As I discussed in the first post in this series, the Oilers had a phenomenal first 24 games at 5v4 in terms of S/60 (and, although I didn’t discuss it in detail, they were excellent in G/60 as well). Since then, they’ve suffered a massive decline in terms of shots. Although some of that ought to have been expected, there’s been a big overall decline in terms of the volume of shot attempts that the Oilers generate.
I looked into the zone entries, in terms of how the Oilers are entering the offensive zone and whether they’re successful in doing so. Things look pretty much the same. Today, I’m going to get into the zone time and the time it takes them to attempt an entry after the opposition clear the zone and see if there’s anything that’s changed there.
The zone time data is pretty simple: I look at how much time the puck spends in the offensive zone while the Oilers are at 5v4. During the good 24 games, during which the Oilers spent 114.7 minutes at 5v4, the puck spent 68.7 minutes in the offensive zone at 5v4. During the bad 17, when they spent 112.2 minutes at 5v4, the puck spent 67.9 minutes in the offensive zone at 5v4. The mathematically astute amongst you will recognize that those are virtually identical amounts of time – 59.9% to 60.5%. The change doesn’t seem to be in the amount of time that the puck is spending in the offensive zone.
Referring back to my unpublished work on the Sharks and Oilers head to head at 5v4 from 2008-13, the Sharks were spending about 59.4% of their 5v4 time against the Oilers in the offensive zone; the Oilers were running at about 53.8% against the Sharks. We can say that, through 41 games this year, the Oilers have become like the Sharks in terms of the amount of time that they’re spending in the offensive zone at 5v4 and improved on the number that they’ve posted over the past five seasons against San Jose. This aspect of the power play seems to be strong and it seems to have improved.
I hasten to add that zone time isn’t everything – it’s what you do with it that counts. The Sharks were lighting up the Oilers at 5v4 over the past five years – 12.1 GF/60 and 70.1 SF/60. While the Oilers are now getting up there in terms of zone time, they still aren’t remote close to achieving San Jose’s results. We can infer that the difference for the Oilers between good and bad part of the seasons isn’t zone time though – it’s what’s happening once the puck is in the offensive zone. Same goes for the difference between this year’s Oilers and San Jose vs. Edmonton from 2008-13.
Watching the games, I wondered whether there’d been a change in terms of the distribution of zone times for each possession. I’ve come to think of power plays in terms of offensive zone possessions – every time you enter the offensive zone, you start a new possession. It’s a very sensible way to think of these things, I think. In a world with much better data, we’d know for every team how long it took them to attempt an entry every time the puck was cleared and what happened on every possession.
Even though the Oilers spent about the same amount of time in the offensive zone at 5v4 in the bad part of the season as they did in the good part, I wondered whether the distribution was different. Maybe there were more short possessions, featuring a quick turnover, or long periods of sterile possession as the Oilers passed the puck around the perimeter pointlessly. The way to check this involves looking at the possessions by percentile. If, say, the a thirtieth percentile possession lasted seven seconds in the good 24 games and 2 seconds in the bad 17, I might conclude that there’s something to that.
When doing this, I split the possessions into the various types that I’ve identified (OZ faceoff win, OZ faceoff loss, successful carry, unsuccessful carry, successful dump-in, unsuccessful dump-in and miscellaneous). The reason for this is that I’ve found that certain types of possession tend to be longer than others – dump-ins, for example, tend to rattle around for a while before one team or the other recovers the puck. I want to compare apples to apples here, so I split things this way.
The numbers in brackets are the number of entries of that type during the period in question. So, the Oilers successfully carried the puck into the zone (ie. crossed the blue line in possession) 146 times in the first 24 games and 154 times in the second 17 games. Looking at this, I’m not seeing much in terms of differences – there’s some slight differences but the samples aren’t huge and I’d be hesitant to think it’s anything but a little bit of noise. The bad power play has similar underlying numbers to the good power play. I don’t think we’ll find our answer here.
What about the average time it takes the Oilers to attempt a zone entry after the puck is cleared? I calculate this by simply dividing the time that the Oilers spent outside the offensive zone by the number of attempted carries and dump-ins into the offensive zone at 5v4. This isn’t the problem either – they’ve actually improved at doing this, going from an attempted zone entry per 13.9 seconds during the period of the season when their PP was good to 13.4 seconds during the most recent portion, when the PP has stunk.
In short, the power play is in the ditch but it’s not because of what happens outside of the offensive zone. It’s something inside the offensive zone that’s gone wrong and we’ll look into that in the next post.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org