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Pulse Check

Digging into the first four games of the series against the Los Angeles Kings to see what’s going well for the Edmonton Oilers, and what the areas of concern are.

NHL: MAY 08 Playoffs Round 1 Game 4 - Oilers at Kings Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Quick evaluation of how things have gone for the Edmonton Oilers in their first four games of the playoffs. Two games at home, two on the road and a 240-minute sample size, let’s dig in. This should also be much more enjoyable than the last time I did a four-game playoff review of the Edmonton Oilers.

Let’s start with the good news:

  • The Oilers have two wins, outscoring the Kings 17-10 in all situations, and 10-7 at even-strength (5v5), a goal-share of 58.82%.
  • Their overall results at even-strength (5v5) are supported by solid shot-share numbers, with the Oilers controlling the flow of play as reflected by their 53.21% Corsi For percentage and generating a higher share of scoring chances – posting an Expected Goals For percentage of 56.64%. These are fairly consistent with how they ended the regular season.
  • The goaltending has been solid with the Oilers posting a team save percentage of 93.63% in all situations, ranking second in the league. Among 16 goalies who have played at least 80 minutes at even-strength (5v5), Smith ranks seventh with a 93.75% save percentage and fifth with a +1.55 goals-saved-above-average (GSAA).
  • The Oilers powerplay continues to be excellent, converting on 35.7% of their chances and scoring at a rate of over 13 goals per hour. They’re also generating over 60 shots per hour with the man-advantage, which is right around where they were in the regular season.
  • The penalty kill has also been very good, killing 93.3% of the Kings opportunities, allowing only one goal and scoring a shorthanded goal as well.
  • With McDavid on the ice at even-strength (5v5), the Oilers have completely dominated the Kings, posting a Corsi For percentage of 65.74%, an Expected Goals For percentage of 72.40% (!) and out-scoring the opposition 5-2 (a 71.43% goal-share). These are superhuman on-ice numbers and the Kings don’t appear to have a solution for him.

The things that might be of concern to the Edmonton Oilers:

  • While the team is breaking even in terms of goal-differential without McDavid on the ice at even-strength (5 GF, 5 GA) there’s a concerning drop off in the team’s overall play, especially defensively, as they’re getting outshot and out-chanced without their captain.
  • In about two hours of total 5v5 ice time without McDavid, about 67% of the team’s total ice time, the Oilers are spending more time without the puck and are allowing just over 40 shots against per hour - 10 shots higher than league average levels. Their current Expected Goals For percentage is closer to what the Oilers were posting when Tippett was coaching.
  • Looking at the on-ice numbers for forwards and defencemen this series, we see that the top line players are doing great, but most of the other players, including some of the top end forwards are having some issues. The table below is sorted by on-ice goal-differential and has a basic heat map applied to see how the players compare to one another.
  • One tandem in particular is Draisaitl and Hyman, who are both posting Corsi For percentages around 45% and expected goal shares even worse than that. As Dennis King mentioned on my show recently, the two of them did not post very good numbers on the road together during the regular season, indicating that they may be struggling when opponents have last change and can apply specific tactics. Since the coaching change, the two played 128 minutes together on the road, going -1 in goal differential (5 GF, 6 GA) posting an on-ice Corsi For percentage of 46.71% and an Expected Goals for perentage of 42.65%.
  • Not sure what the coaching staff is expecting from Archibald. He was dreadful in his limited minutes during the regular season and is only dragging down Nugent-Hopkins - who himself struggled in the last twenty five games of the regular season. If the Oilers want to make a deep run, they need three solid lines that control the flow of play and out-chance opponents. It’ll be interesting to see if Woodcroft and the coaching staff recognizes this and can make the necessary adjustments. Perhaps putting Nugent-Hopkins with Puljuarvi is the answer, as we know the Finn tends to have a positive influence on his linemates, especially on the defensive side of things.
  • The other issue facing the Oilers is the play of Jonathan Quick whose even-strength numbers (93.40 save percentage, +0.95 GSAA) are slightly above average and only slightly below Smith’s numbers in this series. As mentioned in my series preview post, Quick posted above-average numbers in the final twenty give games of the Kings season, and was getting breaks between starts, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he finishes with numbers similar to Smith.

Down to a best of three, we’ll see how it goes.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com