Enough already. It’s time to put a familiar and tired storyline out of its misery. Against the odds and common sense, I’m saying the Edmonton Oilers are going to do that against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center Friday and win a hockey game.
Look at the headline again, folks. That’s not a GDB, it’s a WDB, as in Win Day Bitches. That’s how I see things unfolding in a rare matinee start for the Oilers, who have lost 17 straight games at the X, a string of futility dating back to January of 2007, when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was 14.
Considering that stretch of ineptitude and that the Wild are sitting atop the Western Conference and riding a five-game winning streak, that’s got to rate as one of the goofiest predictions of all time, right? Maybe, but I think not.
THE WAY I SEE IT
I think the Wild look a whole that better in the standings than they have on the ice thanks to goaltenders Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom, who have covered for a multitude of mediocrity on both sides of the puck. They’ve been nothing short of terrific.
— Backstrom, who usually beats the Oilers for fun, boasts a .935 saves percentage through 14 games. He’s got a .918 career mark, including his torrid start to this season. And, yes, I realize Nikolai Khabibulin’s .936 mark is way better than his career .908. Harding, meanwhile, sits a .942 through eight appearances. His career mark is also .918, and that includes his hot streak to start the season.
— Minnesota isn’t the stifling and stingy defensive team it once was under Jacques Lemaire. Harding and Backstrom have just made it look that way, if you only glance at the stats. Minnesota has been outshot 656-550, or minus-116, through 21 games. They rank 23rd in shots allowed. The Oilers have been outshot 618-537, or minus-81. There are chances to be had in Minnesota, where they used to be few and far between.
— While it’s fair to point out Khabibulin has stolen some points for the Oilers just as Backstrom and Harding have for the Wild, every stopper has a so-so game. This we know. If that’s the case Friday, the Oilers look to me to be better equipped, as they showed in routing Chicago 9-2 and in chasing Pekka Rinne in Nashville, to take advantage of it.
— Minnesota’s top-end talent – Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi — hasn’t been a match for Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Smyth and Taylor Hall so far this season. If the Oilers can turn this game into a track meet, and I think they”ll try, and they finally get a bounce or two, Backstrom better not be anything less than he has been to this point. Just OK won’t get it done.
Yes, Minnesota could plod to another 2-1 win, as they have in the first two meetings of the season. While that’s what the smart money says, I’ve never been offered a MENSA membership. Besides, the cards are bound to fall the Oilers way sooner or later.
After putting the Bronte 5000 through its paces, I’m saying sooner and calling a shot I haven’t called at any point during this 17-game streak – an Oilers win. Call it a hunch, if you like. The gut says so.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.