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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

No April Fools

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

Apr 1, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) skates during warmup against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

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?

LEON DRAISAITL

Feb 16, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates a first period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

CAM TALBOT

Mar 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Pardy (6), goalie Cam Talbot (33) and center Matt Hendricks (23) celebrate win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. The Oilers defeated the Flyers, 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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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RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

    • West

      Wasn’t it Dreger who recently said that if McDavid was 10 points ahead of Crosby, he might consider changing his mind on the Hart. Don’t look now but McDavid has 10 points on Crosby.

      • Ronr68

        Dreger can go home and eat a bowl of d***s. Every commentator, sports writer and pundit had the Oilers written off. I knew from the game against Pittsburgh in Nov. that Connor was the better player. In the last game Sullivan was trying to keep Crosby away from McDavid. Make no mistake, McDavid might be the best player many of us will ever see again in our lifetime. My only regret is we can only lock him up for 8 years.

      • Butters

        McDavid is ranked number 1 in ppg, total points, and % of team points. The Oilers could easily improve by over 30 points in the standings this year over last. Crosby will win the Hart.

    • Ronr68

      You better believe if he played in Toronto, he would have won. Up until this last month Laine was having a more impressive rookie season than Matthews and for the whole year they’ve been talking like he was an also-ran. (Matthews deserves it now, for really turning it on in the last month or so).

  • The Rookie

    At the beginning of the season I sat there, thinking to myself and occasionally someone else – ” wouldn’t it be nice if once, just once, the Oilers exceeded expectations instead of disappointing?? I mean every year someone has a way better season than most people predict. Colorado did it, even the Fl***s did it. Fighting for a playoff spot will be nice this year but gawd is love to be pleasantly surprised with more…”

  • CBK

    It honestly is an absolute pleasure to watch McDavid every single night. As you watch him grow and start dominating each and every game you can’t help but wonder what hes going to be like in a few years.

    Every game I think to myself, there’s no way this kid can top his last game. It’s highlight reel after highlight reel whether he gets a point or not.

    I’ve stressed and stress to every single person who lives in Edmonton whether you like hockey or not to go watch the Oilers. McDavid is worth every penny.

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      He is amazing. When he’s on the ice, you watch Connor and not the puck. When he’s not on the ice, you keep an eye on the bench in anticipation. It’s really quite bizarre because I’m not used to watching hockey like this. No hyperbole, it almost feels like a different sport.

    • Ronr68

      The talent that came into the league in the last two drafts is nothing short of remarkable. This might be the best the league has ever been. The 3 kids in Toronto. Eichle. Liane in Winnipeg. But make no mistake, the only draft lottery that really mattered, the Oilers won. I’m in my mid-forties and I saw Lemieux and Gretzky and even Orr when he played on one knee, and I wonder to myself when Connor plays; am I looking at the best player I’ve ever seen? He’s the best 20yr old I’ve ever seen.

  • CMG30

    Flames got to be getting nervous about facing the oil in the first round if that’s how things play out…

    No matter how much various players deserve the award hardware, I’m not holding my breath. The NHL has shown a pattern of going out of their way to screw the oil whenever possible, from award voting rights through to the reffing.

    • Ronr68

      No, just go over to FlamesNation. They’re convinced Edmonton is one player team, dontcha know. All you have to do is shut McDavid down and the Oilers will fold like Superman on laundry day. And if you want to fly, all you have to do is grow wings. The Flames are the team I worry about least.

      • Derian Hatcher

        Wonder how Trademark Johnny will do in the playoffs – not just against the Oilers but all teams. As we all know, its a different kind of checking in the post season.

        • giddy

          Shockingly, Gaudreau actually played decent last time Flames were in the playoffs. 9 pts in 11 games in the playoffs, especially considering it was his first season, is pretty impressive any way you size it up.

          That said, I’d have good confidence that the Oilers would give him the what for, just like they did twice this season.

          • WhoreableGuy

            I’m sure the majority of those points were against the Canucks. There was actually a point in the Ducks series where Hartley benched Gaudreau not because he was playing bad, but because he was getting extra attention by the Ducks and he wanted to make sure he was safe. Like I said, if Johnny took half the abuse Hall did in Edmonton he would be retired.

        • giddy

          The best part: my name is no longer an ironic piece of commentary on my feelings of watching the Oilers play for the last 10 years. It is now exactly how I feel anytime I think of hockey. Heck, is there anyway I can have my name changed to full capital letters to really express my excitement? Thanks.

    • WhoreableGuy

      It’s funny living in Calgary and all the Flames fans wanting Edmonton in the first round.

      All us Oiler fans are begging for the Flames in the first round. Easiest opponent out of the Playoff teams.

      • toprightcorner

        I suppose most of them forgot the Oilers easily swept the Flames this season and it wasn’t even close. Oilers would crush the Flames in 5 games. The Flames and Predators would be the easiest teams in the West to beat. No dominant players and questionable goaltending.

    • toprightcorner

      There are 2 teams nobody in the west wants to play in the first round, Chicago and Edmonton. with McDavid, Draisaitl and Talbot, the Oilers can beat any team out there. No team wants to face McDavid because no team can contain him.

  • Marty

    As a long time 60 Y.O. Oiler fan ( and first time poster) I won’t bore you with tales of the glory years, but what I remember is whenever Wayne took a shift it would seem like entire rows of fans would lean forward closer to the edges of their seats as one, in anticipation of something wonderful was about to happen on the ice! Although I haven’t seen Conner play in person, I have to believe he will have the same effect on the crowd as #99 did it he hadn’t already! It’s not much of a stretch to state that Oiler fans are in for something wonderful now and in the years to come. Enjoy and Embrace it!!

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Thanks for commenting, and adding your insight… I enjoyed reading it and hope you write more in the future, hopefully more about the glory years too!

  • Slipknot 8

    Good read Brownlee.

    Was a Hall fan(still a Hall fan) but honestly, how big of an effect would you say players like Lucic and Maroon have on that locker room?

    To me these two guys have brought something this team never had, call it a swagger, confidence and a little bit of nasty.

    Whatever it is, I’m glad those two are Oilers.

    • Derian Hatcher

      I watched that scrum in front of the Ducks net where every Oiler on the ice got involved. McDavid was in there quickly. I watched Hall skate away from those scrums and let his teammates fend for themselves at least 30 times. As far as I’m concerned, that says it all about Taylor Hall. Very skilled, but not a team guy.

  • Rama Lama

    I’m getting tired of pinching myself this season……..I have bruises all over. For me I still can’t believe we landed McDavid and that he plays for the Oilers. Too many positives to mention for the Oilers, but damn it we deserve it after wandering in the desert all those years.

  • MrBig

    Robin, I don’t comment here often, but I must say I appreciate your longitudinal insight. One are you might consider adding to you article is the holistic accounting for the defensive structure this team plays with. In recent years the team would get caught in it’s own zone, panic, then give up a grade A chance. This year, that panic has, by and large, disappeared. I am hesitant to give all the credit to Adam Larsson, though he deserves some credit, but the entire team seems to know their role and play it well – even when they are being pressed.

  • toprightcorner

    Leon Draisaitl currently has more points than Benn, Malkin, Seugin, Tarasenko, Pavalski, Getzlaf, Ovechkin, Tavares, Kessel, Vorachek, Forsberg and Giroux. These are all elite players and Draisaitl is only 21 years old.

    If Draisaitl playes his career with McDavid, he could score 90 pts. Heck, when McDavid scores 120 pts, Draisaitl could reach the century mark as well.

    He is a BEAST!

  • Big Jacks Meat

    you know , I am fine with what ever happen hear on out for the most part. However , think about 2 more legit pieces added to this team. 2nd line scoring other than Looch. Please wake up Nuge and Eberle , you have been playing better but we need you to start putting up consistent points. Or you wont be here for the ride that will continue going forward. I still have faith , do it boys.

    • Div 13 superstar

      How about any second line scoring. Eberle has more points than Lucic (Eberle 45, Lucic 44, RNH 39). Looch isn’t doing any better than the rest of them. Hopefully they all turn it up for the playoffs!

  • OilCan2

    A win against Vancouver at Rogers would set an all time record for home wins in a row. That got me thinking about a sweep on this three game road trip and the resulting home ice advantage,…. Every home win in the playoffs could be extending that record.

    The article really says a lot about our top three superstars but you could go on for pages about how well the rest of the team is playing. Nurse and Pouliot both look very good after injuries. The college boys ( Cagguila and Benning) are getting straight ‘A’ s going to the bigs right out of school. The top four D are awesome, awesome, awesome & awesome!!!! Brossiot has super good NHL numbers after an AHL All Star season last year. Lucic, Maroon & Kassian have shown skill, size, finish and attitude. Could you imagine someone telling Lucic to his face they were just going to play out their minutes and collect the paycheque? Heck even the guys who are no longer here (Gustavson & Fayne) are doing very well with the Condors and could be a couple of decent ‘just in case’ options. Ebs & Nuge are looking their best at the right time of the year. Our trade deadline deal Desharnais is even chipping in,….

  • madjam

    I think it is odd how good the Oilers might/would be , arguably seeing as the 3rd best rookie (J.Puljujarvi) this year , was unable to stay and crack the starting lineup this year . Says a lot about rest of squad .

  • Sadly, due to the law of unintended consequences and the confidence that Db’s bestow apon themselves through association. Millhouse Tencer has crawled out of the manure pile to take on some sort of representative role as oiler fan spokesthing.

    In the interest of maintaining positive karma, that trail of inane blither needs to be muted and then shot into the sun.

  • dolenator

    After the Boston game I looked at the schedule and the oilers western conference/pacific division record and calculated there was no reason they couldn’t go 9-3 in there last 12. They are no 7-1 and making , think maybe i under estimated them.

  • dolenator

    Also with their 30-10-6 record vs the west (not unrealistic to think they could finish 32-11-7). Anyone saying they hope they get to play the oilers in the first round either has rocks I there head or a addiction to golf.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Don’t forget how all the Flames fans are predicting Talbot will suddenly drop from exhaustion mid-game…

    What a joke. No-one can shut down McDavid when he’s revvd up, the Oilers have all four lines contributing and Talbot is a beast. Just like Brodeur back in the day, the more work he has the better he plays.

    Shames fans are deluding themselves. But then again these are the same jokers who Tkachuk is a generational talent.. Lol.

  • McPucker

    The Flames are playing a lot better than last time we beat them. You can’t fault their work effort. I’m looking forward to watching whoever they play. I’d rather see the Oil knock off the Flames in the second round (if they make it that far).