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The Oilers and High Danger Scoring Chances

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Another metric that demonstrates a fundamental weakness of the club.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Oilers were having trouble with high-danger scoring chances (HSC), and how it would be critical for the team to not only limit those, but find a way to generate them. It really stemmed from the loss at home against the Capitals when it seemed that every one of the goals scored were from the slot. The Oilers allowed 13 scoring chances from a dangerous part of the ice that game and paid for it dearly.

After 26 games, the trend continues. The Oilers currently rank 28th in the league when it comes to HSC For%, sitting at 44.5%, ahead of only the Rangers and Panthers. Todd McLellan has mentioned a few times now how important it is to crash the net and find those second chances. And despite the team increasing their volume of shot attempts, they haven't been able to score nearly as often as they should. The slot area is where 50% of the goals are scored from, with teams averaging about seven high-danger scoring chances per game. The Oilers aren't anywhere near that.

Quick note before I go on: Like any of the metrics derived from analytics, HSC is not a silver bullet. My intention here is to see the volume of shot attempts taken from a dangerous part of the ice. This stat gives us a sense of which teams are driving to the net and putting themselves in a favorable position.

Here's how the Oilers have done in terms of HSC For% by game this season:

Of the 26 games played this season, the Oilers have had a HSC For% higher than 50.1% (which is the league average) only eight times. Their worst showings were against Dallas and Washington early in the season, and then Detroit and Carolina during this recent road trip. What's strange, to me at least, is that the Oilers are the second worst team at home (43.4%), but move up to 21st (45.3%) when it comes to HSCF% on the road.

Knowing how bad the team is when it comes HSC's, it's worth looking at which player's are on the ice for the most HSC's against and who might be struggling to generate those chances.

First the forwards:

Name Gm TOI/Gm ZSO% HSCF% HSCF/60 HSCA/60 iHSC HSC Ratio
Leon Draisaitl 16 15.02 55.92 55.10 13.48 10.99 16 29.6%
Taylor Hall 26 15.97 51.76 52.83 12.14 10.84 38 45.2%
Connor McDavid 13 13.65 57.14 48.61 11.83 12.51 10 28.6%
Teddy Purcell 26 12.56 48.00 48.06 11.39 12.31 14 22.6%
Nail Yakupov 22 12.70 54.79 47.87 9.66 10.52 18 40.0%
Matt Hendricks 16 11.88 40.74 45.83 10.41 12.31 9 27.3%
Mark Letestu 26 9.83 33.96 45.57 8.45 10.09 9 25.0%
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 25 15.37 56.68 43.20 8.43 11.08 11 20.4%
Benoit Pouliot 24 13.28 57.39 42.73 8.85 11.86 12 25.5%
Jordan Eberle 13 14.43 58.56 40.00 9.59 14.39 10 33.3%
Luke Gazdic 14 6.30 47.83 40.00 6.80 10.20 3 30.0%
Anton Lander 25 10.50 41.38 35.96 7.31 13.02 4 12.5%
Iiro Pakarinen 18 9.35 50.52 35.56 5.70 10.34 4 25.0%
Anton Slepyshev 11 8.23 53.19 32.14 5.96 12.59 3 33.3%
Lauri Korpikoski 18 11.45 43.44 29.49 6.70 16.02 6 26.1%

Leading the team when it comes to high-danger scoring chances is Draisaitl and Hall. What HSCF% tells us is that when Hall and Draisaitl are on the ice, the Oilers are getting a higher share of those high danger chances. We know Hall is a guy that drives the net and causes chaos for the opposition and the numbers confirm that. What the last column, HSC ratio, tells us is that of all the high danger scoring chances Hall is on the ice for, 45% of them come from his stick (iHSC - individual high-danger scoring chances). No one on the team, except Yakupov, gets anywhere near the proportion Hall gets.

At the bottom of the list are the Oilers' third and fourth liners. We know they've been struggling to produce and this table gives us an indication as to why. They're not able to get into the dangerous areas in the offensive zones and end up bleeding chances in front of their own goal. Korpikoski has been a major disappointment this year, but is still somehow getting a regular shift. How about that Matt Hendricks? Starts often in his own zone, but the team gets into those dangerous areas when he's on the ice. Again this confirms what we've been seeing from his this year. He's been very reliable in all areas and can be a positive influence on others.

And here's how the Oilers defence is doing this season:

Name Gm TOI/Gm ZSO% HSCF% HSCF/60 HSCA/60 iHSC HSC Ratio
Oscar Klefbom 26 16.70 46.07 48.55 9.26 9.81 1 1.5%
Brandon Davidson 16 14.77 55.86 48.19 10.16 10.92 2 5.0%
Andrej Sekera 25 16.40 49.78 45.83 9.66 11.41 2 3.0%
Mark Fayne 23 14.84 46.88 45.79 8.61 10.19 1 2.0%
Justin Schultz 12 15.42 41.96 45.71 10.38 12.32 3 9.4%
Darnell Nurse 17 17.44 47.98 42.48 9.71 13.15 3 6.3%
Griffin Reinhart 12 14.87 54.90 40.00 7.40 11.10 1 4.5%
Eric Gryba 22 15.49 54.33 39.86 9.68 14.61 4 7.3%

You probably could've guessed who was going to be at the bottom. What this tells us is that when Reinhart or Gryba are on the ice, the Oilers are likely going to be bleeding high-danger scoring chances. The good news is that the former is getting a chance to develop in the AHL, while the latter has been recently scratched a few times. When it comes to these type of chances against per 60, Klefbom, Davidson and Fayne show well. It's only 26 games in to the season, but we can already see Schultz getting a high proportion of high danger chances from his stick, similar to what we've seen in the past.

What's especially alarming when looking at individual numbers is the amount of time some of the players who are struggling have played with one another. Both Lander and Korpikoski for instance have spent the most time together since the start of the season. And their most common teammate on defence? Gryba. This is a situation where you would expect your coaching staff to not only work with individuals, but also with a cluster of players who aren't doing what's necessary to win.

Thoughts

High-danger chances are just one of the many metrics we can use to analyze a team and better understand some of the underlying issues. This exercise started with what I saw on the ice: way too many chances in front of our own goal, and not nearly enough chaos in front of the opponent's. While the rest of the metrics such as possession, goals for and team save percentage at even-strength appear to be improving this season, the Oilers inability to generate and prevent high-danger scoring chances remains poor. The obvious remedy is to improve the personnel on defence, but there will also need to be some modifications to the line combinations and their deployment.

Sources: Hockey AnalysisWar on IceNatural Stat Trick