The one big reason why the Edmonton Oilers haven't won more games this year

Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen, right, of Finland, skates off the ice after being replaced by goalie Mike Smith after allowing a fourth goal to the Calgary Flames, during the second period at Rogers Place on December 27, 2019. Photo by Darryl Dyck /CP

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Goaltending has cost the Oilers about three wins this year

There’s one big reason why the Edmonton Oilers haven’t won more games this year, and all the rest is chit chat.

We faithful fans of the team are constantly ablaze over team performance. Debates boil up hourly and long reports come out each day on every decision the coach makes on Oilers forwards and d-men, along with in-depth summaries on the pros and cons of each player.

But when I think about the Oilers record of nine win and eight losses after 17 games, one fact hits me over the head, that it’s goaltending, goaltending, goaltending that has cost the Edmonton Oilers wins this year — and no other factor is close.

Simply put, Edmonton’s goalies have made significantly fewer big saves this year than have the goalies of their opponents.

Opponents are converting on 32.6 of their Grade A chances, while the Oilers are converting on 26.7 per cent of their Grade A chances.


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If I were to put a number of how many wins this has cost the Oilers, I’d say it’s about three wins in 17 games.

The Grade A scoring chances gap

How can I put so much on the Oilers goaltenders? Because in most games the Oilers significantly out chance the opposition, but their won-loss record doesn’t reflect that dominance.

Overall, the Oilers have averaged 13.2 Grade A scoring chances per game but have given up just 10.4 Grade A chances.

That’s a huge positive differential for the Oilers.

That’s a massive gap.

The Oilers have a Grade A Scoring Chances For percentage of 55.9 per cent.

Yet when it comes to scoring goals, Edmonton has scored 3.53 per game but given up 3.41 per game. That’s a Goals For percentage of just 50.9 per cent. Very tight. Very close. Not much of an edge for the Oilers.

Stealing games

Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Winnipeg Jets was the kind of defeat that has been all too common for the Oilers, a game where their goalie(s) were the second best on the ice, even as the Oilers were the more dangerous attacking team.

Starting goalie Mike Smith was beat on four difficult shots, not one of them an easy save to make, but he let in every single one of the difficult shots he faced before he was pulled in the second period. He failed to make those two or three big saves that are often the difference between winning and losing a game.

At the other end, Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t perfect, but he came up with the huge saves, such as him blocking a wicked Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ one-timer off a Leon Draisaitl power play feed late in the second period.


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It was the fourth time an opposition goalie stole a win for his team against the Oilers this year in such a game where Edmonton had significantly more Grade A scoring chances.

Meanwhile, in 17 games this year, Oilers goalies have only stolen one game, Smith last week in Edmonton’s 3-2 win over Ottawa.

To understand this in more detail, let’s dig into the three types of games the Oilers have had this year.

3 close games: 1 win, 2 losses.

In these three games, the Oilers had the same number of scoring chances, or were within one scoring chance, as the opposition team. Edmonton lost to Montreal 5-1 in a game where both teams had 14 Grade A chances, they lost to the Leafs 4-3 when the chances were Oilers 14, Leafs 13, and they beat the Senators 4-2 in a game where each team had seven chances.

3 games where opposition had major edge: 1 win, 2 losses

In each of these three games, the opposition had two or more Grade A chances than the Oilers. The Oilers earned one win and two losses in these contests. In Edmonton’s recent 3-2 road win over the Ottawa Senators last week, Smith’s first game back, he stole a win for his team. Ottawa had 13 Grade A chances that game, the Oilers only nine. The Oilers lost the other two games 6-4 to the Jets and 3-1 to the Habs.

11 games where Oilers had major edge: 7 wins, 4 losses

I would expect the Oilers to win most of these games. And in the 11 games where the Oilers outchanced the opposition by two or more Grade A scoring chances, the Oilers have seven wins and four losses. That’s a great record but it’s about what you’d expect from a team that has a significant edge in Grade A scoring chances. Perhaps the more notable and troubling aspect is that in four games where the Oilers had that significant shooting edge, they still lost.


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Those games were: the first game of the year, a 5-3 loss to Vancouver, where the Oilers outchanced the Canucks 19 to 17; the sixth game, where the Oilers outchanced the Leafs 17 to 10 but lost 4-2; in game thirteen, with the Oilers outchancing the Flames 16 to 14 but losing 6-4; and in the 17th game against Winnipeg on Monday, where Edmonton had 15 Grade A chances to 10 for the Jets, but lost 6 to 5.

In those four games, opposition goalies Braden Holtby, Frederik Andersen, Jacob Markstrom and Connor Hellebuyck arguably stole games. In total, the Oilers had 67 Grade A chances and 14 goals, while the opposing teams had 51 chances and 21 goals.

The good news?

If there’s any good news it’s that Mikko Koskinen was much better last season, and can maybe be expected to return to form with Smith’s return, now that Koskinen isn’t forced to play almost every game.

Smith is also off to a hot start, even with his iffy performance against Winnipeg. Koskinen can get his save percentage to move north of .900, the Oilers should make the playoffs, given the otherwise strong performance of the team.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey


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