“The Oilers wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for Talbot.”
“The Oilers wouldn’t have won if McDavid didn’t play great.”
These statements, especially when made by Oilers fans, make little sense to me.
Cam Talbot and Connor McDavid play for the Oilers, do they not? If they play well, the Oilers chances of winning improve. They are part of the team, and if your team has some players capable of dominating the game, isn’t that a good thing?
Do you think Talbot is the only goalie in the league who has kept his team in games?
Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, Carey Price, Martin Jones, Matt Murray, Henrik Lundqvist, Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick have all done it this year or in previous playoffs to help their team win. You need solid goaltending to win, and if Talbot plays great it illustrates why the Oilers are a competitive team, not that they don’t deserve to win.
Same goes for Connor McDavid. He is so damn good it gives the Oilers an advantage pretty much every time he is on the ice. Same goes for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and other stars. Their excellence can cover up for other mistakes, and some nights their team will win mainly due to their outstanding play.
I don’t view the Oilers as a Stanley Cup favourite at this moment, but are they really an underdog in the Pacific Division? I don’t see it.
We all know goaltending is extremely important in the playoffs. Here are the Pacific division goalie stats.
There is no debate Talbot has been the most consistent all season. Elliott was red-hot for ten games from February 21st to March 17th. He stopped 287 of 304 shots for a sizzling .944sv%. In his last five starts since, however, he has a .907sv%. Even with his ridiculously good ten-game stretch his season SV% is only .911. Is he capable of getting hot in a series? You betcha. So are Jones, Gibson and Bernier, but so is Talbot.
The Oilers do not have a disadvantage in goal, and you could argue effectively that when their series begins they likely will get the X beside goalie advantage. It doesn’t guarantee he’ll play better, but Talbot will likely be a Vezina trophy finalist, along with Bobrovsky and Holtby. He’s been that good and he is part of the team, so when he plays well, he’s doing his job.
McDavid is clearly more dangerous than any other Pacific division forward, and Leon Draisaitl might be #2 at this point. Ryan Getzlaf is heating up at the right time and playing great for the Ducks, so I could see an argument made for him. Joe Pavelski is also having a strong campaign 29-37-66. Johnny Gaudreau has sick skills, but he hasn’t been as much of a consistent threat this season as his previous two.
I keep hearing the concern teams will shut McDavid’s line down in the playoffs? Outside of fear, what is that based on? If they couldn’t shut him down now, why will they suddenly be able to hold him off the scoresheet regularly come playoffs? Every NHL defenceman I’ve spoken with says you need to take the perfect angle to just have a chance to eliminate his speed. McDavid might not score 1.18 points-per-game in the playoffs, but seeing him average anything under one point-a-game would be stunning.
Of course the rest of the team will need to produce, but look at the Oilers team production.
The Oilers top-three forward goal scorers, McDavid, Draisaitl and Maroon, have 82 goals, and the rest of the forwards have 108 goals.
The Ducks top-three, Rakell, Silfverberg and Kesler, have 75 goals, while rest of the forwards have 99 goals.
The Sharks top-three, Pavelski, Marleau and Couture, have 80 goals, and the other forwards have 79 goals.
The Flames top three, Monahan, Gaudreau and Backlund, have 64 goals, and the remaining forwards have 101.
The Sharks defence, led by Brent Burns, have 47 goals, while Calgary’s blueliners have 43. Edmonton has 34 and Anaheim has scored 32.
Even if the Oilers top-line suddenly gets shut down, which would be a big surprise, their forward scoring depth is actually ahead of the other Pacific teams. I recognize the addition of Patrick Eaves gives Anaheim more scoring — he has seven goals in 15 games — so you could say they are even with the Oilers if you wish. The point is the Oilers depth scoring is not nearly as bad as some suggest.
But the reality is if the Oilers top line gets shut down then they aren’t doing their job, and usually if your best players aren’t your best players in the playoffs, you don’t win. The Chicago Blackhawks were a rare exception when Jonathan Toews only had one goal in the first three rounds of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
And the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins proved you can win with two dominant scorers. Evgeni Malkin had 14-22-36 while Sidney Crosby scored 15-15-31 when they won. They combined for 29 goals while the other ten forwards produced a total of 37 goals. The third highest scorer on the Penguins that season, Bill Guerin, had 15 points. The Penguins won because they had dominant players, and now that the Oilers have a few you should expect it is more likely those players dominate rather than the other teams suddenly shut them down.
The Oilers aren’t a favourite to go to the Conference Final, but they sure aren’t an underdog.
The Oilers have been fairly consistent all season, but after their most recent skid, 3-5-1 from February 21st to March 12th, many Oilers fans and outsiders wondered if they’d hit the wall.
The Pacific Division standings on March 13th looked like this:
Today on March 31st they look like this:
McDavid and Draisaitl each have 16 points in the past nine games. They’ve elevated their game as the Oilers push for home ice advantage. They haven’t been shutdown as the games become more meaningful.
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