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Home ice disadvantage

Couple issues the Oilers coaching staff will need to address heading into game seven against the Kings.

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings - Game Six Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Couple issues heading into game seven.

First, a quick look at how the Oilers have performed this series at even-strength (5v5) on home ice and on the road. They’re definitely getting better results on the road, and it’s a little concerning that their numbers aren’t as solid at home with their expected goal share being 46.60% and their actual goal-share being 38.46%.

Edmonton Oilers (5v5) Corsi For% Fenwick For% Expected Goals For% Goals For% GF/GA
Home 51.29 48.05 46.60 38.46 5/8
Away 55.08 54.70 61.90 69.23 9/4

We also know the Oilers are struggling in this series at even-strength (5v5) whenever McDavid isn’t on the ice. In their six games against Los Angeles, the Oilers have out-scored the Kings 9-4 with McDavid on the ice, but have been out-scored 8-5 without him. And that’s due in large part to their inability to control the flow of play and out-chance the Kings without McDavid, as the club has posted a Corsi For% of 47.35% and an Expected Goals For% of 44.67%.

What’s especially concerning is how poor the Oilers play at home without McDavid - not exactly what you’d want to hear heading into a game seven in Edmonton. In the three games at home this series, the Oilers without McDavid on the ice (about 65% of the team’s total 5v5 ice time) have scored only one goal at 5v5, and allowed six. Their underlying shot-share numbers have also seen a drop when they play in Edmonton, especially their Expected Goals For% which is 48.32% on the road but 39.97% at home.

Without McDavid (5v5) Corsi For% Fenwick For% Expected Goals For% Goals For% GF/GA
Home 46.59 46.27 39.97 14.29 1/6
Road 48.05 46.80 48.32 66.67 4/2

There were three games this series where the Oilers posted an Expected Goals For% above 50% without McDavid on the ice - games 2, 3 and 6. Those were also the games that the Oilers won. No surprise that if the depth of the team is holding their own in terms of puck possession, shots and chances, the Oilers have a much better chance of winning games.

Oilers without McDavid (5v5) Corsi For% Fenwick For% Expected Goals For% GF/GA
Game 1 - in Edmonton 35.60 37.26 30.98 0/3
Game 2 - In Edmonton 61.06 63.13 70.66 1/0
Game 3 - In Los Angeles 50.58 51.49 60.79 4/1
Game 4 - In Los Angeles 36.75 33.18 30.28 0/1
Game 5 - In Edmonton 43.22 37.66 32.04 0/3
Game 6 - In Los Angeles 58.77 59.21 53.39 0/0

Compounding matters is the fact that Mike Smith has struggled at home as the Oilers 5v5 team save percentage at home is 89.33% - the worst among all playoff teams. Smith’s numbers have been significantly better on the road this series, with the 5v5 team save percentage ranking third overall with 95.60%. If the Oilers can spend more time with the puck and in the oppositions zone, it’ll definitely benefit Smith who has been fine this series, but not significantly better than Quick. The Kings team save percentage at 5v5 on the road is at 92.96% - fifth among all of the playoff teams.

Another look at the Oilers skaters at 5v5 at home, and sorted by their on-ice goal differential (i.e., Goals +/-). As noted last time, Draisaitl and Hyman have struggled in this series at even-strength as the Oilers tend to get out-shot and out-chanced with them on the ice. So it makes some sense to have Draisaitl play with McDavid. The problem is the Oilers already allow more chances than they can generate at home. And with the Oilers loading up their top lines, there’s plenty of opportunity now for the Kings to control the flow of play and exploit the depth players.

It’s also worth noting that Ceci and Keith have also seen their numbers take a slide when playing at home, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Kings continue targetting Keith’s side of the ice.

Anything can happen in game seven on Saturday night, but here’s hoping the Oilers coaching staff knows what their issues at even-strength are at home and can make the necessary adjustments to improve their odds of moving on to the second round. In game six, the solution was to play McDavid more often at 5v5, as the captain was on the ice for 42% of the team’s total ice time, an increase from 33% over the previous five games. It’s fair to expect the same on Saturday, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Kings coaching staff and players respond.

Data: Natural Stat Trick