Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Scoring Chances - Games 1-41

Now that we've broken down the scoring chances into smaller ten game segments it would, of course, also be instructive to see what's happening in the macro view (especially important when the alternative micro view is a 10-2 loss). Once again, thanks very much to Dennis for tracking the scoring chances and if anyone hasn't yet seen his work or that of Bruce who is expressing this data in per 60 rate, then you can find all of that here.

(For those unfamiliar with the metric a player is awarded a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is awarded with a “chance for” if someone on his team has a chance and awarded with a “chance against” if someone on the opposing team has a chance to score. The results are broken down into three game states, EV (even strength), PP (Power Play) and SH (Short-Handed). The players are organized according to their jersey numbers.)

Games One to Forty-One, October 12 to January 11
Missing Games 22 at St. Louis, 33 at Vancouver and 40 vs San Jose

Now there are other things to consider like Quality of Competition that need to have some bearing on the analysis. It's safe to say that for the most part Horcoff, Hemsky and Penner have been thrown into a Power v. Power relationship in which they've been taking on most of the hardest minutes on the team. All three have a positive differential at EV and all three have been contributing positively on the first unit PP. That line has, quite simply, been delivering results even if their offence may be a little shy of where fans had hoped in the beginning of the year.

Cole received some tougher sledding with Horcoff and Hemsky in the first ten games and Reddox received his share with Horcoff and Penner in the last five or six games while Hemsky was injured. Neither of those two had particularly good numbers in that role but Cole and Gagner were especially dominant in the last ten games bringing him into positive territory. It also vaults Gagner (hopefully he's not out for too long) into the lead in scoring chance differential among forwards with a +24. Gagner may not be putting up as many points as I had expected, but, much like the top line, he has been delivering very positive results. The kid is only 19 years old too. It seems very likely that he will be a difference maker for years to come.

Reddox, meanwhile is a fourth liner who has been able to break even in that role but clearly isn't ready for primetime on the top line. He's also not outscoring on the fourth line and, at this point, probably shouldn't be considered better than a tweener. Stortini is in the negative here, as is Brodziak, though in Brodziak's case the split between offensive and defensive zone faceoffs is extreme and, as such, understandable.

So if the fourth line can, mostly, is only down slightly, the first line is rocking and the second line can be dominant, the problem areas are now somewhat obvious. Ethan Moreau and the third defensive pairing (Staios with Smid or Strudwick) have been completely terrible. Just awful. Given that in the case of Staios and Moreau they're overpaid for bottom roster players, one would hope that this would be an area of strength. That is, quite simply, not the case.

Speaking of Staios and Moreau one of their primary responsibilities on this team is killing penalties. The penalty kill has been terrible. That much is sure. Given the results those two have at even strength I am currently in favour of trying others in their spots and removing them from these assignments entirely. If it helps, that's an easy fix to the problem. If not, well then the problems run much deeper. The Oilers have allowed about (adding together all the individual chances against and dividing by four) 173 chances against while creating about (adding together all the individual chances for and dividing by five) 152 chances for while on the power play. We also know that over the course of the season the Oilers have scored (not including the three games mentioned above) 30 power play goals for a rate of one goal every 5.07 chances. On the PK they've allowed 42 goals for a rate of one goal every 4.12 chances. So the Oilers are not only allowing more chances, but they're also stopping chances at a much lower rate. Whether this is simply the quality of the goaltending, or also the quality of the chances, I'm not sure, but this gap needs to close if the Oilers hope to win the special teams battle in the second half.

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