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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

GDB 81.0 Wrap Up: Home Ice, Locked Down

So, it wasn’t always pretty, but all’s well that ends well. Final score: 3-2 Oilers

Before we get into the game proper, let’s take a look at the ramifications of Edmonton’s win. First off, it pushes the team to 101 points, which is the club’s best total since 1986-87. That’s arguably less important than what it means for the Pacific division in the playoffs, though.

This win guarantees home ice to the Oilers in the first round. They will now finish either first or second in the Pacific.

Edmonton owns the tie-breaker if they finish the season with the same number of points as the Anaheim Ducks. That means tomorrow, if a) the Oilers get a win of any kind over Vancouver and b) the Ducks lose in regulation to Los Angeles that the Oilers would win their division, guaranteeing home ice through two playoff rounds. The last time that happened? Also 1986-87.

Nashville’s loss tonight locks Calgary into the Pacific wild card slot, leaving the Predators to take on Chicago in the first round. In other words, if the Oilers can take away first from Anaheim, the bonus is a first-round Battle of Alberta. Which, objectively, would be awesome.

Now, as for the game itself. I thought we could look at the team’s performance line by line, with half an eye towards potential playoff ramifications.

Maroon / McDavid / Draisaitl

  • McDavid keeps right on McDavid-ing. He’s the beating heart of the power play and picked up point No. 98 there. There was a great shift in the first where this line owned the puck in the offensive zone, though they couldn’t turn all that possession into chances, and he was at the centre of it all.
  • There were some moments for the other two, more for Draisaitl than Maroon, but on the whole it wasn’t all that remarkable a night for unit. It was telling to me that McDavid had some of his better moments when he got caught on the ice with players from other lines.
  • Maroon’s been a little funny on this line, alternating between ridiculously hot and ice cold. Hitting the post on an empty net at point blank range is the kind of nutty thing that happens when he’s cold; it kept McDavid from point No. 99 and made the game’s end a lot closer than it otherwise would have been.

Lucic / Nugent-Hopkins / Eberle

  • The first period was absolutely terrible for this line, with Vancouver out-chancing Edmonton by a 5-0 score with them on the ice. Nugent-Hopkins in particular had some issues, though some of the problem was being sent out with the Nurse/Benning tandem.
  • The second period was a lot better. Obviously Eberle scored the 1-0 goal (and Lucic had a huge part in it at the blue line though at least initially he wasn’t credited with a helper) but it was more than that. They stemmed the bleeding and pushed back offensively.
  • The one-on-one battle between Lucic and Troy Stecher after Lucic came out of the box in the third was something to see. Pakarinen got the goal, but that’s exactly the kind of play everyone wanted to see from Lucic when he was signed. They’re coming a lot more often of late.

Pouliot / Desharnais / Pakarinen

  • This unit has not been functioning well for some time, and on Saturday it started off sans Kassian and with Pakarinen as his replacement. That’s an awfully small change when the problem is actually at centre, but Todd McLellan’s options are limited there as long as he plays Draisaitl at RW.
  • Pakarinen didn’t do his team any favours with a fairly blatant interference penalty in the second period. Edmonton had dominated the middle frame until that minor, and then Vancouver fired four chances in relatively quick succession, with the fourth chance the 1-1 goal.
  • Pakarinen did do his team a favour on the 3-1 goal, getting up ice at the end of the penalty kill in a hurry and wasting no time getting a rebound shot away. Whatever his warts, he’s a shoot (or hit, for that matter) first, ask questions later kind of guy and that’s got value.
  • I though both Pouliot and Desharnais were shades of vanilla in this one, though Pouliot does add value to the penalty kill. I also liked his desperation defensive zone clear with Vancouver’s net empty.

Caggiula / Letestu / Kassian

  • If you were to tell me right now that Kassian was going to double his goal total from this year next season, I’d have no trouble believing you. Tonight only rated a 5 or 6 on a 10-point “I can’t believe Kassian didn’t score” scale, but he keeps carrying the puck to the net and just missing execution by a hair.
  • The player I’m sometimes reminded of watching Kassian this season is his former Vancouver teammate Alex Burrows. I saw a lot of Canucks hockey in 2006-07 and he was absolutely cursed – goalposts, goals called back, near misses, you name it. He finished the year with three goals. He had 12 the next season.
  • Letestu scored a power play goal. Again. It’s been fun watching him embraced this season as the power play weapon he’s been his whole career (his point/minute entering this season were basically bang-on with Jordan Eberle) even if he owes McDavid some of the credit.
  • I’m a Caggiula skeptic in a lot of ways, but he does do little things. He works hard to get back defensively, he has a smart stick in the neutral zone; it’s hard not to like that kind of player. He kind of reminds me of a bunch of different players who were depth guys for McLellan in San Jose, people like Chris Tierney and Matt Nieto.

Klefbom / Larsson

  • It wasn’t a banner night for this pair, but it didn’t have to be. Each player had a couple of bad moments but on the whole delivered solid play. Klefbom got into a bit of extra trouble when caught out with Benning.

Sekera / Russell

  • I’ve been somewhat lukewarm to Russell all season but this is the kind of game where I can really get on board with the enthusiasm for this player. Outside of one minor mishap in the third he was rock solid defensively: physical, in good position, quick with his stick, you name it.
  • Fun side point No. 1: Russell and Sekera had the best Corsi on the team.
  • Fun side point No. 2: Russell picked up the assist on Eberle’s first goal, which gives him six points in his last nine games. Not bad at all for a guy who had just seven in his first 58 contests, and perhaps an indication of a player willing to be a bit more offense-minded with the puck on his stick than he was early in the year. The Oilers will need that in the postseason.

Nurse / Benning

  • This was really not a good night for this tandem. Nor is this a new occurrence. Both players have been markedly less effective post-injury than they were pre-injury.
  • Benning’s the player who is the most concerning. He was so good in the first half of this season but he’s just not there now. Before he was quick and decisive with the puck; now he makes fewer good decisions and doesn’t make them all that fast. He’s worse defensively, though. There was one sequence in the second period where Jayson Megna blew by him and created all sorts of chaos, and due respect to Jayson Megna but that’s not the kind of thing that should be happening to a regular defender on a playoff bound team.
  • Nurse had some coverage issues too (this pairing as a whole bled chances against) but I think he’d be helped immensely by some calm feet next to him. I like Mark Fayne for the job, especially in the playoffs, but failing that Eric Gryba should get another look.

Cam Talbot

  • Talbot’s save percentage probably isn’t good enough for him to get a serious shot at the Vezina – Sergei Bobrovsky should and probably will win the trophy – but that doesn’t take away from the value he brings in playing well almost all the time. It lets the Oilers get away with a lot.
  • In this one in particular, Talbot saved the first period. Edmonton was sloppy in the opening frame and came away with a 0-0 tie; this game might have played out very differently with a Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth in net.
  • Having said that, April got off to an ugly start for Talbot. Assuming that Laurent Brossoit starts (as he absolutely should) tomorrow, it’s probably not a bad thing that Talbot exits the regular season on a high note, having stopped 29 of 31 shots (0.935 save percentage).

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  • Spydyr

    “Nurse / Benning This was really not a good night for this tandem. ”
    Seems like this is posted after every game. Might be scary come playoff time. I hope Gryba gets a look in the last game.

    • O.C.

      No one expected Oil to be pushing for first and no one was expecting that all the changes in D would be fixed in one years. In a perfect world, these two would rotate in as 6’s and 7’s.

      Weird comment in Pens Leafs game. With Letang out, Jultz is their best D man.

    • nuge2drai

      Add an edit button and reverse chronicle the section and itll be fixed.

      Maybe we get back to the 100 comment days.

      Better for the advertisers of this site.

      More traffic equals more revenue.

  • cvstone

    Since Baggedmilk is probably too drunk off NationBeer to write the wrap-up, big thanks to Willis for covering the post-game! Unlike some fellow Nation members, I liked the different take this article has compared to the other wrap-ups as a nice change

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      Exactly.Analytics guys need. to. let. it. go.
      I get it. Fayne has always had good underlying numbers. He’s been okay in the minors. He’s a veteran NHL dman. BUT the coach doesn’t trust him. He hasn’t played at all this season. The coach is not going to throw him into the playoffs cold. It’s just not going to happen.

      For his sake, I hope he gets another shot in the NHL next year. Maybe Vegas. But his career with the Oilers is over.

  • Mr.Snrub

    101 Points! I’ll admit i would have been happy with 91 this season, thank god for McJesus & DadBot. Now i want the division title and a first round Battle of Alberta!

  • Johnny Stomper

    Lets face it. Sharks are defo the best match up in the first round. Oilers can win that round.

    Anything after that is bonus but no reason thye can’t go all the way with this team.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    Getting home ice advantage and making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years is bittersweet.

    It’s great that we’re in but upsetting that we have to go through the playoffs with this abhorrent comments section.

    Why change what was a great thing when we finally make the playoffs? Why?

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      What’s wrong with the comments? They seem okay to me. Threaded replies are good. Getting rid of the edit feature is unfortunate, but in line with most other sites (some sites like TheVerge.com allow you to edit only for a limited amount of time after you post).

      • GreatScott222

        Because then all the complainers couldn’t be the old guy in neighbourhood complaining about those wild kids and keeping their stuff when it went in his yard.

      • nuge2drai

        Add an edit button.

        Get rid of the view more button.

        Reverse chronical the comments, first to last – not last to first.

        This will get rid of the complaints and make everyone happy again.

        Please do this before the playoffs.

        • 813.52

          Good points, nuge2drai. Also:

          Make the Trash, and Cheers buttons 1/3 the size to eliminate clutter

          Number the initial post in each thread so there is reference points for discussions.

          Put the “Reply” button underneath each comment and away from the trash/cheers. More intuitive.

          Make this damn reply box bigger to encourage longer, more cohesive replies. (Big one)

      • 813.52

        The comments section in the old days was visually quieter, allowing for more in-depth discussions. It allowed one to gather thoughts and make reasoned statements and responses. The site is now more of a “hit and run” space. Notice how almost all the comments are only one or two sentences? And the number and quality is gone way, waaay down? Take a quick visual scan at the comments under this one. Your eyes are bouncing all over the place, from “name” to “trash it” to short comments with bad typography . . . all over the place.

        It’s like trying to hold an in-depth conversation walking through West Edmonton Mall on Christmas Eve.

        I’ve worked in the visual communications industry for 30 years. The problems here are obvious, to me at least. Either the proprietors of this site got some very bad design advice or, more likely, did not allow the site design team to use their expertise. Been there, done that a thousand times.

  • Stallions #35

    I am excited for this team to see and feel what Edmonton is like come playoff time. Missing the playoff atmosphere in E-town. 2006 was a long time ago to recall some fun memories. #GOILERS

    Parade route should start at Rogers and end at Commonwealth?

    • Finnish Oiler fan in Edmonton89

      They should do the parade route that the … ummm… “funny” people use every summer. Doesn’t there thing start downtown and end at whyte?

  • Johnny Stomper

    This is exactly why we got Lucic. Now is why he is so valuable. How much confidence does his team mates have with this guy around. What team can outmuscle the oilers??? No one!!! Like you guys I didn’t think it was going to be this good but Oilers have as a good a shot as anyone to win the cup with no expectations. What a great position to be in.Here’s to a good run and all the best in the playoffs. Lets go boys, havrnt been here in such a long time. So excited!!!

  • Hemi-97

    Does Edmonton go out and really try to win tonight? San Jose might be easier than Calgary with the injuries they have but I think it’s bad karma to try and lose a game to get the right matchup.
    Playing Calgary who they will beat anyway would be good because of the limited travel as well.

    • Danoilerfanincalgary

      Do not dismiss the Flames so lightly they have their eye on Edmonton and have an equal chance to win a 7 game series. If you doubt that then you have not watched many Flames games this year. I think the Oilers would win but it would not be easy and I might be biased but the Oilers are the better team especially with the Connor effect.

  • Hemi-97

    TO JOHNNY STOMPER BELOW…
    Some guys can have ok regular season but can flip the switch come playoff time. I hope that is what we are seeing getting closer to the playoffs with Lucic.
    Kind of reminds me of how Claude Lemieux could do this come playoff time.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Home Ice Baby! Was at the game last night, the crowd sang Oh Canada with some volume. Almost half being Oilers fans. I can’t wait to hear it at Rogers Place in game 1. I’ll never forget how emotional and energetic it was in ’06. Please put Paul Lorieau on the big screen!

  • Lee

    Here’s a thought. For the first game drop Draisaitl to second line center and then RNH to 3rd line center. Sure we lose something on the first line but the 3rd line might win you a game or two. Right now the 3rd line is not even average. The tiny center they brought in was a mistake, they need someone who is ready to go out there and be physical. If the Oilers did this,all the plans that San Jose or Calgary had worked on would be for nothing.
    Also think the team needs to crank it up when it comes to hits, can’t be just the same 2-3 players. The refs will let a lot go in playoffs, McDavid will take a beating, so the Oilers better target the other teams top guys. No free rides from now on. Gryba needs to be on the 3rd d , Benning and Nurse are too alike, this doesn’t work.

  • Ty Guy

    Elliot Friedman said something last night i don’t like.

    “if i am playing the oilers in the playoffs i take 50 penalties against Conner and hope they only call 10. It is the only way to try stop him”.

    i know he’s good enough to walk most but that would take a serious toll on him. maybe it gets him mad and he starts trying…;-)

  • Ivan Drago

    Yup comment section needs fixing asap. The small independent website was great. Then it became about money and advertising revenue so changes were made and now it sucks. I see enough ppl complaining about it you would think they (BM) would address it.

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  • connor is god

    oilers surpassed everything anyone had hoped in oct,no matter what happens next good things are coming and we should all be proud of this team!its nice shark season is about to open!!!!!!!

  • Edsez

    The last time that happened? Also 1986-87

    You know what else happened in 1986-87?
    I got 6 Stanley Cup quarters in my change today … I’m taking that as a sign

  • RedMan

    Vancouver is doing everything in their power to not accidentally win this one. now if the fricken kings could just do their part, we’d have a post season to look forward to