of shots among the first-round teams and allowed only two goals . And while they hovered around league-average levels when it came to shots against and goals against during the regular season, the Canucks penalty kill really improved over the final twenty-five games before the playoffs.
Below is the Canucks rate of shots against on the penalty kill during the regular season, over rolling twenty-five game periods. The blue line across represents the league-average rate of shots against during the regular season (55.05 per hour).
While the Canucks hovered around league average rates of shots against for most of the year, they posted a rate of 44.91 in their final twenty five games – which was the sixth lowest rate in the league. The rate of shots against is something that the coaching staff can control through tactics and player deployment, so I’d be interested to know what adjustments’ they made that helped drive their performance. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform against an Oilers powerplay that’s red-hot, and if they’ll at least be able to limit the shots and chances against.
Data: Natural Stat Trick

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