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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 73.0: A Playoff Preview?

We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.

The Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks got some help on the out-of-town scoreboard last night, as both the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks lost in regulation. The winner of tonight’s game will move three points up on Calgary and only two back of San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division. A sudden four-game losing streak by the Sharks has made the race in the Pacific much tighter. The Oilers have eight points in their last four games, 4-0, while the Ducks have gained seven, 3-0-1, and tonight’s game just got a bit more meaningful.

Thus far the season series has been very close. The Ducks won the first meeting at home in November 4-1, the Oilers responded with a 3-2 OT win in Edmonton in December and won again in Anaheim by a 4-0 score in January.

This isn’t a playoff game, but I expect it to have more energy and intensity than most regular season games because of the standings and what is on the line. It should be entertaining.

In their last meeting in January the teams played a cautious first period with only 13 shots on goal, six for Edmonton and seven for Anaheim. The Oilers took control of the game with three second-period goals and an early goal in the third.

Ryan Getzlaf had been struggling offensively in their first three meetings. He only had seven goals in their first 44 games. But since the January 25th loss, Getzlaf has awoken offensively. He has 22 points in the 21 games since that 4-0 loss to the Oilers, including seven goals. His long-time running mate, Corey Perry, is still struggling. He only has 14 goals in 72 games and Perry is playing on the Ducks third line right now. Perry’s goal scoring drought has been a major surprise.

In his past eight full NHL seasons, from 2008 to 2016, he has scored 29, 32, 27, 50, 37, 43, 33 and 34 goals. In the lockout shortened 2013 season he had 15 goals in 44 games. He is only 31 years old, but the Ducks are praying this is just a down year and not a sign of things to come. He has four years remaining on his $8.625 million cap hit.

Perry’s goals have been replaced by Richard Rakell. Rakell has 31 goals in 60 games after missing the month of October waiting for a contract extension. Rakell is having a career year similar to Patrick Maroon. Both are going for the Cy Young. Rakell has 31-12-43, while Maroon has tallied 25-12-37. Both have been dangerous finishers, but they haven’t picked up many assists.

I suspect Ryan Kesler’s line, with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg, will try to shut down the Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl trio. Draisaitl has feasted on the Ducks this year, scoring four goals in three games, while Maroon has two assists and McDavid only has one. Kesler relishes these matchups and you know he’ll be in McDavid’s face all game, often with an extra jab here and there.

This is another opportunity for the young Oilers players to get a feel of what to expect in the playoffs. The Ducks have been in this situation regularly. They have a combined 790 playoff games on their roster, while the Oilers have 340. Milan Lucic (101), Benoit Pouliot (54), David Desharnais (38), Kris Russell (36), Matt Hendricks (34) and Patrick Maroon (29) make up 86% of those games. Experience is helpful for sure, especially when things aren’t going as planned and you remain calm, but most of the Oilers top players are tasting this playoff-like intensity for the first time, and these types of game are an excellent learning tool.

The reality is some of the players won’t produce even if they play well. “I had some great playoffs and other years I didn’t produce. My preparation was the same, yet depending on the matchups, bounces and other small details some years it didn’t work for me,” Hall of famer Adam Oates said on my radio show earlier this week. I looked at Oates playoff stats and he was productive most times, finishing with 156 points in 163 games. He made the playoffs 15 times. He had eleven really solid playoffs, scoring 150 points in 142 games. In the other four years, his team lost in the first round, and he produced only six points in 21 games. Even some of the best players in the world will have a tough year in the playoffs.

With goal scoring as low as it is now, it will be difficult for every Oilers player to be productive offensively, so if they aren’t scoring they will need to ensure they are doing other things to help the team win. Winning important battles, getting pucks out of the zone, keeping them in at the offensive blueline, being physical, blocking shots, staying disciplined and taking a hit to make a play are some of the other ways they can be productive.

The Oilers are in a great race for second place. These games won’t have the same passion as the playoffs, but the intensity will be much higher than what they’ve experienced earlier this year. Tonight will give us a small glimpse into how they will handle the increased pressure and emotion.

I’d be surprised if the group is overwhelmed. Some individuals could have an off night, and if they do, the key will be for them to learn from it and be better when the face the Sharks and Ducks again next week.

LINEUP

Oilers

LW C RW
Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon
Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot
David Desharnais
David Desharnais
Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian
Drake Caggiula
Drake Caggiula
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Anton Slepyshev
Anton Slepyshev
Defensive Pairings
Oscar Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera
Andrej Sekera
Kris Russell
Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse
Eric Gryba
Eric Gryba
Goalies
Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot

Anton Slepyshev draws back in for Matt Hendricks, and Drake Caggiula slides back to LW on the 4th line.

Cam Talbot has a shut out streak of 140:32 and he’s 4-0 in his last four starts with a .961sv% (stopped 122 of 127) and a 1.25 GAA.

Ducks

LW C RW
Rickard Rakell
Rickard Rakell
Ryan Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf
Patrick Eaves
Patrick Eaves
Andrew Cogliano
Andrew Cogliano
Ryan Kesler
Ryan Kesler
Jakob Silfverberg
Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie
Nick Ritchie
Antoine Vermette
Antoine Vermette
Corey Perry
Corey Perry
Chris Wagner
Chris Wagner
Nate Thompson
Nate Thompson
Jared Boll
Jared Boll
Defensive Pairings
Cam Fowler
Cam Fowler
Sami Vatanen
Sami Vatanen
Hampus Lindholm
Hampus Lindholm
Josh Manson
Josh Manson
Korbinian Holzer
Korbinian Holzer
Kevin Bieksa
Kevin Bieksa
Goalies
Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Bernier

Jonathan Bernier has made four consecutive starts going 3-0-1 with a sparkling .957sv% (stopped 114 of 119 shots) and a 1.25 GAA.

Lineups courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers fourth best PP will battle the Ducks fourth ranked PK. The Oilers PP is on fire — over their last 16 games they’ve scored 13 goals on 37 opportunities. In the same 16-game span the Ducks PK has clicked at 88.4% (46 of 52).
  • It is interesting to note the Ducks have been shorthanded 15 more times than the Oilers, but the Oilers have allowed 10 goals on 37 kills. The Ducks take significantly more penalties than the Oilers, 246-196, but Anaheim has only allowed 37 PP goals, while Edmonton has surrendered 40. The Oilers need to take advantage of the Ducks aggressive and sometimes undisciplined play.
  • The Oilers have had 209 powerplays and have 47 goals. The Ducks have had 217 chances, but only have 40 goals. This will be a great battle between the Oilers lethal PP and the Ducks stingy PK.
  • Andrew Cogliano will play his 777th consecutive game tonight, moving him into sole possession of the fourth longest streak. Doug Jarvis holds the record at 964 consecutive games. He never missed a game in his career. Unreal. He also played 105 playoff games during his streak. Garry Unger is second at 914 games. A few years ago Unger told me how his streak ended. He was dressed for the game, but in those days he said you had to take a shift to get the GP status. His streaked was snapped when his coach, Al McNeil, sat him on the bench the entire game. Unger was livid. His teammates kept telling him to take their shift, but he wouldn’t. Wow. Steve Larmer sits third at 884 and Cogliano will now move ahead of Craig Ramsay who played 776 consecutive games. Cogliano will finish the season at 782. He will need to play two more seasons, and then 15 games into the 2019/2020 season to reach 965 games. I hope he gets there.
  • Jordan Eberle had three assists in the last meeting versus the Ducks. His line needs a strong game tonight as they should see easier D pairings than McDavid’s line, especially if they face Bieksa and the third pairing. The Lucic-RNH-Eberle line needs to dial it back up again.
  • Oilers fifth round pick in 2015 Ethan Bear was named to the WHL’s first All-star team and was named the Western Conference D-man of the year. Bear scored 28-42-70 in 67 games with Seattle. He had another strong season. Bear is progressing well, but I caution people who expect him to make a quick jump to the NHL. He’ll need some seasoning in the AHL, and with so much youth on the Oilers blueline they won’t need to rush him. Bear is the best offensive right-shot D-man in the system and if he continues to develop when he turns pro in the fall, you could see him in a few years. He is trending in the right direction.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Anaheim Calling

Connor McDavid leads the team in goals, assists and points. His 82 points leads the team and the NHL; the Oilers 2nd leading scorer is Leon Draisaitl with 65. After that it’s Milan Lucic with 42. I’m no coaching genius but I’d hazard a guess that if you beat Connor, you beat the Oilers.

The Oilers were buyers at the deadline – loading up on some “grit” with David Desharnais and instantly turning their third line into one of the most annoying to play against. I would expect to see them try to match it against the Getzlaf-Rakell-Eaves line, while the Ryan Kesler line will be doing their best to keep McDavid in check.

Unfortunately due to the presence of Lucic we will most likely see Boll on the fourth line (just send Kase back down already if you aren’t going to play him, jeez) but hopefully because the Oilers are “speedy” we will see Montour back in.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: It will be a closely contested game that goes to OT…Oilers skate away with a 3-2 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Kesler plays hard all game, and likely crosses the line a few times irritating the Oilersnation masses.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Kris Russell scores his second goal of the season. His last eight goals have come on the road and he keeps the streak going tonight. He also has 13 points in 15 career games versus Anaheim. He has 171 points in 616 games versus the rest of the NHL.

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  • madjam

    The Ducks are taking it to the Mud Hens (Oilers) in the second period . Oilers letting Ducks slow the pace of game down and are hanging a licking on us by doing so . Not much help with Talbot having a poor night needing to be replaced by LB , and Nurse and Gryba continuing their poor play tonight . Despite all this , Oilers can still rebound in third if they use their speed game as they done in the first period .

  • Drill Bit #97

    This is all on Principe………… you don’t mess with tradition. It’s there for a reason. Regroup boys for the 3rd, go hard, then onto Colorado.

  • Zamboni Driver

    So other than Lowetide who is..well him…and Gregor who has a bizarre blind spot when it comes to Eberle…I wonder if tonight’s complete disgrace of a display by Jordan “RememberthatGoalIScoredinJuniorthatTime” Eberle will answer the “Oilers really want to find out what they have from Eberle in important (playoff) games.” Answer – same batch of couldn’t give a damn nonsense he gives every other night. Stellar performance by all the Steve Austin’s actually.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Ah well… games not over yet but its clear where it’s going. But Believe – we’ll be in the position to leap-frog the Ducks again… Probably by the weekend.

    And the game against them next week – won’t be nearly the same as tonight…

  • slats-west

    The Oilers fourth best PP will battle the Ducks fourth ranked PK????
    …..means nothing if never get on the PP. McD draws a penalty every time he has the puck. I expect we should get our make up calls around the 18 minute mark. Brutal

  • slats-west

    D were definitely not engaged (Larsson, Gryba and Klefbom particularly bad) all night, too easy entering the zone for Quacks, lots of one hand stick checks, and two softies by Dadbot = Game Over

    Finally I hate Kessler with the night we were having I wish Kass or Luc would have kicked the crap out of him ….easily the most hated and dirty player away from the puck in the league .. Bush League.