Did The Kids Make the Oilers Power Play Better?

VANCOUVER, CANADA - DECEMBER 26: Fans of Taylor Hall #4 and Jordan Eberle #14 of the Edmonton Oilers pose for a photo during a stoppage in play during during NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on December 26, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

The Oilers' success on the power play in 2011-12 was a surprise to most. The Oilers 20.6% conversion percentage ranked 3rd in the NHL behind Nashville and San Jose. After back-to-back seasons of 17.3% and 14.5%, fans were overjoyed to see a power play that could score consistently.

But even though the Oilers were scoring goals, they weren't generating shots at a regular, or improved, rate with the man advantage and shot rates are an enormous part of power play success.

shots per sixty minutes of 5v4 time on ice and power play success (power play conversion percentage) is extremely strong, with an r^2 = .400 So, given our sample size, 5v4 shots per 60 predicts 40% of power play success.

--Quoting from my article on power play shot quality.

In the short run, it's possible to have a successful power play without generating shot volume, but it's not a recipe for success. From that same article:

...four teams in the last four years have had a top ten power play by percentage and finished in the bottom ten of the league in shots for per 60 with the man advantage. The teams to pull off this feat were Philadelphia and St. Louis in 2008-09, Minnesota in 2009-10 and St. Louis in 2010-11.

And now the 2011-12 Oilers. But none of those teams were able to repeat the feat and it's unlikely the Oilers will be able to do so. So shot generation must improve.

"AHA!" say the shot generation critics, "You aren't accounting for quality of shots! Have you seen the sweet, sweet passes the Nuge can make?"

To the scoring chances it is...

5v4 Data Only

All scoring chance data compiled by Dennis King at MC79hockey.com.

S/60 S/60 Rk C/60 G CON%
2009-10 43.5 30 32.1 45 0.191
2010-11 41.8 30 30.5 41 0.177
2011-12 44.4 26 31.5 50 0.233

The Oilers shots per 60 hit a three-year high, but they still ranked just 26th in the NHL. Unfortunately, the chances didn't quite reach a three-year high, though they were better than last year's abysmal performance. The difference in chances per 2 minutes was an increase of just .05 per power play.

This leaves my imaginary critics in a bind. The shot rates didn't vastly improve and scoring chance generation was mostly flat. Unless the Oilers have power play finishers far superior to the rest of the league (and yes Taylor Hall is wicked from the weak side and Jordan Eberle is magical from the opposite circle), the likely explanation for their conversion success is variance.

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