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Keeping an eye on the shots against

A look into how the Oilers are doing when it comes to limiting shots against.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers head coach Todd McLellan talked about areas of improvement yesterday, focusing on the number of shots the team is currently allowing.

In my opinion we're still giving up too many shots. It's a catch-22. Because I'd like us to be a volume shooting team, which means you get some from bad angles, from really, non-scoring areas, but it keeps the other team on its toes. I think we've been giving up some of those perimeter shots. We've also been giving up a lot of shots on our penalty kill, which has to get better in certain areas. A lot of shot  attempts are from face off losses, which is an area of concern. So I think there are three or four areas that we can tighten up and bring that shot total down. (Source: Inside Sports, 630 CHED)

First, let's verify McLellan's claims.

If we look at all situations over the first seven games, the Oilers have allowed 61.28 shot attempts per hour, which is the fourth highest in the league only behind  Long Island, Columbus and Dallas (Source: Corsica Hockey). Of the 420 minutes they've played, they've played 47 minutes killing penalties, which is the 5th most in the league. And when it comes to shot attempts on the penalty kill, they have the sixth highest rate of shot attempts against. The Oilers are also 19th in the league when it comes to faceoffs in all situations.

So at first glance, it looks like the team's performance on the penalty kill is what might be driving the overall rate of shot attempts against. The Oilers are fortunate as Cam Talbot has been playing better than his historical average, holding a 93.33% save percentage, fifth best in the league, on the penality kill. But there's likely something at 5v5 that's also driving this number.

After seven games the Oilers are holding an adjusted Corsi For percentage of 50.10% at even-strength. I've used Corsica Hockey's method, which factors in the score state. The Oilers have been leading in a lot of games so far this season, and we know teams in the lead tend to play less aggressively, impacting their overall shot rates.  At 5v5, the Oilers have allowed the 8th highest rate of shot attempts per hour with 58.54.

What we can also do is look at the rate of shot attempts against at different score states at even-strength to see if there are any areas of concern. Here's a summary that shows the number of minutes played at each score state, the rate of shot attempts against and the overall share of shot attempts, along with how the Oilers rank league wide for each metric.

Score State Mins Mins Rank CA/60 CA/60 Rank CF% CF% Rank
5v5 (All scores) 315.19 11th 60.15 26th 47.51 22nd
5v5 (Even, within 1) 99.56 16th 68.10 29th 46.19 24th
5v5 (Leading) 153.92 3rd 61.63 18th 45.70 14th
5v5 (Trailing) 61.80 25th 43.69 9th 55.45 15th

Here we see that the Oilers have done alright when they're either leading or trailing, hovering around the average when it comes to overall possession, and doing quite well compared to other teams when it comes to limiting shots against when they trail in games. What's concerning here is that when the score is even, or within a range where both teams are ideally equally pressing, the Oilers rank 24th in the league possession-wise at even-strength, and are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to limiting shot attempts against, only ahead of the struggling Predators.

The Oilers are currently holding the fifth highest 5v5 PDO (i.e., team save percentage + team shooting percentage) in the league at 103.48. Their luck when the score is even is around the same number, with the team shooting at 11.76%, fifth highest in the league and well above the league average and their own historical average. It's safe to assume the club will eventually regress to the mean and feel the impact on the scoreboard. In the meantime, it'll be in the team's best interest to improve their play to limit shots against when the game is close, get a higher share of the total shot attempts and play at a level that will ensure long-term, sustainable success.