Because of the weak division they're in, the Edmonton Oilers sit four points out of the playoffs, and exactly two points from last place in the conference. It's a bizarre spot that has some cautiously thinking playoffs, while others remain pessimistic. This season, they've gone 3-4-0 against division rivals. If the Oilers want any chance of making the playoffs, they'll have to find some success against the Pacific.
Here's a snapshot of some of the underlying numbers at even-strength for the Oilers compared to their division rivals. Please note, the Corsi For% is score adjusted to limit score effects (Source: War on Ice)
|Goals For %
|Corsi For% (Adj)
In terms of possession, the Oilers are currently at 47.8%, good for 22nd in the league, and 5th in the division. Should note that since November 1st, the Oilers are 16th in the league by the same metric with 49.0%. That's third best in their division behind LA and Anaheim. Doesn't mean they'll make the playoffs, but at least there's been improvement since the first month of the season.
When it comes to scoring goals, the Oilers are fifth with 43.1%. The issue for them is that they continue to allow a lot of scoring chances and aren't generating enough when they're in the offensive zone. The good news is that their overall volume of shot attempts has gradually increased, but they haven't been getting to rebounds as often as they should. The other issue is the lack of production from the bottom six. Guys like Anton Lander and Lauri Korpikoski have got to find the score sheet more often if the team has any chance of avoiding the basement again.
The goaltending for the Oilers has improved in recent weeks, but the team save percentage at even-strength remains near the bottom of the league and division. Since November 1, the save percentage has been 92.1%, which has been better than San Jose, Calgary and Arizona. It's not realistic to expect Nilsson to maintain an abnormally high save percentage, so expect this to drop off in the near future.
The Oilers have maintained a pretty steady shooting percentage since the start of the season, so I don't expect too much fluctuation there. The Coyotes on the other hand have been higher than average, but are starting to show signs of cooling off now. I don't think Arizona is for real, and should be a team the Oilers can leap ahead of.
The Oilers are in the worst division in the NHL. We know from watching the games and from the underlying numbers that teams like Vancouver, Arizona and Calgary are going to struggle similar to the Oilers. The key issues for the Oilers remain the defence which has shown well in some games, but continues to struggle with scoring chances against and moving the puck up to the forwards. There also hasn't been consistent enough contributions from the bottom six, who tend to get outshot when they're on the ice. If the Oilers want to even compete for the playoffs, they'll have to improve on those two areas and start finding success against division rivals.
As always, let us know your thoughts.