Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers’ lethal power play is driven by prioritizing high quality chances

Ever since Connor McDavid was drafted into the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers have been a serious threat to score on the power play. Despite the ups and downs over the past eight seasons, the power play has always been a source of hope and strength for this team, and when you boast two of the greatest players on the planet, that’s exactly the way it should be.

But, what exactly makes the Oilers’ power play so lethal? What does having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl allow the Oilers to do that other teams simply cannot?

The answer is the prioritization of high quality opportunities and the ability to generate these opportunities at a higher rate.

The importance of shot quality

Sportsnet released an article this week talking about how the NHL is moving away from shot volume, a pillar of successful team systems in the past. For example, the Calgary Flames under Darryl Sutter, prioritize shot volume over everything else, which is causing them to lose games that they heavily outshoot their opponents in. The Oilers don’t have this problem, and it’s one of the reasons why they’re ahead in the standings, and are able to defeat the Flames more often than not.

This is emphasized on the power play. As the league tries to increase scoring and increase the entertainment value of games, the power play is becoming that much more important. Learning how to capitalize on the man advantage is absolutely essential to succeeding in the regular season, but more importantly in the playoffs.

The Oilers shot quality on the power play

Because each team spends vastly different amounts of time on the power play, the most useful way to evaluate a single team against the rest of the league is by using rates. NaturalStatTrick.com has a handy feature that shows rates for a plethora of stats, including shots, in a per-60 minute rate format. This allows for easy comparisons.

Here’s how the Oilers fare against the rest of the NHL:

Power PlayCF/60SCF/60HDCF/60xGF/60
Raw Value106.6969.0329.539.57
NHL Rank16783

The Oilers generate about 107 shot attempts per 60 power play minutes this season, 69 scoring chances, and 30 high danger chances. This translates to approximately 9.5 expected goals per 60 minutes on the man advantage.

It’s difficult to contextualize these numbers without seeing the rest of the league, so we’ve added ranks as well.

The most interesting thing that pops out right away is that the Oilers are a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to shot attempts on the power play. Half of the teams in the NHL actually put more pucks towards the net on the power play than the Oilers. This isn’t because the Oilers score quicker than other teams, since this is a per-60 minute metric. This simply means that other teams shoot more frequently than the Oilers do.

The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that this metric includes ALL types of shots: shots on goal, missed shots, and blocked shots.

In the next two columns, it’s clear that the Oilers make up for their lower shot volume in shot quality. They rank seventh in the NHL in scoring chances and eighth in high danger chances per 60 power play minutes. This is a massive difference from their shot attempt rank, which means that despite the Oilers not firing as many pucks towards the net, they are instead able to generate more high quality chances than the vast majority of the league.

The most impressive metric is the final column. The Oilers rank third overall in the NHL in terms of expected goals per 60 power play minutes. This means that they are among the league’s elite teams at actually creating goals on the power play, rather than just chances.

Here come the Oilers

It is this quality prioritization that propels the Oilers into the upper echelon of power plays, and why they have a huge advantage over the Flames, and essentially every other team in the NHL.

If the increase in power plays continues, this should heavily favour the Oilers.

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