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The Oilers Goal-scoring Slump

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers are currently mired in a goal-scoring slump at 5v5. Their season’s share of goals is still at 51.4%, 11th in the league, but they’ve only outscored their opponents by one goal (61-60). What’s especially troubling is that since their hot start in October when they held a 58% goal-share over the first nine games, they’re had a 47.8% goal-share ever since.

What’s especially troubling is the downward trend of goal-share over the course of the year, especially if you look at the rolling 10-game averages.

Each point represents the average goal-share over the preceding 10 games. The first dot is the 10th game against Toronto, with the 52% representing the first 10 games. The next dot represents games 2-11, with the 11th game being the one against New York. I have the opponents listed on the axis to give a sense of what the competition was like over the 10 games.

Over the most recent ten games, the Oilers have had a goal-share of 43%, which represents their low point to date. The team’s shooting percentage is around 6.3%, slightly lower than the league average. Considering the talent on this team, we can hope that bounces back.

The other factor here is the team’s sliding share of all shot attempts (Corsi For%) at even-strength. The team’s Corsi For% has been one of the team’s strengths, as the club has been typically in the top 10 all season. But as of today, they’re down to 11th with a score and venue adjusted percentage of 51.66%. This is still very good for a team that only once in the last eight seasons had a 25-game stretch of games with a CF% of over 50%. But over the last stretch of games, the club has trended downwards, only posting a 50% share of shot attempts. When it comes to the unblocked shot attempts, which can be used as a proxy for shot quality, the team is at 48.5% over the last 10 games.

Couple reasons why the club may be struggling when it comes to goals and shot attempts.

Prior to their three-day break last week, the Oilers had been playing a pretty brutal schedule of games. There were two sets of back-to-backs, one at home and one on the road, and only one day of rest between the other games. By far, this is the toughest part of the calendar, so I think if the team can stay healthy, the club should be able to return to form.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Edmonton Oilers Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The other issue that stands out for me is the Oilers reluctance to split up Russell from Sekera on the blue line. When the two have played together, the club has a score and venue adjusted CF% of 47.67% (in 328 mins), the second lowest share of shot attempts among all Oilers defence pairings this season only ahead of Russell-Larsson (37.54% over 65 mins). Over the last 10 games, Russell’s ice time has gradually increased, and he lead the team in ice time among defencemen paired predominantly with Sekera (Source: Hockey Viz).

Considering his true established NHL level is more of a depth, bottom four type, it doesn’t make sense to continue deploying Russell at the same rate. Unless Larsson is hurt, which I’m strongly suspecting, the top pairing should be Klefbom-Larsson, with Sekera paired with Benning, who together this season over 136 minutes at 5v5 have a CF% of 58.9%. Russell can contribute to an NHL roster, but a top pairing role against the best competition isn’t a place where he’ll succeed.

If the Oilers want to remain competitive and compete for a wild-card spot, the club has to find a better rate of goal-production from all parts of the roster. I don’t think the last stretch of games is an inidicator of where this team is truly at, as there may be some injury issues at play that’s dictating defence combinations and deployment. But tweaks can be and should be made to get a higher and more sustainable proportion of the shots going forward.

Data sources: Corsica Hockey, Natural Stat Trick