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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 82.0: AT THE HUNDREDTH MERIDIAN, WHERE THE GREAT PLAINS BEGIN

Beginning in March of 2007, the Edmonton Oilers experienced a false spring every spring. The team got so good at losing, fans rallied around the idea of draft lottery parties, but that became unpalatable when the lottery became an annual thing. It seemed, from 2007 through 2015 and the McDavid lottery, nothing rhymed. So it is difficult, even impossible, to absorb the success of this season in real time. We are standing at the end of a long road, the 2016-17 season about to be placed in history for all time. Let the record show these Edmonton Oilers were the ones who found a way. Let it also be known that Oilers Nation endured those solemn times in the hopes of a brand new day, and that day has finally come. We are here. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but am relieved it is over.

AWARDS FOR AWARDS SEASON

As we are at the end of the year, I thought it might be an idea to hand out some awards to a few worthy men who have made this winter the best in over a decade.

  • MVP: Connor McDavid. By midnight he will be the reigning scoring champion of the NHL, and a strong candidate for the Hart Trophy. At 20. The Oilers future shines bright because of him. The season he has posted should be rewarded with the Hart. Wonderful.
  • Outstanding Defenseman: This is a tough one, as I see two candidates worthy of honor. I will choose Oscar Klefbom as this year’s winner, his shot from the point and emerging offensive effectiveness overcoming the wobble of youth defensively. You could argue for Andrej Sekera and I wouldn’t complain.
  • Most Improved Player: (Tie) Zack Kassian and Darnell Nurse. Both men showed real improvement in their games, to the point we may see them here for a long time. On the day Kassian was acquired, there was an air of mystery about what the team was getting for Ben Scrivens. He has delivered on every level, and is faster and more skilled than thought. Nurse has had to deal with injury, but his play (especially early) represented an impressive spike in quality from his rookie year. Note: I did not consider Patrick Maroon here, his 8 goals in 16 games after the 2016 deadline suggested he was going to be successful.
  • Best Goalie: Cam Talbot. What a season! 42 wins is a new franchise mark and the Oilers have a rich history at the position. Also No. 2 in the MVP vote.
  • Top Rookie: Matt Benning is my top rookie, beating out Drake Caggiula, Anton Slepyshev and Jesse Puljujarvi. I expect this year’s crop (Jujhar Khaira, Dillon Simpson, Laurent Brossoit as well) will have a great impact on the Oilers’ future, but Benning (especially early) was top drawer.
  • Most Accurate Shooter: Leon Draisaitl’s 16.5 percent wins over Patrick Maroon’s 15.2 and Milan Lucic with his 13.5 percent accuracy.
  • Top Faceoff Man: Mark Letestu’s 50.4 wins it, but Leon Draisaitl (48.9) is coming on.
  • Designated Hitter: Adam Larsson with a cool 250. He’s a mean fellow but in a good way.
  • Block Party: Kris Russell leads the world most seasons in blocks, and has 210 entering the final game.
  • Takeaways: Connor McDavid, 75. Linemate Leon Draisaitl has 72, so that line can create offense on many levels.
  • Most D-Zone faceoffs: Mark Letestu, 488. Leon has the best FO% among regular faceoff men in the D-zone, 54.2

LINEUPS

Oilers

LW C RW
Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon
Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot
David Desharnais
David Desharnais
Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian
Drake Caggiula
Drake Caggiula
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Iiro Pakarinen
Iiro Pakarinen
Defensive Pairings
Oscar Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera
Andrej Sekera
Kris Russell
Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse
Matt Benning
Matt Benning
Goalies
Laurent  Brossoit
Laurent Brossoit

At the time of posting, no lineups had been announced so we’re going to assume Brossoit is starting. We’ll make the updates as lineup notes start to come out.

Canucks

LW C RW
Daniel Sedin
Daniel Sedin
Henrik Sedin
Henrik Sedin
Nikolay Goldobin
Nikolay Goldobin
Reid Boucher
Reid Boucher
Bo Horvat
Bo Horvat
Brock Boeser
Brock Boeser
Michael Chaput
Michael Chaput
Brandon Sutter
Brandon Sutter
Jayson Megna
Jayson Megna
Griffen Molino
Griffen Molino
Drew Shore
Drew Shore
Alex Biega
Alex Biega
Defensive Pairings
Alexander Edler
Alexander Edler
Troy Stecher
Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa
Luca Sbisa
Chris Tanev
Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton
Ben Hutton
Nikita Tryamkin
Nikita Tryamkin
Goalies
Griffen Molino
Richard Bachman

Lineups (subject to change) are courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

NOTES

  • There are still reasons to play key men in tonight’s game, as the Pacific Division title is in play. Edmonton plays Vancouver at 7 local time this evening, about 30 minutes after the Anaheim Ducks start their game against the Los Angeles Kings.
  • Connor McDavid has a chance at 100 points, a fairly rare item in the modern NHL. Since 2010-11, there have been four such seasons, less than one per year on average.
  • The Oilers have been strong down the stretch and that 2line (Nuge centering Lucic and Eberle) is starting to find the range. Could be a good indicator for the postseason.
  • Todd McLellan switched up the 3 and 4 lines last night, with Mark Letestu emerging on the new third line with Drake Caggiula and Zack Kassian. These men played well together and earned the push.
  • We will probably see a few callups in the coming days, I wonder if Anton Lander will be part of it. David Desharnais struggles at center may mean Lander receives a call.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

  • Jeremy Davis, Canucks Army: The Canucks, whether they want to admit it or not, need an outright loss to stay in 29th place. Remember folks, this is as much about how far you can fall as it is about the likelihood of rising or staying in the top two. 29th means you can go no further down than 5th (hello Casey Mittelstadt!), while a win tonight could put them in 27th, where they could fall as far as 8th (hello.. Michael Rasmussen? Dear God). The Canucks, for their part, have demonstrated their dedication to the tank by putting in a call to get Yan-Pavel Laplante, fresh out of the ECHL, allegedly to play against the Oilers tonight in the season finale. Crafty move, Benning. Source

TONIGHT

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers find out before game time that the Kings have a 2-0 lead after one period against the Ducks, and bring their stomping boots to the ice at Rogers Place. A three-goal first period sees Connor McDavid pick up one point (goal, breakaway, backhand shelf, breathtaking).

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:  The second period sees two more goals, one for each side. Kris Russell scores his second goal of the year in the frame, assist to McDavid as he reaches point No. 100 on the season.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With the game in hand, Todd McLellan rolls four lines and three pairings during an uneventful third period in which there is no scoring. Final: Edmonton 4, Vancouver Nico Hischier.