It has been four years since the Oilers were in the playoff hunt in the middle of March. On March 15th, 2009 the Oilers had 73 points and were tied for 8th place with Nashville, but they went 6-8 in their final 14 games and missed the playoffs by six points.
Here’s a quick look at what happened four years ago.
Standings on March 15th.
6th place… Columbus with 78 points.
7th place… Minnesota with 74 points.
8th-9th place… Edmonton and Nashville with 73 points.
10th-11th place… Anaheim and St. Louis with 70 points.
Final standings on April 12th, 2009
6th place… St. Louis with 92 points. Went 10-2-2 from March 15th.
7th place… Columbus with 92 points. Went 5-4-4.
8th place… Anaheim with 91points. Went 10-3-1.
9th place… Minnesota with 89 points. Went 7-5-1.
10th place…Nashville with 88 points. Went 6-4-3
11th place…Edmonton with 85 points. Went 6-8.
The Ducks and Blues went on a tear in the final 28 days, while the Predators, Wild and Oilers stumbled down the stretch and fell out of the playoffs. The Oilers need to mirror the Blues and Ducks and make a strong push down the stretch. They have to take advantage of this four-game homestand.
Just for fun here is the lineup the Oilers in 2009.
Nilsson, Pouliot and MacIntrye also came in and out of the lineup.’
Roloson and Deslauriers.
In five of their six wins the Oilers scored 5+ goals, but they only mustered 12 goals in their eight loses and lost six of the eight games by one goal. Their goaltending and defence wasn’t bad, but they couldn’t produce when it counted. This year, they have much more offensive skill throughout their lineup and starting tonight those players need to lead this team.
The Oilers have the potential to have three scoring lines, and during this four-game homestand Ralph Krueger should take advantage of that.
The Triple H line can attack on the rush with Hall and Hemsky while Horcoff won’t get crushed defensively against lines like Datsyuk, Wilson, Thornton and Backes. These are the top centres coming in over the next 9 days, and look for Krueger to use the 4/10/83 line against them, especially out of TV timeouts.
Krueger did say he is more concerned about D pairing matchups than forwards, and he wants to focus on getting everyone involved early. He won’t go crazy trying to match lines, but also said his strategy will vary from game to game.
That should allow better matchups for the 2nd and 3rd lines.
I’d match Gagner’s line against the other teams weakest defensive line and let him continue his offensive tear. Nugent-Hopkin’s goal in Colorado looked eerily similar to many that he scored last year; a quick release that beat the goalie just inside the post. If he gets some offensive confidence in these final 22 games, the Oilers could have three scoring lines.
- Many were getting on Nugent-Hopkins for not scoring, but the sophomore’s goal scoring woes aren’t as bad as Detroit’s top-two gunners. Pavel Datsyuk hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games, while Henrik Zetterberg only has 1 goal in his last 20 games.
- The Red Wings have really struggled on the road at 3-6-2. They are 30th on the road in PP efficiency with a dreadful 2.6% and only one goal, which came in Calgary on Wednesday, in 36 attempts. Their road PK is also horrendous sitting 29th at 69.8%.
- The Oilers haven’t been great at home though going 4-4-2. They’ve given up 30 goals in 10 games. Their PP has been great, however, with 13 goals on 46 chances, while their PK is a solid 10th at home at 85.7%. The Oilers need to capitalize on special teams.
- On March 7th in Detroit the Oilers didn’t have one PP. They need to use their speed and put the Wings in bad positions and force them to take some penalties. The Oilers can’t get sucked into playing a passive, defensive game against the Wings. If it becomes a game of patience, the Oilers will likely lose.
- Ryan Jones was fighting the flu bug vs. Colorado and he "crashed" the last two days in Edmonton. Teemu Hartikainen will draw back in alongside 93 and 14.
- Nikolai Khabibulin will backup Devan Dubnyk. Yann Danis went back to OKC after the Colorado game.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have only won back-to-back games twice this year, but tonight they pick up their first three-game winning streak of the season with a 4-1victory. No team in the history of the NHL has made the playoffs without at least one three-game winning streak in a season, and they Oilers keep their playoff aspirations alive with a win tonight.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The crowd wil be
tipsy, loaded, jazzed up for their first home game since February 23rd, and when the Oilers honour Stompin’ Tom Connors and play The Hockey Song everyone in the crowd joins in and sings. The building will be rocking as fans take in a playoff race for the first time in four years. And Jordin Tootoo will want a rematch v. Mike Brown after Brown pumped him in Detroit last week.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: All day and even during the broadcast you might hear people reference that historically the Oilers have struggled in their first game back after a long road trip. Turns out that isn’t the accurate.
In the first game back after a road trip of 4 games or more, the Oilers have been pretty good in fact. They are 59-37-14.
1990-1999: 11-12-2 (they were 1-4 in 1999 which made them below .500)
2000-2010 (No 2005 season so added 2010 to make it ten years): 20-11-3
The Oilers were brutal the past two years, but they struggled in every facet of their game during those two years so that isn’t a surprise, but historically the statement, "The Oilers always struggle in first game off a long road trip," is misleading.
The 2nd annual Gregor Charity Classic sold out in less than 20 hours, so we have added a second day. (If you signed up for day one, you won’t be able to sign up for day two for a week. This allows more people to enter.)
WHEN: Sunday April 14th. Registration at 11:30, tourney at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Century Casino,13103 Fort Road
WHO: 100 Texas Hold Em Players
WHY: To help End MS and win a seat at the WSOP main event this July in Vegas.
COST: $185 per person (15% goes to MS Society)
Please be advised of the following stipulations for the tournament:
The grand prize includes airfare, courtesy of Darci Huhn with Travel Only and accommodation for one.
2nd place – $2,000.00 cash and $500 donation in name to MS Society.
** 1st place prize is not redeemable for cash. If you can’t go then the 2nd place winner can go in your place and you receive their prize.**