Coming into the season as one of the league’s Cup favourites, the Edmonton Oilers are off to a horrific 0–2 start after back-to-back games against the Vancouver Canucks. Edmonton’s offensive prowess has not shown up, scoring four goals over the two games, including a single 5v5 goal for.
However, Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell are the hot button issue, with the tandem having matching .750 SV% after two games with a combined 12 goals against. The bottom line is they haven’t been good. The extent to which they’ve been bad is up for debate and could influence potential next steps that the club would take.
What do the numbers say
The NHL’s public play by play data and box stats is normally the first place people will look. And right now, it’s not pretty. According to Evolving Hockey, Campbell is 1.13 Goals Saved Below Expected (GSAx) and Skinner is 4.35 GSAx, with Fenwick save percentages -4.52% and -10.36% below expected as well.
However, the public data doesn’t tell the whole story. A big part of shot quality when it comes to goaltenders comes from pre-shot puck movement and quality sight on the puck before the release. Clear Sight Analytics is a private tracking company that has does their own tracking for a model that includes this data. Like Natural Stat Trick, they break things down into High Danger, Medium Danger, and Low Danger chances, but instead of just shot location, the process is a lot more involved. You can read more about their process here.
CSA’s data breakdown
According to CSA’s data, HD chances make up 76% of all goals scored at the NHL level. Ordered from most to least dangerous, these include passes across the slot line (an imaginary line down the middle of the ice), screens, one-timers on the same side of the slot line, broken plays (unexpected bounces and situations), possessions over the slot line, deflections, and then rebounds off these HD or Green chances.
The LD shots are all called Red Chances, where the goalie has more than half a second to see the shot, which allows them to get to position and track the shot. Rebounds off these chances are outright mistakes, and can’t be reliably counted on to generate offence. Based on their data, the stereotypical hockey advice of “get pucks on net” doesn’t lead to any sustained goal scoring.
CSA’s MD chances are called Yellow Chances, which would refer to the more prototypical HD home plate chances that public sites track. Being in the slot, which is smaller than the typical home plate that is publicly used. Shots in this area have a 300% higher chance of being goals than the Red Chances, but still aren’t nearly as dangerous.
With that defined, let’s look at the first two games, goal by goal.
October 11 in Vancouver
Campbell was given the start after great results in the preseason. Unfortunately for the Oilers, Skinner had to go in in relief. Both goalies ended the games with 12 saves on 16 shots.
The Canucks first goal
Elias Pettersson throws an area pass to the middle that Brett Kulak cannot bat down. Connor Garland is able to intercept and then deke to to his back hand. After Garland makes the initial pass, Campbell never checks the middle of the ice for threats, so his reaction is to treat the pass like a shot, retreating and falling back in his butterfly. The pass is received right at the middle of the ice, so it could be called a slot line play in addition to being a rush chance, but it’s stoppable if he’s more aggressive and holds his edges on Garland.
Boeser makes it two
Evan Bouchard gets double teamed with no help on the dump in leading to a turnover. Meanwhile Darnell Nurse leaves Boeser open in the slot for the pass. As the puck comes to the middle, Campbell drifts to position, which ends with him on angle to Boeser’s body (when it should be his stick blade) and not fully square, with his shoulders slightly facing the far end. Campbell also freezes on the release, so without much reaction it looks like the shot is a lot further from him than it is. The shot is not quite a one-timer, but with no stick handles it comes close. This would count as a yellow shot.
Boeser with his second
J.T. Miller throws the puck across to Filip Hronek, who shoots back across the grain to the blocker side. Campbell makes the initial save and gets a piece of the follow up, but the rebound eventually being potted by Boeser. Campbell’s mistakes comes on the initial pass across. Instead of a hard push where he can get set and square on Hronek, he takes a stutter step and drifts over.
The issue on the play comes from the rebound. He takes a stutter step and drifts over rather than a hard push, which leads to his weight shifting back as he makes the save, opening up his blocker, and kicking out the rebound. The chance would be classified as Green Chance rebound, but I think if he Campbell had been set he would have a good chance to control the rebound and turn it into effectively a red shot.
Hat trick for Boeser
Earlier in the play, it’s noticeable that Campbell is reading initial pass trajectories then jumping to receivers. This bites him when the pass intended for Miller goes off Boeser’s skate while he is not looking at the puck. One of the first things goalies learn is to never stop tracking the puck, but Campbell commits a cardinal sin on the play. Technically its a broken play, but he would still be in position had he kept tracking the puck.
Pettersson makes it five
Puck goes to Pettersson at the point where everything false apart. Skinner is in an extremely elevated stance, but doesn’t really try to find the puck through the multiple layers of traffic, including Nurse who wandered into the lane to play goal. The Oilers end up with three defenders at the net front with Mattias Janmark trying to force Pettersson low. On the release that he can’t fully see, Skinner completely guesses which side of the net the shot is on.
The Oilers penalty kill used to be designed to block the far side and allow shots to the short side (unsure if this changed this season), so he guesses that way, and doesn’t see the far side shot. This would be a green chance with the net front screen.
Another one for Boeser
The initial shot from Quinn Hughes coming through traffic and Skinner does a better job so he seems to have a beat on it. When Philip Broberg cheats away from his man and the puck bounces off Bouchard, Boeser is wide open on the back door and Skinner doesn’t have a chance after playing the initial shot honest. This would be another HD goal against as a Broken Play.
Miller gets his first
The puck goes across the top to Miller who shoots far side high. Vincent Desharnais had stepped out for the block but didn’t fully get that far side lane while Boeser is directly in front. Skinner does a better job tracking, but the puck goes off the inside of his glove and in. The initial shot might be going wide, but clipping the inside of the pocket directs it further into the net. With the screen, this is another green goal against.
The final goal by Joshua
The Canucks have a two-on-two that turns into a late two-on-one with Ryan McLeod wiping out. Bouchard looks to take the pass and with Sam Lafferty in tight, Skinner sells out for the shot thinking he’s got support on the backdoor. As the pass goes across, Bouchard gets turned around losing body position, allowing Dakota Joshua to have a free shot before Skinner gets over. This is another green goal with the slot line pass before the shot.
October 14 in Edmonton
Skinner started the home opener after coming in relief in the season opener. He finished once again with a .750 SV% on 16 shots. Here’s how each goal broke down.
Canucks’ captain scores
The Canucks power play moves the puck to Quinn Hughes, who drags the puck around Janmark’s attempted block to open the shooting lane. Ekholm is fronting Boeser, but Broberg moves off Andrei Kuzmenko, which allows the forward to tip the puck. With that big of a change of direction in the puck trajectory directly in front of the goalie, I don’t think Skinner has a chance unless it accidentally hits him. Even then, he didn’t open any unnecessary holes in the save execution so it’s tough to pin the green chance deflection on him.
Boeser gets the second goal
Very similar to the first goal. As Boeser is shooting, Draisaitl leaves the lane with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being late on his check. Skinner still has a beat on it, but Kulak can’t tie up Nils Hoglander’s stick, with the tip going from an easy cradle to low glove.
Studnicka with his first of the season
Warren Foegele has two pass options in better scoring areas, but elects to shoot and misses the net. Nurse and Cody Ceci are pinching up, leading to the Cancuks two-on-zero with Petterson and Studnika. Skinner pushes flat expecting a pass back with the attackers having time on the two-on-zero and the better shooter starting the play. He then tries to square up once he realizes Studnika is an actual shot threat, requiring that he bring his glove leg forward. As Skinner does this, he tries to go down on the shot, leading to him falling backwards.
For a two-on-zero, there are few more stoppable scenarios. It a green chance with it being a two-on-none rush chance with a slot line pass, but the pause from Studnika makes it stoppable. Having said that, if he plays it perfect, there’s likely a pass back to Petterson for an easy tap in and nobody is looking at the goalie.
Lafferty’s first goal as a Canuck
Lafferty gets the puck in the neutral zone and tries to turn and burn around the corner on Ekholm. He’s able to get inside position and move the puck inside Ekholm’s stick as he gets to the circle. With the two crashing into the net, Skinner goes into a block which would seal holes while also protecting himself from the impending collision. At this point, he’s not in a reactive set up, so he’s late reacting out towards the sweeping shot that went blocker side. This would technically classify as a yellow shot, but with it being on the rush and with the downwards pressure, it’s more difficult than an open shot.
Where does that leave the Oilers?
The Oilers need better netminding. Only stopping three out of every four shots is not going to lead to success at any level of hockey, nevermind in the NHL. However, goaltending doesn’t happen in a bubble, with everything being a reaction to the offensive attack and defensive environment around them. And while the goalies have not been good, the Oilers defence through two games has not been much better.
The good news for the Oilers and their fans is that neither Skinner nor Campbell have given up a low danger goal. With the exception of one yellow goal each, every goal has come off a high danger green chance. The Oilers have also done a pretty good job at limiting low danger chances, which make the counting stats look worse when there’s no easy work to offset the harder chances.
Out of the eight goals that Skinner has conceded, five have come off screens or deflections from point shots. To my eye, it seems like the Oilers D is having a tough time adjusting to the zone defence, which is leaving opposing forwards unchecked at the net front. It’s also a continuation of the trend from last year where defenders would try to block shots like a goalie while taking away very little net and taking away their goaltender’s sightline.
The Oilers are also getting cooked in transition. The Oilers are supposed to be running a neutral zone 1-1-3, but with rushes coming out of the far end, the defenders are getting caught up ice leading to odd man breaks the other way.
When it comes to the goalies, it’s tough to imagine that they could be even worse. There will be some positive regression, as even Campbell’s poor season last year and Skinner’s playoffs were not this poor. The question will be to what extent Campbell can look like the version we saw in the preseason and if Skinner can get back to his Calder candidate form. If they can’t in a must win season for the Oilers, Ken Holland and Co will be forced to look outside the organization into a goalie market without much availability at all, nevermind for clear upgrades in net.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire