Jason Gregor raises a good point in the comments to my last post:
The Oilers have 32 PP goals 5on4 at the midway point of the season, last year they had 41. Wouldn’t you say they are significantly better on the PP. I would argue that the combination of RNH and Eberle have made them much more dangerous.
Is it possible to account for the amount of “easier” goals this year, basically from better passes, than last? I think that is the major factor on their PP. They, mostly started by RNH and Eberle, move the puck around so much more crisp and clean that they actually have an advantage with the extra man now.
I’m not sure if it is even possible to calculate that, but to me that is the biggest difference on the PP. Rarely does RNH stand facing the boards. For years we’ve seen their PP waste time with guys having their back to the play.
Just a thought if it is possible to look at that. I’m assuming we’d have to break down every PP goal, but the cross seam pass from RNH to Eberle is the most effective new addition to the PP that I’ve seen.
Gregor’s not the only one to think this – I’ve felt myself that the PP has looked more dangerous this year and I’ve noticed other people who I respect making the same comment. Here’s the thing though: the chances don’t say so. When I wrote that post, I used David Staples’ chances to do a quick comparison of the ES chance ratio for this year and last – it was pretty close, like .443 last year to .46 this year, or something like that. Vic Ferarri has pointed out before that chances tend to correlate pretty tightly with shot counts and it seems to bear out – the shot count hasn’t really improved much and the ES chance ratio needle has barely moved.
I didn’t check the PP chances at the time but, as I said, I felt Gregor was making a sensible point, so I went and looked. According to Derek Zona, who maintains records of Dennis’ counts (we really should here), the Oilers had 261 5v4 chances last year. So far this year, with 39 games logged…130 chances. They’re actually getting a bit more 5v4 time this year too, 6.4 5v4 minutes per game versus 5.7 5v4 minutes last year.
So what does the chance data tell us? It says what the shot data says – this team isn’t any more effective than last year’s team. You’re left to bet on the quality of the chances having improved dramatically, which would suggest a sustainable high S%. Everything we know about S% tells us that that’s very unlikely to be the case.