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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports

GDB 72.0 Wrap Up: Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

If you are one of the holdouts on the “Oilers are going to blow this” train, hop off already. Final score 2-0 Edmonton.

For the Kings, this is a tough, tough blow. Los Angeles falls to six points out of the playoffs, and the Blues own a game-in-hand. It’s incredibly difficult to make up that kind of gap with only 10 games left on the schedule. If they can’t do it, it will mean that L.A. will have appeared in just one playoff series, winning a single game, over a span of three seasons. Is their reign of terror over?

As for the Oilers, hopefully this will put an end to any further fear of them missing the postseason. The real battle is for positioning in the Pacific division. Anaheim and Calgary are neck-and-neck-and-neck with Edmonton, and the Sharks are only four points ahead. Home ice and the Battle of Alberta in the first round would be pretty optimal from an Oilers perspective.

On the Bright Side

  • Connor McDavid plays for the Edmonton Oilers. Just let that sink in for a moment.
  • Two consecutive shutouts for Cam Talbot. It’s pretty easy to win with just two goals when the other team can’t even get to one.
  • If you’re going to have a fight evolve from a post-whistle scrum, as the Patrick Maroon/Jarome Iginla almost-bout in the first period did, it’s infinitely preferable to have it happen because your guy went to the opposition crease and wouldn’t move rather than the reverse. Edmonton has seen a lot of the first kind of battle over the years; they’re built for a lot of the second kind going forward.
  • Back to McDavid. There’s that old line that Jacques Lemaire used to trot out whenever he got awkward questions about the trap, how good defence leads to good offence. McDavid is that personified. It’s not just his speed, either. The first goal wouldn’t have happened if not for a great stick in the neutral zone, something he does with regularity. I was glad when Sportsnet highlighted the physical battles he was winning in the defensive zone in the first, because it’s an underappreciated part of his game.
  • Mark Letestu didn’t get a point, but his power play magic continued; he’s the guy who tracked down the bouncing puck to pick up the “third” assist on the Oilers 2-0 goal.
  • It was nice to see Ryan Smyth alive and in the stands after that ugly hit he took. Plus, as Mike McKinnon points out, he’s ensuring the mullet survives another generation.
  • Anybody catch Benoit Pouliot drawing a penalty in the offensive zone? I don’t know where this guy was for the first four months of the year, but he’s back now and the difference is incredible. He’s not just a danger offensively, but he’s the kind of tenacious physical presence he was for New York and in his first year with Edmonton.
  • Leon Draisaitl’s scoring run continues, with his fourth consecutive multi-point game.
  • David Desharnais went 7-1 in the faceoff circle, and has now won more than 53 percent of his draws since arriving in Edmonton. Even granting that faceoffs can be overrated, this was clearly an organizational concern, and one they can now worry about less.
  • Adam Larsson isn’t just good, he’s mean. He had seven hits on the evening, along with some of the best shot metrics on the club. No matter how you view the game, he offers a little something for everyone.
  • Connor McDavid once again has sole ownership of first place in the NHL scoring race, climbing to 82 points on the year. He’ll need to pick up the pace if he’s going to pass his team, though, which now has a five-point lead.
  • In his last 16 games, Milan Lucic now has six goals and six assists for a total of 12 points. If he can keep scoring at that rate in the playoffs, he’ll be a hero in Edmonton in no time.

Face Palmers

  • You call that a delay of game penalty?
  • Edmonton will take an 0-for-Alberta run from the Kings, but the Oilers would be able to enjoy this win even more if Los Angeles had managed to knock the Flames off last night. Now, instead of a three-point lead on Calgary, only a single point separates the teams.
  • The referees must have regretted getting between Maroon and Iginla in the back end of the first period, given that they went right after each other again at the start of the second.
  • I know score effects are a real thing, but it would have been nice if Edmonton had been able to keep its collective foot on the gas in the second period.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a couple of good looks in the second period but just could not cash in. After two goals in the last three games entering this one, it would have been nice if he’d been able to keep his little roll going.
  • Matt Hendricks has been a fine Oiler, but at this point it’s hard to justify his presence in the lineup over Anton Slepyshev or Jujhar Khaira.

Scoring Summary

1-0 Edmonton. Goal: Patrick Maroon (25). Assists: Connor McDavid (56), Leon Draisaitl (40). Even-strength at 1:04 of the first period.

2-0 Edmonton. Goal: Milan Lucic (17). Assists: Connor McDavid (57), Leon Draisaitl (41). Power play at 12:47 of the first period.

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