Tonight’s matchup vs. the Buffalo Sabres pits the 30th (Sabres) and 29th (Oilers) place teams in the NHL. Many are calling it the McDavid Bowl, but players in both dressing rooms are not nearly as excited about that as fans in Edmonton or Buffalo.
Neither teams wants to be in this situation, and no self-respecting NHL player will try to lose on purpose just so their team has a better chance at drafting 1st overall this coming June. The way these teams are playing there is a good chance many players from both lineups won’t be in the NHL next season, so they sure won’t try and lose to land McDavid.
The harsh reality, however, is that these are clearly two of the worst teams in the league and one of them is guaranteed to finish 30th.
The Oilers have 33 points, while the Sabres have 31 with both having played 48 games. Edmonton is on pace for 56 points, while Buffalo might reach 53.
The Oilers have picked up 12 points (5-5-2) over their last 12 games, while the Sabres have zero points in their previous 12 games. They have lost 12 consecutive games in regulation.
The Sabres are terrible right now.
They have been outshot in 42 of their 48 games this season. They have outshot their opponents only three times all year, and tied them three other times.
During this 12-game drought they have been outshot 394-253, an average of 32.8 to 21.1, and they have been outscored 53-17.
The Oilers outshot them 52-31 in their first meeting on November 7th. The Sabres are really bad, and regardless of what happens tonight, it will be incredibly difficult for the Oilers to finish below them in the standings.
The Oilers are not a competitive team, but they are better than the Sabres, and the only way I see the Oilers drafting Connor McDavid is if they win the lottery on Tuesday April 14th.
The only change will be Ben Scrivens in goal. Taylor Hall is still day-to-day with a bone bruise.
- It is not very often that the Oilers are the favourite heading into a game. The Sabres likely look at Edmonton as their best chance to end this 12-game losing streak. The Oilers need the first goal to avoid giving the fragile Sabres any confidence.
- I never liked the salary or term of the Nikitin signing, I would have preferred one year, but I liked the idea of bringing in a veteran so they wouldn’t rush both Klefbom and Marincin. Nikitin was beyond bad up until the past few games. He has played decent the past few games and at least isn’t a trainwreck all over the ice. It doesn’t make the signing any better, but at least he’s looked like a capable D-men the past few games.
- The forwards need to do a better job of finishing. I notice everyone gets upset when a forward or D-man makes a defensive mistake, but when they miss the net or don’t capitalize on a great scoring chance it is rarely noted. The job of top-six forwards is to produce and last game Teddy Purcell, Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot all missed great chances in the third period. They need to focus and score on those opportunities. I realize scoring is the hardest thing to do in the NHL, but they are paid to score. All of the top-six forwards need to be better finishing and even creating scoring chances.
- Radek Dvorak retired after 17 seasons in the NHL earlier this week. He was on my show yesterday and told a great story about his rookie season in Florida, when they made their magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals complete with rats being thrown on the ice after every goal.
“I was one of only three guys in the room. Scottie (Mellanby) was taping his stick, and
the big rat ran in, and Scottie just reacted with a swing (laughs). He got it with one swing and then the story got out and the plastic rats were everywhere,” said Dvorak.
“The rats during the game were crazy. Some games were four hours due to all the
rats on the ice (laughs), but the atmosphere was incredible. It was so different than anything I’d experienced in Czech Republic.”
When I asked Dvorak what was the highlight of his career he surprised me with his answer. He said it was being drafted in Edmonton. “When I got to go up to the podium and put on the Panthers jersey it was a dream come true. It meant so much to me.”
It was refreshing to hear that. Usually we hear about a game or a run to the Stanley Cup, but Dvorak was always a very humble man when he played, and hearing him tell that story of his draft you could tell that moment still meant a lot almost 20 years later.
Good luck in retirement.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From Die by the Blade…
I’m always fascinated when two really bad teams play each other – sometimes you get boring, mistake-prone hockey, but sometimes, bad defense and goaltending can actually make for some of the most fun games to watch. Which will it be tonight, a slog through the trough of awfulness, or a back-and-forth nailbiter?
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win, because the Sabres are simply a very bad hockey team. 4-1 Edmonton.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: We will see the most empty seats of any game this season. Fans will not be flocking to Rexall to watch this game, but it will still be announced as a sellout. I don’t buy for a moment that all the empty seats are paid for, but not filled by disgruntled season ticket holders. Unless the Oilers are buying all the leftover seats, these games aren’t sold out. At some point the Oilers will need to admit the games are not 100% sold out.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: I was a game early in my prediction about Anton Lander scoring. The Swede scores tonight as does Oscar Klefbom.
CRAIG’S ON IT…
You have to love the creativity coming out of Nation HQ during another forgettable Oilers season. Check out the ‘Craig’s On It’ shirts that will be released on the NationGear Store over the weekend. These are classic. Keep your eyes on the store for the launch.
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