Edmonton Oilers

Breaking down the Edmonton Oilers’ NHL record of the best single-season power play

After Game 82 concluded for the Edmonton Oilers, they found themselves in the NHL history books by posting the best single-season power play conversion rate. The team was successful on 32.4% of their power play attempts, meaning they practically scored once for every three power plays. That rate is simply absurd and makes the Oilers’ offence on the man-advantage as lethal as it gets.

The potent power play

To take a closer look at what made the power play so good, we’ll turn to some popular hockey resources, specifically HockeyViz.com and Evolving-Hockey.com.

Power play unblocked shot rates

The following shows a density plot of the Oilers’ shot rates by location relative to the league average. The more orange an area, the more the Oilers shoot from those spots compared to the league; and the more purple an area, the less the Oilers shoot.

As seen by the vast amount of orange in the plot, the Oilers have one task on the power play, get the puck in close before shooting, or take a shot in from the centre—likely during high traffic moments where both well-placed screens or well-timed deflections could pay off.

Conversely, the Oilers simply did not shoot from the top of the circles. They’d rather funnel the puck closer in before they’d shoot. This power play was clearly very strategic and it worked for the Oilers. Their expected goals for per 60 minutes of power play time was an insane 9.85 goals, which was 35% more than the league average.

Looking at Evolving-Hockey’s team regularised adjusted plus-minus charts, the main takeaway was that the Oilers’ power play scored at more than four standard deviations better than the mean, and their expected goals was nearly three standard deviations above.

From a statistical point of view, 99.7% of an entire population will fall within three standard deviations of the mean. That means that on either end of the spectrum (either a historically good or a historically bad power play) that is more than three standard deviations away from the mean would occur 0.15% of the time (0.15% would be historically good, 0.15% would be historically bad). So, the Oilers xGF/60 in the chart was very close to the three standard deviation mark, meaning across the Evolving-Hockey dataset, which includes data since the 2007–08 season, this year’s Oilers was in the upper-upper echelon for expected goals.

Now, their GF/60 being over four standard deviations above the mean? That’s just otherworldly. Again from a stats point of view, 99.9% of a population would fall within four standard deviations from the mean. And in the same vein as the above split between historically good and bad power plays, to be four standard deviations above the mean means the Oilers’ results were better than 99.95% of all power play performances!

No wonder they set the single-season record.

Players contributing on the power play

Finally, we’ll look at individual player contributions from Evolving-Hockey’s goals above replacement (GAR). As seen below, the Oilers got the best power play contributions from a group of five players, also known as their top unit. This included Tyson Barrie before he was traded, and Evan Bouchard after the trade deadline.

The Oilers saw Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lead the way with 12.6 GAR, followed by Leon Draisaitl with 11.0, Connor McDavid with 10.9, and Zach Hyman with 7.8. Barrie posted a total of 5.9 GAR before he was traded, and Bouchard ultimately collected a total of 5.6 GAR.

The other power play unit was just not as good with some players even posting negative GAR results like Darnell Nurse, Dylan Holloway, and Warren Foegele.

The best power play unit to ever do it?

The Oilers’ top power play unit was simply elite and they have a strong argument for being one of the best power play units of all-time. By finishing the 2022–23 regular season with the best single-season power play rate in NHL history, that’s just one more point to make their case.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

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