a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

12/08/11 Honest Appraisal

The collective fingers of Oilers fans are hovering over the panic button. It's not time to push it just yet, but after losing to a 29th place team on a 6 game losing streak, that time is approaching fast. Here are some notes about the loss and this streak of futility.

The Oilers are 4-5-1 in their last ten games, but that's actually a fairly flattering number. Edmonton is 5-10-1 since that whirlwind 6-game winning streak back in late October and early November. During that streak we were wondering if this team was for real, and we appear to be getting the answer.

The Oilers are continuing to score first (that's good!) and then blowing the leads (that's bad). Edmonton's 79 goals is 9th best in the whole NHL (that's good!), but their 76 goals against puts them in 17th (that's bad). Though inept on Wednesday, the powerplay is 8th in the league (that's good!). Unfortunately, the penalty kill continues its downward spiral and is sitting in 16th (that's bad).

The men with the Oil drops on their sweaters have outshot the opposition just nine times in 28 games. What's worse, they're just 4-4-1 when outshooting their opponent this season.

But if we're talking solely about the time since the winning streak, here are some other numbers:

Goals For prior to/during winning streak: 27 (2.25 GF/G)
Goals For since WS: 51 (3.18 GF/G)

The Oilers' scoring has been more in line with what we expected since that winning streak than it was before and during. Unfortunately, so has the defensive side.

Goals Against prior to/during winning streak: 16 (1.33 GA/G)
Goals Against since WS: 57 (3.56 GA/G)

Edmonton is allowing better than 2 goals per game more than they were to start the year. When the GF/G number is smaller than the GA/G over an extended period, you're going to have a tough time winning hockey games.

Penalty Kill % prior to/during winning streak: 5 goals allowed on 47 opportunities (89.4%)
Penalty Kill % since WS: 16 goals allowed on 72 opportunities (77.8%)

The Oilers have allowed at least one powerplay goal in each of the last 8 games, and in 12 of the 16 games since the winning streak ended. Edmonton's PK finished 29th last year at 77%, which is exactly what we've been seeing for the last 16 games.

- Nikolai Khabibulin's numbers are still more than respectable at 2.00 GAA and 0.932 SV%, but Devan Dubnyk hasn't been getting it done in the crease. He's got a Goals Against Average of 3.10 and a 0.899 save percentage to go with a record of 4-6-0. Khabibulin has lost 6 times in regulation as well, but he's started 7 more games than Dubnyk has.

- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins became the fastest Oilers rookie ever to score 30 points, having done it in just 28 games. Jason Arnott needed 35 games for the feat back in 1993-94. The game against Carolina could very well have been the battle of the reigning and future Calder Trophy winners. It's certainly going to be difficult for any of the other rookies to catch RNH. Nashville's Craig Smith is the next closest in points with 22 in 27 games. Even better, Nugent-Hopkins is tied for 5th among rookies in plus/minus at plus-5. Former first-overall-contender Sean Couturier is better at plus-7, but he only has eight points.


The Oilers probably aren't actually as bad as they've been in the last six games (1-4-1), but they also aren't as good as that early season stretch would have us believe. It seems almost impossible that they could finish 30th for a third straight year, and that's thanks in large part to their offensive production. Nugent-Hopkins needs just 14 points in the next 54 games to better Jordan Eberle's team-leading 43 from last season. The Oilers have 5 players on pace to improve on those 43 points by a mile, and 6 on pace for 20 or more goals.

We knew coming in that this would be the strength of the team and that the other elements would be weaker. That simply means that things are proceeding on schedule (or massively ahead of schedule in the case of RNH), and there's nothing wrong with that.

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