If the Edmonton Oilers’ 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Place Saturday night, a victory that has lifted them into first place in the Pacific Division with four games remaining in the stretch drive, didn’t get your blood pumping, chances are you have none.
Come to think of it, the last two weeks, a dizzying stretch that’s seen the Oilers run off eight straight home wins (tying a franchise record) to vault into top spot after Leon Draisaitl’s game-winner in a straight-up showdown with the money on the table against the Ducks, have been filled with superlatives. Take your pick.
The Oilers improved to 44-25-9 for 97 points on April Fool’s Day with the win over Anaheim. They’re 9-1-0 in their last 10 games as they prepare for games on the road in Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver. They close out the season at home against the Canucks with a chance to hit the playoffs after 10 years out on the kind of roll we haven’t seen around here in a long, long time.
Superlatives, indeed. Let us count the ways.
Connor McDavid has his fingerprints all over the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion with a 10-game points streak on the go and, from where I sit, the same can be said for the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. McDavid has been nothing short of magnificent when it’s mattered most, like Saturday when he set-up Draisaitl for the winner with his second assist and third point.
The Hart race is a runaway now. McDavid sits with 29-65-94 thanks to a 10-game point streak in which he’s tallied 6-14-20. He’s seven points up on Patrick Kane and if he hits 100 points he’ll be the first Oiler to reach that mark since Doug Weight put up 104 points in 1995-96. When McDavid wins the Art Ross, he’ll be the first Oiler to do it since Wayne Gretzky claimed it with 183 points in 1986-87 – a decade before No. 97 was born.
As for the Hart, I can’t imagine a player who better fits what this piece of silverware is about: “Awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his team.” With four games to play, the Oilers have more points than they’ve had since 1987-88, when they had 99. McDavid, who just turned 20, is the biggest single reason for that. Period. Everything started to change when the Oilers got the Golden Ticket. It’s not even a debate now, is it?
On a scoring streak second only to McDavid with 5-13-18 in his last 10 games, Draisaitl has jumped into the top-10 in NHL scoring and if he stays there – he will – he’ll pocket $1.6 million in B bonuses that will have salary cap implications for the Oilers next season. Whatever. It’s money well spent.
Draisaitl sits eighth in the scoring race with 28-46-74 thanks to this 10-game roll, a stretch that has included two game-winners (he was five GWG this season). Draisaitl was hotter than a $3 pistol to start last season before cooling off and finishing up with 51 points in 72 games. He’s been money when it matters on a line with McDavid and Patrick Maroon this time around.
The Oilers haven’t had two players finish in the top-10 in scoring since 1988-89 when Jari Kurri (44-58-102) and Jimmy Carson (49-51-100) finished eighth and ninth. They haven’t had an Art Ross winner and another player finish in the top-10 since 1986-87, when Gretzky topped the league with 183 points and Kurri was second with 108.
Speaking of money, Cam Talbot has been exactly that down the stretch drive. Talbot beat the Ducks with 16 saves Saturday and recorded his 40th win of the season, tying Grant Fuhr for that franchise record. For context, Fuhr turned the trick during the 1987-88 season, when Talbot was one-year-old.
Talbot’s 40 wins have him tied with Washington’s Braden Holtby for second place behind Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus, who has 41 wins. Talbot leads the NHL in games played with 70. He’s faced more shots (2,045) and made more saves (1,883) than any other goaltender in the league on the way to a .921 save percentage.
So far, Talbot is easily the best bet GM Peter Chiarelli has made during his brief tenure. After McDavid, Talbot is the biggest single reason why the Oilers are 27 points better with four games to play than they were all of last season. Simply put, Talbot’s in the Vezina Trophy conversation. He’ll get more than a few votes.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Oilers need just three points from their final four games to hit 100 points for the first time since 1986-87 before the playoff fun begins. I see that many in the two games against Vancouver alone after they face the LA Kings and the Sharks in the first two games of this road swing. You?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
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