March 20 2014 11:52AM
Sometimes you just need to accept that your competition is better. Twenty days ago the Buffalo Sabres had 44 points and the Oilers had 48. The Sabres had two games in hand and some wondered if the Oilers could grab 30th spot once again.
In a short span of 20 days, the Sabres have shown they are much more deserving of a 30th place finish. It was a close race less than three weeks ago, but the Sabres desire, commitment and determination to finish 30th was too much for the Oilers to overcome. The Sabres have lost seven straight and now have a 13-point cushion on the Oilers in the "Be Bad of Ekblad" sweepstakes.
Give them credit, when the race for 30th heated up the Sabres ran away with it. They've earned their position, and on April 15th they will have the best chance, 25%, of winning the draft lottery.
No team has won four Stanley Cups in five years since the Oilers in 1984-1988. It is extremely difficult to achieve, and no one should have expected the Oilers to pick first overall for the 4th time in the last five years either. It was unrealistic, and while they will still have a chance to pick first via the lottery, 18.8% if they finish 29th, 14.2% if they finish 28th and a 10.7% shot if they end up 27th, their odds are diminishing by the day.
The Sabres commitment to winning the lottery has been solid. By trading Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and Steve Ott they've taken a stranglehold on 30th and they won't relinquish it. They are so committed to having the best odds in the lottery that they could have the lowest point total in the NHL since the Islanders finished with 52 in 2001. The Sabres need 7 points in their final 13 games to pass the Islanders, but 9 of those games are on the road and they've only won 7 road games all season.
Meanwhile, the Oilers are 10-4-3 over their past 17 games and are now in a fight with Florida, New York and Calgary for 29th to 26th.
Despite a banged up offensive unit, tonight is a must-win game for the Oilers. A loss to Buffalo would make the past 10 victories meaningless in my opinion. They can't afford to take steps back against bad teams.
Eakins suggested he will keep rotating his goalies, but he will switch things up so Fasth can face the Ducks and Scrivens can battle the Kings.
Eberle and Yakupov weren't on the ice this morning and both are out for tonight. Eberle did not have an MRI, and the team feels he doesn't need one. He is day-to-day. I doubt we will see the aforementioned 4th line with MacIntyre at centre, but you might see Smyth in the middle with the two massive bookends for a shift or two.
Eakins suggested he might play dress 7 D-men, so we won't know until game time who is in.
Many wondered why the Oilers recalled MacIntryre instead of Arcobello or Horak. The Oilers desperately want the OKC Barons to make the playoffs, and they need those two down there more than up here, although Arcobello tweaked something last game and is day-to-day and might not play vs. Texas. The Barons are 3 points back of 8th place and 4 back of 6th. It makes sense to keep their two leading scorers down there for the weekend.
MacIntyre knows his role and his limitations as a player, but I've never encountered a guy who truly appreciates his time in the NHL like MacIntyre. He is living a dream, and he'll cherish every moment that he is with the big club. It is easy to cheer for a guy like that. It is a refreshing change from some of the players who seemingly take the NHL lifestyle for granted.
- It is amazing how one goal can change the psyche of a player. Schultz took three slapshots last game, and I don't think he'd taken three in the previous 69 games. He ripped one off the crossbar and two others led to scoring chances. I asked him why he suddenly decided to use his slapshot. "I don't know. I couldn't tell ya. It was one of those things, I scored last game from shooting the puck and it gives me more confidence. I think I'm finally starting to realize that is the way we are going to score goals and get chances for our team."
Schultz is a pass-first type of player, and shooting quickly or often doesn't come natural to him. He'll need to fight the urge to pass and keep shooting. If the does, the PP should have more success in the future.
- The CHL regular season is over and now the playoffs begin. Here is a quick look at how the Oilers prospects did ranked by total points.
Greg Chase: 7th rounder in 2013. 70-35-50-85. Calgary finished 3rd in east division of WHL. Tied Edmonton for most points in east. Chase had the 9th most points of any player in his draft class. That doesn't include the 7 picks who are in the NHL, but for a 7th rounder he had a fantastic season.
Mitch Moroz: 2nd rounder in 2012. 70-35-28-63. Edmonton finished 1st in WHL east divsion. A very strong season for Moroz, who likely will go to AHL next season.
Jackson Houck: 4th rounder in 2013. 69-34-27-61. Vancouver finished 7th in west division in WHL.
Darnell Nurse: 1st round 2013. 64-13-37-50. Sault Ste. Marie had 4th most points in OHL. 2nd seed in western conference.
Jujhar Khaira: 3rd rounder in 2012. 59-16-27-43. Everett finished 5th in WHL west division.
Kyle Platzer: 4th rounder in 2013. 66-22-14-36. Was traded from London to Owen Sound and will face Nurse in the first round of the playoffs.
Marc-Oliver Roy: 2nd rounder in 2013. 39-14-21-35. Blainville-Broisbriand Armada finished 5th best in QMJHL.
Ben Betker: 6th rounder in 2013. 68-7-14-21. D-man helped Everett finish 5th in WHL west division.
The Oilers have other prospects in Europe and the NCAA, but I'll feature them in another article. Chase, Moroz and Nurse had the best seasons. Roy was good when healthy.
- Day two of the Gregor MS Bike Tour WSOP poker event is already 60% sold out in less than 24 hours. If you want to enter call 780.643.4060. Details on buy in and winnings is here.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers keep rolling with a 5-2 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall picks up three points. Hall needs 16 points in his final 12 games to reach 80. He'll need a few three point nights to have a chance, and with Buffalo using their 4th string goalie tonight is one of those games
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Luke Gazdic scores. With all they talk surrounding MacIntyre, Gazdic, who has done very well in fights this year, shows the organization he has some offence.
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