The Oilers and one goal losses
Following the Oilers shootout loss to the Predators on Sunday night there seems to have been a lot made of the team’s record in one goal games. If you didn’t already know, the Oilers are 7-8-8 on the season in games decided by a single goal. That equates to a winning percentage of 0.304 which ties them with the Islanders for 28th place in the NHL and is better than only Ottawa. It’s a lousy record yes but it’s also a deceiving record because it’s not as if the Oilers are just a bounce or two from winning some of these games and being right in the playoff hunt. As of today the Oilers are 15 points behind 14th place in the Western Conference. Not 15 points from a playoff spot, 15 points from the next worst team. The Oilers have almost certainly left some points on the table in these games but they haven’t left that many.
For the sake of argument though, let’s give the Oilers some better bounces in one goal games and see how it’d affect the standings. Let’s say half the Oilers regulation one goal losses end up tied after 60 minutes and the Oilers improve their overtime/shootout record to a game over 0.500. The result would be a 12-4-7 record in games decided by a goal and nine more points in the standings. That’s a lot of bounces that would have to go the Oilers way and they’d still be last in the West.
It’s nice to think that one goal losses mean that the team is close to winning more games. This assumption could be true but it doesn’t have to be. The Oilers could fall behind 4-0, have a good third period and still lose 4-3. Or they could battle hard all game, keeping the score within a goal for 65 minutes only to lose in a shootout. Both are one goal loses but they’re completely different games and they tell you very different things about how the team is performing.
The table below provides a breakdown of the leads/deficits in the 23 one goal games the Oilers have played this season. If you’ve got a quick eye you’ll notice that the wins column totals eight not seven; this is because the in the game versus the Lightning the Oilers both led and trailed by a goal. This was the only game where the lead changed hands.
|Leading/Trailing by||Wins||Loses||OT Loses|
What immediately jumps out at me is the number of times the Oilers have fallen behind by two or more goals; 10 times in total. Perhaps more surprising than the number of times it’s happened is that the Oilers have managed a 1-6-3 record in those games. For a team that averages 2.47 goals per game that seems like a remarkable feat.
The comebacks are exciting for the fans but they also point to a pattern that has to be stopped. Teams can’t win games if they’re falling behind a couple of goals on a consistent basis.
Perhaps the Oilers record is so good in these games because the younger players relax when the game is basically over and that’s when the goals start to come. Maybe the veterans and the coaches need to make sure the team is more ready to play right from puck drop. But regardless of why the Oilers are falling behind, all those one goal losses aren’t as close as they seem at first.