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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Are Legit Due to Elite Players

“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.

Name GS W-L-OTL GAA SV%
Cam Talbot 69 39-21-8 2.37 .921
Martin Jones 61 33-21-6 2.38 .912
Brian Elliott 42 25-25-3 2.51 .911
Chad Johnson 35 18-15-1 2.60 .910
John Gibson 46 23-16-8 2.28 .921
Jonathan Bernier 37 19-7-4 2.47 .918

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.

Team GF GA GD
Oilers 224 193 +31
Ducks 206 187 +19
Sharks 206 188 +18
Flames 208 206 +2

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.

Parting Shot…

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:

Team GP PTS
San Jose 68 89
Anaheim 69 82
Calgary 69 82
Edmonton 68 79

Today on March 31st they look like this:

Team GP PTS
Anaheim 77 96
Edmonton 77 95
San Jose 77 93
Calgary 77 90

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.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Thumby

    I am firmly convinced that McDavid will win the Art Ross and Hart this year…he is just so damn dominant. No McDavid = no playoffs for the Oilers…give him his silverware and lets move on to the playoffs.

    Its really nice to have a player that can take the team on his back and by force of will and skill, deliver wins!

    • FlamesFan27

      McDavid’s impact is much more than just his on ice dominance we see every game. Do you think the Oilers would have McLellan or Chiarelli? Do you think they could have made the Larsson trade to give their team more balance? What about Lucic? None of this happens without McDavid.

      • ed from edmonton

        One should “never say never”. I have no doubt that the McD factor made PC and McLellan’s decisions more likely. But PC had worked with the Oil’s CEO during Olympic teams and McCllellan worked with PC in similar situation. That may have happened anyway. Not to understate the McD factor though, where would the Oil be if they had gotten Eichel or (shudder) Strome instead?

  • Shredder

    It’s hard to name a 3rd line forward that’s better than Kassian. That guy is pure gold. I used to hate his guts, but now I love the guy. He’s a good example of the kind of depth that’s going to be so valuable going forward. And yeah…how do you even shut McD down? They were saying in the game last night that the trap can be broken by having a dman join the rush, or rush it up himself…guys like Nurse were highlighted as picking his spots well.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    I still can’t over the fact that no matter the opponent, the Oilers will always have (usually but not always by a huge margin) the best player in the game.

    It’s like playing Black Jack and getting an Ace as your first card. You’re not guaranteed to win. Your other card may not be good. The dealer might have a better hand still. But getting that Ace opens up a lot of options and dramatically increases your chances of winning.

  • Thumby

    I just cant think of anything other than the game against the Ducks tomorrow… and I’ve got some tickets!
    This is going to be so fun if they can crush Getzlaf and company…!

  • Orange Crush

    Jason, although the team seems to be finding that extra gear, closing out close games (blowing some out of the water), I too agree that anyone of Cgy, SJ, or Ana is beatable. What scares the hell out of me is Chicago for their depth and experience and/or Minnesota…..well because…it’s Minnesota and they always seem to have our number. This of course would mean the oilers move to the third in the conference finals. Hells yeah!!

    • Jason Gregor

      Oilers won’t play Hawks until the 3rd round. I don’t see them suddenly falling to 4th in the Pacific.If they meet them it means they’ve won two rounds. That would be a great playoff run for a team that hasn’t been in the dance in 10 years.

      • LaRock

        Isn’t it possible that they meet in the 2nd round? If the playoffs start today, and the top 4 teams win their series’, then Edm would play Chi, while Ana and Min meet.

          • Oilerz4life

            If the playoffs started tomorrow, Anaheim would play Calgary and Edmonton would play San Jose. The winner of that series would face each other in the second round, say Edm vs. Cgy. The winner of the Pacific division plays winner of the Central division in the conference final (third round). The way the standings sit right now, if the playoffs started tomorrow, Chicago would face Nashville in the first round and it plays out that way. The last place wildcard team plays the top team in the conference and the second last place wildcard team plays the first place team in the next division, which as it sits right now would have CHI VS NSH and ANA VS CGY. The second round plays off within each division and the winner of each division face off against each other in the conference final.

      • Ronr68

        Chicago doesn’t scare me. Yes, they are a very good team. Are they invincible? Hell no! If they were they would be in the finals more than one year in a row. Dynasty my A**. Bettman’s worst nightmare is coming true. Two fading franchises in L.A. and NY and all the elite talent in Canada. Maybe we’ll get lucky and his giant head will explode. Edmonton and Toronto final might kill me from laughter. (Kane and Toews among 100 best all time, gimme a break).

  • Hemmercules

    The other day Sportsnet was in love with the fact that McDavid was involved in like 40% of the scoring or something like that. I kept thinking who cares, its not like Cosby or Kane or Marchand aren’t in the same situation. Your best player needs to be your best player for most of the season. McD has done that but the rest of the team has played a major role in this turnaround. McDavid could score 2 every night but without guys like Talbot, Lucic, Larsson, Klef etc. they wont win this many games. I like every guy on this team and I haven’t been able to say that in a long long time.

  • geoilersgist

    Couldn’t agree more. The Oilers are winning as a team. Last time I checked McDavid doesn’t play 60min. Talbot has just been his consistent self and he has done it both seasons he has been here. For me the only surprise is just how steady the defence has been. They are miles better than I imagined they would be. Such an exciting time. I literally don’t know what to do with myself haha. It has been so long since the playoffs brought joy that I feel I will enjoy this run more than I did in 2006.

  • geoilersgist

    This garbage about Talbot getting injured is so over blow. What happens to the other teams in the pacific if their starter goes down? Who is the SJ backup without looking it up?? Johnson in Calgary has been wildly inconsistent. Bernier is playing well in Anaheim the last 10 but what about the rest of the season? LB may be that good given the chance, but Talbot is a stud and has proved it this season. Brodeur used to play 70+ and go deep in the playoffs even Kipprusoff did. So why can’t Talbot? Are you so jaded from the last 10 years that you think the Oilers just don’t deserve a goalie that can play this much?

  • Spoils

    i live in LA and went to a buddy’s place to watch Kings Oilers (because they blackout Game Center). He was shocked at McDavid. We watch him every game, and think we are amazed, but it was cool to see how floored my buddy. He looked like he’d just left a Led Zeppelin concert.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Since Burns has stopped scoring at a ridiculous pace, the sharks haven’t been too good of a team. Burns has 1 goal in his last 18 and the sharks have gone 8-9-1 in that time. If he isn’t going, there’s not much to worry about from the sharks D.

    • Orange Crush

      Nothing wrong playing the underdog. This may be the single greatest advantage we have, or greatest mistake our opponents will make. Connor will be priority 1 on our opponents white board, so shift Neon down to the 2nd and double shift 97. You think he has plenty in the tank now??? Wait 2 weeks!

      • Gravis82

        oil are a good team, but they lag behind other contenders from previous years in relation to success when their best player is not on the ice. Its a team game though, and all about what cap dollars are invested to what ice time and what production comes of that. So not saying it will end badly, but if they have a weakness, its probably that.

        • Ronr68

          Playoff success come down to 3 things. Goaltending, your best players being your best players, and those guys who step up and play beyond what anyone though realistic. Remember those two months when Pisani thought he was Bobby Hull? We all know Connor’s going to be great. But who’s going to step up and play like he’s Connor? (Or as close as possible within the laws of physics)

  • Oiler Al

    So Jason, are you implying you like the play of the second line and don’t need to be counted on for the playoffs.They certainly didnt look play off bound against the Sharks.

    • Jason Gregor

      Never said that. I wrote that the Oilers scoring depth, which is 2nd-4th line, is not as bad as many suggest. Of course you’d like more production from 2nd line, but in today’s NHL only six teams are averaging more than 3 goals per game. Oilers are just under at 2.91 goals/game.

      The Oilers have a superstar and he will score a lot, as will his line. While it would be great for a 2nd line to produce a lot, it is very rare and if all three lines chip in, as they have compared to rest of Pacific, then they will be very competitive.

        • Jason Gregor

          Oilers don’t have a player on their “3rd line” who has been top-10 most productive players over past six NHL seasons. Pens were outlier due to Kessel’s ability.

      • Ronr68

        The Oilers have THE superstar. One of a kind. The best player we may see in our lifetime. I never thought we’d see someone like this again. Gretzky was right, he’s the best 19 year old I’ve ever seen. And that includes 99 and 66.

  • OilersGM

    Honestly I’m not scared of any team in the west even Chicago. I know that’s being cocky but no one thought we would be competing for a division title at the beginning of the season although I guaranteed they would make the playoffs it’s on record here and Oilers Now and I did that because I knew McDavid would lead the league in points and lead us into playoffs while others were hesitant to say that.
    Now I’m saying we have a great team and we shouldn’t be scared to raise our expectations for our team to do damage and go deep into the playoffs. The only team that scare me are Washington and Columbus and obviously that would come in the finals. Now I’m not guaranteeing that we make the finals but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did. I think we have a team that’s capable of doing it.
    I have a feeling it’s gonna be 2006 all over again.

  • Rama Lama

    Goaltending definitely wins playoff series……..what happened in 2006 when we lost our number 1 goalie and had to go with number 2……..not sure who it was ( Ranford or Cujo) as I’m getting old. I like that we have two solid goaltenders. I know that a lot of people may not consider LB as a good goaltender yet…….but in my books he is solid.

    • PandaBearJelly

      Huh? Cojo was never a backup in Edmonton and his last season with the Oil was in 98. Ranford retired in 2000. Our backups in 06 were Jussi Markkanen and Ty Conklin. Conklin came in after Roli was hurt in game one and shat the bed. Jussi managed to get us to game 7 after that. I believe thats how it went down at least…

  • Slipknot 8

    It doesn’t matter who the Oilers play in the playoffs, I think Gregors right, the Oilers stack up well against the WC let alone the Pacific division.

    I think you can make a legit argument that nobody in the WC really wants to play the Oilers. One of the best teams is heating up at the right time!

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    If we lose in the early rounds this year then it’s valuable playoff experience that the boys can carry over into next season.

    If we lose late in the playoffs then the team has had a brilliant run that exceeded everyone’s expectations.

    If we win the whole she-bang than its a beautiful beautiful thing!!

    Any way you cut it, play-offs this year is like finding two hundred bucks in an old coat pocket. You’re gonna have a blast no matter what. I’m freaking beside myself right now and will be for the next two months. Hell yeah!

  • olderthendirt

    That game felt like a playoff game has been a while since I felt like this.
    Today I dug out my 1988 Stanley cup finals IGA scarf (I have 2!!! Woot woot) It is getting hard to wait for the real show and one round or more I am happy.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Being an Oiler fan today would be like being a divorced dad who hasn’t waded into the dating game for years and when he does his first date is with some smoking hot MILF college guys chase.

    You don’t want to seem out of your element. You don’t want to be too cool. Or too indifferent. Or too eager.
    You want to be happy if you can clinch the deal…but obviously not too happy.

    There is a lot to deal with here.

    Such a range of emotions.

  • Ever the Optimist

    EDm Splits vs wc playoff teams
    Ana 2-2 with goal dif of +1
    Cgy 4-0 gd +10
    Chi 2-1 gd +3
    Min 0-1-2 gd -5
    Nash 0-2-1 gd -4
    SJ 2-1-1 gd+1
    Blues 3-0 gd +4
    we have not played well vs the preds or wild this year but other than those 2 we would either be considered favorites or very close in the betting worlds.

  • Bin

    I’m so use to being a fan of a losing team that I forgot how to be a fan of a winning team.. all this winning feels weird so when I read articles like this it gives me chills haha.. its awesom

  • Ronr68

    Right now I think there are 3 teams that no one would be surprised if they won the cup. Pittsburgh, Washington, and Chicago. Then come the teams that would mildly surprise. Anaheim, San Jose, NYR, Minnesota, Columbus, and Montreal. Then come the teams that would shock if they won. Ottawa, Calgary, Nashville, St. Louis, Toronto and Edmonton. There isn’t a team here that scares me. I don’t see ANY unbeatable team of the 14 mentioned (Boston is still too close to call). If Edmonton has a losing record against them for the season I can put it down to not being consistently good throughout the game or a goalie standing on his head. (I’m looking at you Fluery). If the teams mentioned can skate with the Oilers our big men will pound them into jelly. If they’re a big team, they can’t skate with us. One of the things I noticed is that Oilers play with pace. Not speed, PACE. If you watch them they’re always two men on the puck. It looks sometimes like they have 6 players on the ice. It makes it very hard to make a play or get a good shot away.