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Why the Oilers' goalies can't save them

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A statistical analysis showing that the Oilers need improved defensive play to be a better team.

Anders Nilsson
Anders Nilsson
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With another poor start to another playoff-less season, attention in the Oiler blogosphere has turned once again to criticism of our team’s latest save percentage victims Anders Nilsson and Cam Talbot. Last season I chimed in, proclaiming that improved goaltending was needed and that Ben Scrivens had to go.

This time I've decided to take a step back by focusing not on the performance of specific goaltenders but on team performance. All charts below use the following stats from war-on-ice. All stats are 5v5 even-strength and include both playoff and regular season numbers.

  • FA60 (Fenwick Against 60): unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes of play.
  • SV60 (Saves 60): saves per 60 minutes of play.
  • FASV% (Fenwick Against Save Percentage): saves/unblocked shot attempts.
  • OSv% (On-ice Save Percentage): saves/shots.

The stats have been normalized and standardized so that "0" indicates average performance, "-1", "1" (etc) are standard deviations.

Mouse-over bubbles for detailed stats. Full-sized interactive graphic and table may be viewed here. The above table charts attempted unblocked shots on the horizontal plane and corresponding save percentages on the vertical. Orange bubbles are for teams that made the playoffs while blue are for those that missed.  Bubbles are sized by SV60. Teams above the horizontal zero line have above-average FASV%. Teams to the LEFT of the vertical zero line have better than average FA60. There are more orange bubbles to the left, meaning having decent defence in the form of limiting attempted shots is effective.

Full-sized interactive graphic and table may be viewed here. The above chart shows performances from the Pacific Division teams only, over the same period of time.

Full-sized interactive chart and table here. Over the history of advanced stats, the only season the Oilers made the playoffs (the cup run of 2005-06) was the season involving the lowest team Fenwick Save Percentage. However, it was also the only season that we gave-up fewer than average Fenwicks Against while having low SV60.

Full-sized interactive chart and table here. The above shows results for this season, with the Oil coloured orange. Our FASV% is below average, although not by much. Our FA60 is still worse than average.

All of this to say what is obvious to the eye: our defensive play (from defenders and forwards) needs improvement if we are to become a playoff team.