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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly From The Past Week

Looking back at the week that was for the Oilers and discussing the good, bad, and ugly.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Good - Surface Numbers

by Minnia Feng

The Oilers are 7-1-0. It is unbelievable, really, so I will say it again. The Oilers are 7-1-0.

It's still kind of unbelievable.

My colleague Sunil will go into some of the underlying numbers below, which are not 2014 Leafs-level terrible, but cause for some slight concern during this five-game winning streak. But because we reside in the Oilers-level section of the Optimism Dial, let's look at some of the stats that are actually really beautiful.

  • The Oilers are tied for first in the league in Goals For (24), and GF/GP (3.63). There were concerns after the losses of Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov, but it looks like the Hallless, Yakless engine is chugging along pretty well so far.
  • More surprisingly, the team is tied for 5th in the league in fewest Goals Allowed (17)-- much of this is due to the stellar play of Cam Talbot (.934 SV%), but also an increasingly stabilizing defensive group. After giving up 15 goals in their first four games, which put them dead last in the league at the time, the team has let in only two goals in their last four games.
  • The penalty kill ranks third in the league at 88.9%
  • The team may rank low in CF%, but they are sixth in the league for high danger scoring chances (HDCF%) at 54.5%-- if that helps put your analytics palpitations to rest for a bit. They are also fifth overall in High Danger Save Percentage (HDSV%) at 89.5%, due to some wicked fatherly powers.

Many are also pointing to the very good play of a few players, in particular Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot, as primary reasons for the Oilers' recent success, as if it's a bad thing. I understand the argument of unsustainable perforamnce and risk of injury, but it shouldn't take credit from the positive performance of a team that a few of its members are performing really well-- they are, after all, a big part of the team for a reason. They elevate their team through their good play, and their success is the team's success.

Of course we will poke and prod for reasons to believe the Oilers' winning ways will not continue, because that's what we're best at, and the numbers do reveal some real issues. But these numbers above give me some hope that it's not just a flash in the pan. If nothing else, this start instills some belief in a team used to losing that they have the ability to convincingly defeat even very good teams like the Blue and Capitals--as much as I love sifting through the numbers, these are factors that analytics cannot capture.

The Bad - Off Days

By Ryan Batty

I know this amount of winning isn't going to last forever, you know it won't last forever too, but it sure is fun right now isn’t it? So, as long as they're winning, why can't the Oilers play every single day? Is that really too much to ask for? We’ve sat through months of hockey, long after the Oilers had been logically eliminated from the playoffs, patiently waiting for the season to end, and now that the Oilers are winning games it doesn’t seem unreasonable that we be rewarded with a game every day.

What is a day without Connor McDavid doing something that blows your mind? Or Cam Talbot making another highlight reel save? Are those even real days? They sure don’t feel that way to me. No, those days seem grey and dull and lifeless. Sure, highlights can provide some respite but they can only take the edge off for so long, sooner or later I’m going to need the real thing, I’m going to need another game. I’m hooked on the wins, you can’t go cutting me off now.

The Ugly - Underlying Numbers

By Sunil Agnihotri

The Oilers have seven wins, all of which have been in regulation, and have the best goal differential in the western conference with +12. But they rank near the bottom of the league when it comes to 5v5 possession at 47.22%. If we adjust it to factor in score effects (the team has lead in a lot of games) and the fact that the majority of their games have been played at home (which does impact how the shot attempts are counted), their Corsi For percentage goes up slightly to 48.55 (Source: Natural Stat Trick). The Oilers are also riding the fifth highest PDO in the league at 103.5 with the club shooting well above the league average and Talbot playing like a man possessed. If you believe in things regressing to the mean, you might be a little concerned right now. Ideally, the team should be finding ways to improve some of their overall shot metrics and finding more depth, especially on wing, to offset the eventual drop off. This might sound cynical, and not very fan-like, but I think it’s quite the contrary. Every fan wants the team to win today. But if the team wants to make the playoffs and contend for the Cup, it’s important that they find a way, through a combination of proper roster construction and efficient on-ice tactics, to remain sustainable. Winning today is awesome. Winning more in the future would be even better.

I guess we can also list this here as well: after the years and years of losing, it’s hard to blame anyone if they’re still feeling a little pessimistic right now. The winning is very enjoyable, no question, but there’s this feeling that their success will come crashing to a sudden halt caused by either the team’s luck running out, or an injury to a star player or the goalie going cold, or some twisted combination of all three. Personally, if the team was posting slightly better possession numbers or if it didn’t feel like McDavid was the only guy carrying this team, I’d be a lot more confident in the Oilers future success.

Oh and I’m glad I’m not the only one who has been annoyed by the poor fit of Jesse Puljujaarvi’s helmet. Seriously, someone get on this and help the kid out. Maybe the equipment staff in Bakersfield can take care of it.