As a fan, I'm pretty excited to see the Oilers put together a four game winning streak. It doesn't happen often, so we might as well enjoy the run for as long as we can. Seeing the emergence of Leon Draisaitl and Brandon Davidson, as well as some outstanding performances from Taylor Hall is giving fans some hope that this might be the turning point.
But before we talk about "playoffs" (I think that's how you spell it), there are some glaring issues that I hope the Oilers can remedy. The team continues to get out shot on a regular basis, with the game against Buffalo being the only exception. Anders NIlsson has played exceptionally well as the starting goalie, but it's hard to expect him to play at a high level for the rest of the season.
The four game winning streak last October was great as they beat Tampa Bay (3-2), Washington (3-2), Carolina (6-3) and Montreal (3-0) at home. There was a lot of excitement about the OIlers possibly turning the corner. But it was met with some cautious optimism as the team produced some underlying numbers that indicated that success would be short lived.
Below is a high-level comparison of the two winning streaks: the one from October 2014 and the one the Oilers are currently in (even-strength numbers only). During the last streak, the Oilers were a terrible possession team, getting out shot often, but had a ridiculously high shooting percentage at even strength and a higher than average on-ice save percentage. What I wanted to see was if the Oilers are posting similar, above average numbers, during this streak, and if we should temper expectations. (Source: War on Ice)
|Metric||October 2014||December 2015|
|Corsi For % (Score adjusted)||45.0||45.0|
|On-ice Shooting %||14.3||9.4|
|On-ice Save %||94.4||93.3|
|Scoring Chances For%||40.4||45.1|
|High Danger Scoring Chances For%||46.3||45.2|
Last year's team was pretty darn lucky. They only had a 45% adjusted Corsi rating, got 39.5% of the shots (!!) but still had a goals for percentage of 62.5%. Ben Scrivens posted some very good numbers, including a shutout of the Habs, but never found that level of success again. It also helped that the team was shooting at 14.3%, which was nearly double their season average (7.1%).
In the current winning streak, the Oilers are posting a similar Corsi For% of 45.0%, but are getting a slightly higher proportion of shots. Not an acceptable level, but numbers that are close to their season average. They're just barely outscoring their opponents as the team is posting only a slightly higher shooting percentage than their season average of 7.4%. The on-ice save percentage is higher than average during this win streak, which is somewhat expected considering the number of shots Nilsson has faced. I don't expect him to stay at this level for the rest of the season, but he should be able to post some good-to-average numbers
What I found interesting is that the scoring chances-for and high danger scoring chances-for posted in the current winning streak isn't that much higher than their season average. Currently, the Oilers are 23rd in the NHL when it comes to scoring chances-for at 48.6%. And they rank 28th in the league when it comes to high danger chances with 45.0%. If the Oilers want to find any sort of success, they'll have to limit the chances from the areas that the majority of goals are scored from and start creating their own opportunities.
What I'm seeing from the games and from the numbers is that even though the Oilers continue to post some troubling underlying numbers, they've been successful, largely because of the performance of Nilsson. The other issue to consider is that three of the four wins have gone to either a shootout or 3 vs 3 overtime, sessions that become even more luck driven. The Oilers had some horrible results early on in the season when games needed extra time, so it seems as though things are just balancing out for them. But I suspect that if the Oilers can post some stronger even-strength numbers, and win games in regulation, they can achieve some sustainable success.