So the Oilers lost five straight games and a lot of fans jumped off the bandwagon. Understandably so, really. This team has a funny way of drawing you in and then crushing your hopes and defecating all over them. But this time, things are a little different.
When the Oilers have gone on winning streaks in the past, usually it involved a lot of lucky breaks and unsustainable underlying numbers. Losing streaks, typically, were more indicative of the kind of team that the Oilers really were. Dig a little into the numbers behind this losing streak, however, and you find something interesting.
The Oilers had a shooting percentage during that five game skid of just 4.62%, which is pretty abysmal. (8 GF on 173 shots, 34.6 shots per game)
Over that same span, the team had a save percentage of 0.871, which once again is well below league average. (18 GA on 140 shots against, 28 shots against per game).
This is where PDO comes into play. For those who don't know, PDO is the combination of team save percentage and shooting percentage. It tends to regress toward a sum of 100 over long periods of time. If league average shooting percentage is, say, 9%, then of course league average save percentage would be 91% (or 0.910). Anything below that could be considered unlucky, and anything above would be lucky.
Really all you need to know is that over the five game losing streak, the Oilers had an all-situations PDO of 91.72, which we could consider exceptionally unlucky. The lowest even strength PDO in the league last year belonged to Carolina at 98.3.
But you could tell that they were unlucky just by watching the games. The other interesting thing is that the Oilers were controlling and, in many cases, dominating possession. During the losing streak they had 322 shot attempts to their collective opponents' 219. As a team the Oilers got 59.5% of all the shot attempts in those games.
As of this writing, the Oilers are 8th in the league in Shot Attempt Plus/Minus (5x5), and 11th in the league when the games are close. That means that they are controlling the flow of play pretty well, which is usually indicative of a good team over the long haul.
Our best guess at scoring chances is what NHL.com calls Unblocked Shot Attempts. Since a blocked shot was never going to go in, it's a better way of tracking actual chances to score. The Oilers are 7th in the league in USAT Plus/Minus.
There is a caveat to all this, though. A lot of these results are coming from times when the Oilers are trailing in games. We know that score effects come into play and when teams are leading they tend to give up more shots. When you give up goals in the first two minutes all the time, like the Oilers have lately, you have to work harder to catch up, and that might skew some of these numbers a little. However, the fact that the Oilers are performing well when trailing is also something to be pleased about.
The biggest takeaway from all this is simple: the recent Oilers losing streak isn't a team regressing to being the terrible train wreck that they were all along. Unlike past years, the team played well enough to win those games and simply didn't. Really good teams tend to avoid stretches like that, but the Oilers have at least shown that their early success wasn't simply a mirage that the losing streak exposed. This is a decent team.