The Oilers haven’t enjoyed home ice advantage in the first round of a playoff series since 1990. They did have home ice advantage in the third round of the 1991 playoffs, but lost to the Minnesota North Stars in five games, after winning the first two rounds starting on the road in Calgary and Los Angeles.
Edmonton won first round series in 1991, 1992, 1997 and 1998, all without home ice advantage. Then they faced Dallas in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003 in the first round, losing all four.
In 2006 they went to the Cup Finals and started all four series on the road.
The Oilers haven’t opened the playoffs with home ice advantage in 27 seasons, but that could change this year.
Edmonton and the Anaheim Ducks are in a battle for second place, and first place isn’t out of reach. The focus in Oilersnation should be on home ice advantage, not worrying if the Oilers will miss the playoffs. Stop worrying. They are making the playoffs.
Since they last opened the postseason with home ice advantage in 1990, the Oilers are 9-9 in the postseason. They’ve made the playoffs nine times, reaching the second round five times, the Conference Final three times and made one Cup Finals appearance. Despite not having home ice advantage, the Oilers have fared quite well.
However, they would love nothing more than to reward their loyal fans by opening up the 2017 playoffs on home ice.
And it is very realistic.
Pacific GP W L OT PTS ROW GF GA
San Jose 60 35 18 7 77 33 166 144
Edmonton 59 32 19 8 72 28 171 152
Anaheim 60 31 19 10 72 29 154 151
The Oilers and Ducks are tied for second with 72 points, but the Oilers have a game in hand. If they win it, they are two up on the Ducks, and only three back of first place San Jose. The Oilers are +19 in GF/GA ratio, while the Ducks are +3. Edmonton is no longer the weakling of the Pacific Division, and their goals, as well as Oilersnation’s, should be different heading into the final quarter of the season.
The team’s goal was to make the playoffs. And while they haven’t officially clinched, they are ten points ahead of Calgary and 12 ahead of Los Angeles in the Pacific. Their focus should be on the road ahead, not the rear view mirror.
The Oilers have five games remaining on this road trip, but they’ve been excellent all season away from Edmonton. Only the Rangers (19), Wild and Hawks (18) have more road wins than the Oilers’ 17, and only Minnesota, with 41, has more road points than Edmonton’s 39.
The remaining five games will not be easy. Tampa Bay tomorrow night is the only non-playoff team. The Panthers have finally woken up and are playing better, but Edmonton has eight more points than Florida and Nashville and five more than St.Louis. Only Washington has more points among their remaining opponents on the trip.
It is very realistic the Oilers could go 3-2 on this trip, then enjoy three days off before beginning their March schedule which features 11 of 13 games at home. Of those 13 games in March, only two opponents, Pittsburgh and San Jose, currently have more points than the Oilers.
The Oilers will make the playoffs and end their 11-year drought (don’t suggest I’m jinxing it. I picked them at the start of the season to make it). The bigger surprise is they have a realistic opportunity to reward you loyal fans with home ice advantage in the opening round for the first time in 27 years.
That is the focus for the remaining 23 games, not just a playoff berth.
- Todd McLellan will have some difficult decisions to make over the final 23 games. Darnell Nurse was paired with Brandon Davidson (right side) this morning, and looks poised to return to the lineup for the first time since December 1st. It won’t be tomorrow or Wednesday, but his return along with Kris Russell, who said he is hoping he is ready tomorrow, gives the Oilers eight NHL defenceman.
We will have some legitimate debates on who should play and who will be a healthy scratch. Despite a small, vocal group still loathing Russell, (which perplexes me) the coaches like him and feel Andrej Sekera plays better with Russell.
Come playoff time, I see Klefbom, Larsson, Sekera and Russell as locks to play. I think Nurse will be the #3 LD, which leaves Benning, Davidson and Gryba to battle for the third RD spot. They play different styles and have different strengths. Gryba has the most experience and is the most physical. If they play the Ducks I could see him dressing a few times. Benning has had an excellent season and is the best puck mover of the three. Davidson played arguably his best game of the season versus Chicago on Saturday, and he needed to, because prior to that I thought he had been just okay. Davidson is steady, but doesn’t have an obvious calling card (physical, offensive, mean, dominant skater).
If all eight are healthy, who do you think would dress in game one of a first round series versus the Ducks?
- While the Oilers finally have depth on defence. Jordan Oesterle, Mark Fayne and Griffin Reinhart could play in the third pair if a rash of injuries occurred. However, their forward depth, especially in the system, is an issue.
Which is why I’m stunned by those suggesting the Oilers should protect Davidson and expose Jordan Eberle in the expansion draft. It is a knee-jerk statement lacking in clarity.
Yes, Eberle is having an off-year and he has a cap hit of $6 million. However, he is still third on the Oilers in scoring with 35 points and his tied for 101st with Marian Hossa ($5.275m), Sean Monahan ($6.375m) and Johnny Gaudreau ($6.75m). He is one point behind Matt Duchene ($6m) and Henrik Sedin ($7m) and he’s within four points of Corey Perry ($8.625m), Logan Couture ($6m), David Krejci ($7.25m), Alex Steen ($5.8m), Joe Thornton ($6.75), Ryan O’Reilly ($7.5m) and Jonathan Toews ($10.5m).
Eberle has struggled to score, but he’s improved his play away from the puck. His backcheck on Marian Hossa, which led to the Lucic game winner in Chicago, is a recent example. Yes, he isn’t physical, but he’s become much more defensively aware.
If you want to trade him, fine, but any suggestion of losing him for nothing in the expansion draft is asinine. It would be horrible asset management.
And the other harsh reality is the Oilers don’t have many potential scorers coming. After Jesse Puljujarvi, who is there? Tyler Benson will be in junior next year, but first he needs to stay healthy and I’m not sold he has the skill to be a top-end scorer in the NHL. That isn’t a knock on him, because being an elite scorer, which Eberle has proven for the past five seasons, is very difficult. I see Benson as a hard working, reliable winger who might score 20, but I don’t see him as a regular 25+ goal scorer. Benson also shoots left and will not be a RW.
After Puljujarvi, I don’t see any scorers in the AHL. Lander rips up the AHL, but he’s a fourth line guy in the NHL. Even on the current roster there isn’t much offensive right-shot potential. Tyler Pitlick had an excellent 31-game stint, but is he a top-six RW? Iiro Pakarinen is a good soldier, but not a top-six forward. Drake Caggiula has some skill, but he shoots left. The reality is the Oilers have virtually no depth right-shot offensive wingers, and even less who project to be scorers at the NHL level.
Eberle is having a down year, but he’s far from finished. Sorry to be harsh, but the truth is any suggestion of exposing him in the expansion draft should be laughed at. It makes no sense and with so much defensive depth in the organization, finally, the decision to protect seven forwards looks like an easy one for Peter Chiarelli.
- Last week Peter Chiarelli said this about his back up goalie situation: “I still have faith in LB. I’ve spoke to the coaches and he’s going to get a chance.” The Oilers plays tomorrow in Tampa Bay and Wednesday in Florida. Brossoit will start one. Tampa is the lower of the two, but I would go with Talbot tomorrow because I think he gives you the best chance to defeat a weaker opponent. Get the two points, then go with Brossoit, who should be hungry to play well. McLellan used this strategy the last time he played Brossoit. He used Talbot versus Nashville and then Brossoit versus Calgary. I’d play Talbot tomorrow. Who would you start?
- I suspect Brossoit’s performance will impact Chiarelli’s decision to acquire a backup before the trade deadline. If he plays well, Chiarelli is likely not as aggressive, but if Brossoit struggles I could see Chiarelli adding a veteran. Based on conversations I’ve had, I believe Chiarelli is looking to add a veteran goalie, regardless of how Brossoit plays, but he does like Brossoit and if he has another solid outing like he did versus Calgary, it would give Chiarelli a little more leverage when negotiating a deal for a veteran, rental goalie at the deadline.
- I have chatted with a few scouts and to some people covering the Flyers, and it sounds like Ron Hextall is open to dealing one of his goalies at the deadline. Of course open to the idea and actually doing it are very different. Michal Neuvirth is having a bad year. He has a .890SV%, but that is well below his career numbers. The past few seasons he had a .924, .914, .920 and .910. Even with his struggles this year his career average is .912sv%. His is a UFA at the end of the season and has a $1.625 million cap hit.
- The hold up on the above thought is the Flyers are two points out of the playoffs and Neuvirth has started six of the last seven games. Steve Mason might be a more realistic target, and if he was available the Flyers would likely eat half of his $4.1 million cap hit.
- Happy Family Day. I hope you enjoy some quality time with them. If you need a sports fix I will be on TSN 1260 today from 2-6 p.m. discussing the Oilers, their defence depth and more. Kevin Woodley will join me at 3 p.m. to discuss the best goalie rental options. Rishaug will be on at 2:20, and we will go to Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Sacramento and discuss some other noteworthy topics.
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