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Photo Credit: NewfieMikey

GDB 77.0: Now The Real Fun Begins

Oilersnation has never seen the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs. You’ve only experienced frustration and anger while perusing the site, especially in March. However, this year will be different and these next few games should help get you prepared.

Tonight’s tilt versus the San Jose Sharks will have a significant impact on the Pacific Division standings. The Sharks and Oilers are two points behind the division leading Anaheim Ducks, and both teams know the importance of home ice advantage. This is the biggest game of the season for both teams and if you are at the game or watching it, you will sense the heightened intensity by simply listening to the crowd.

The rumbling of the crowd was louder on Tuesday when the Oilers clinched a playoff spot and I expect the fervor will be even higher tonight.

It is the most fun time of the season for the players, coaches, fans and anyone associated with the NHL playoffs.

“The playoffs are completely different. It is nice if you are playing well going in, but it doesn’t really mean anything. If you are banged up, it matters though”, said Ray Ferraro yesterday on my show.

“It is so awesome to be in the playoffs. Every shift means something. There are no throw away shifts. It is so great, the playoffs are the best. For a lot of the Oilers it will be their first crack and they are going to love it,” said Ferraro. You could hear the excitement in his voice just remembering his time in the postseason. He hasn’t played since 2002, but he was still raving about how much fun the playoffs are.

“These final few games against San Jose and Anaheim will be a good tune up for the Oilers. The games mean a lot, and while they won’t be the same as the playoffs, they should be much more intense and focused than other regular season games they’ve played in,” continued Ferraro.

The core of the Sharks have played in big games for the past decade. They have the experience advantage, but the Oilers have the excitement advantage. Only two Oilers, Milan Lucic and Benoit Pouliot, have played more than 40 playoff games. The rest of this group can’t wait for the playoffs. Mark Letestu has only played 17 playoff games, and only six (with the Blue Jackets in 2014) since RNH entered the league. He’s just as excited as Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the other Oilers who will play their first playoff game this April.

“To finally get back in feels great. You probably take it (making the playoffs) for granted when you get in the first couple years. You don’t realize at the time how hard it is to get in year after year. To get back in is great. I’m happy for the guys who will play their first playoff game, and for me personally it will be awesome to experience it again,” said Letestu.

Tonight will have close to a playoff feel, and Letestu says it is a great opportunity of the Oilers to show what they are capable of.

The Sharks ended a six-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 5-4 OT over the New York Rangers. They haven’t been playing well recently. They were outscored 23-7 during their losing streak, and even with their first win since March 14th, they have still allowed 27 goals in their last seven games. You won’t win very often in the NHL allowing four goals per game.

The Oilers need another good start. They are 7-1 in their last eight games outscoring their opponents 34-15 and they’ve scored first seven times. The Sharks are in their worst slump of the season, and they haven’t played well since March 14th. They aren’t as confident as they’ve been in the past and the Oilers must come out strong and put the Sharks on their heels.

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
Matt Benning
Matt Benning
Goalies
Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot

Matt Benning draws in for Eric Gryba, but the four forward lines remain the same.

Sharks

LW C RW
Jannik Hansen
Jannik Hansen
Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton
Joe Pavelski
Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker
Mikkel Boedker
Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau
Melker Karlsson
Melker Karlsson
Marcus Sorensen
Marcus Sorensen
Tomas Hertl
Tomas Hertl
Joel Ward
Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi
Joonas Donskoi
Chris Tierney
Chris Tierney
Timo Meier
Timo Meier
Defensive Pairings
Paul Martin
Paul Martin
Brent Burns
Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Justin Braun
Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon
Brenden Dillon
David Schlemko
David Schlemko
Goalies
Martin Jones
Martin Jones

Logan Couture isn’t in Edmonton and doesn’t look like he’ll play in Calgary on Friday either.

QUICK HITS

  • Brent Burns is another great example of why prorating stats can be misleading. After 59 games Burns had 27 goals. He was on pace to score 37, but on Tuesday he scored his first goal in 17 games. He now has 28 goals and needs two in his final six games to become only the ninth D-man to score 30 goals in a season. He is still eighth in league scoring, first among defenders, and he’s had an outstanding season. But it’s amazing how quickly players or even teams can see their production change very quickly.
  • The Oilers PK is back on the upswing. They were brutal between January 1st and March 7th, allowing 18 goals on 68 chances (73.5%). However, in their last ten games they’ve killed off 23 of 25 power plays (92%) and only Boston scored a PP goal when they potted two. The Oilers don’t take many penalties (sixth fewest PKs in the NHL), which helps. But luckily for them their PK has found some stability entering the most important time of the season.
  • The Sharks have been shorthanded only 195 times. Only Carolina is better at 189. The Sharks are very disciplined, but their PK is 19th in the NHL and struggling recently having allowed five goals on their last 12 kills. The Oilers PP is rolling at 22.4%, fifth best in the NHL, and they are 9 for 28 over the last eight games. An early power play could be the key to a quick start for the Oilers.
  • The Oilers PK has been more aggressive lately. They never changed the system, but when players get out of sync they start hesitating and that allows the PP more time to set up. The group is back in sync and they’ve been able to put the opposing PP into tougher spots and make bad decisions. The return of Benoit Pouliot has also helped. He’s very good at getting his stick in lanes and disrupting the power play.
  • If you haven’t heard yet we’ll be throwing a Decade of Darkness RIP party on April 8th at the Pint Downtown. Tickets are now available but are selling out quickly so you’re not going to want to wait before grabbing yours.
  • Golf fans. I have teamed up with DraftKings and we have a Masters pool for you to join. It is free to play and the 1st place wins $1000. Enter here. Good luck.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Fear the Fin:

Neither the Sharks nor the Oilers have particularly had a great time in the last 25 games as both teams have seen their possession numbers drop. Fatigue may be a factor for both clubs as Edmonton’s youth and San Jose’s age gets the best of them. This would be a very intriguing first round series and one I feel favors the Sharks more than a meeting with the Ducks or Flames.

But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, the Sharks have an opportunity to pick up some valuable points before playing in the second half of a back to back against the Flames on Friday. Gulp.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers continue their hot streak with a 3-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up his 90th point of the season, becoming the first Oilers player since Doug Weight in 2001 to reach 90 points.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Drake Caggiula has six career goals and two of them have come against the San Jose Sharks. He scores his third goal in four games versus San Jose.

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