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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Playoffs… A looooonnng shot

On January 31st, 2015, the Ottawa Senators had played 48 games and had 49 points with a record of 20-19-9. The Boston Bruins held down the final playoff spot with 61 points, 12 ahead of the Senators. The Florida Panthers had 52 points and the Philadelphia Flyers had 51. The Senators were in 11th place in the east.

On February 10th, the Senators were still in 11th place, with 51 points, and still 12 back of Boston, but now the Panthers were eight points ahead of them and the Flyers were four ahead. They had 30 games remaining.

The Senators were 24th in the NHL. They had allowed the sixth most shots in the NHL (1695) and were 20th in SF with 1552. They had been outscored 141-138. Their record was 21-22-9.

Then they woke up.

The Senators finished the season 22-4-4. They outscored teams 94-67 and outshot them 987-940. Their PP wasn’t much better in the final 30 games. It was 16.4% in the first 52 games and was 17.5% in the final 30. Their PK was down a bit at 82.7% after being 83.6% in the first 52 games. So their special teams didn’t change, but they suddenly crushed teams at 5×5.

The Bruins finished the season 13-8-7, but missed the playoffs as the scorching hot Senators passed them.

The Senators’ 48 points in the final 30 games were the most in the NHL. Only four other teams had more than 37.

It was a remarkable turnaround, and their best players really stepped up.

Erik Karlsson had 36 points in the first 52 games, and then scored 31 in the final 30 games.
Mark Stone had 12 goals and 30 points in the first 52 games, but he produced 12 goals and 33 points in the final 30.
Kyle Turris had 14-18-32 in the final 30 games after producing 10-22-32 in the first 52 games.
Mike Zibanejad had 20 points down the stretch after scoring 26 in the first 52 games.
Mike Hoffman produced at the same rate all season.

But Karlsson, Stone and Turris were all point-a-game players down the stretch and carried the team offensively.

And Andrew Hammond came out of nowhere and played out of his mind in goal. Craig Anderson had started 31 in the first 52, and had great numbers with a .927sv% and a 2.37 GAA, but he only had a record of 13-11-7. He didn’t get much run support. Robin Lehner started 21 games, but his .907sv% and 2.94GAA wasn’t close to Anderson.

Hammond didn’t start a game until February 18th, but once he got in, he couldn’t lose. He went 19-1-2 with a .939sv% and a 1.82 GAA. He was incredible.

The Senators’ tremendous stretch had them finish with 99 points, fourth place in the Atlantic division and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference. They were unable to continue their success in the playoffs, however, losing in six games to the Montreal Canadiens. But for 30 games the Senators were the hottest team in the NHL, and their fans were taken on a hell of a ride from February 10th to April 11th.

Jan 7, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ryan Hartman (38) shoots on Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) with defenseman Kris Russell (4) defending during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

OILERS BELIEVE

I wasn’t surprised to hear Cam Talbot state, “We will make the playoffs.” Of course he thinks that way. He should. If they don’t believe, they have no chance. We all know the odds are extremely low that they can make the playoffs, and right now it would be a sucker bet to expect the Oilers to get in, but if I’m Todd McLellan or one of the video coaches, I would be showing them the stats and highlights from the Senators final 30 games in 2014/2015.

In sports anything can happen. It is legitimate Reality TV, because no one knows what will happen. We can made an educated guess that the Oilers won’t make the playoffs, but I don’t expect the players to think like that.

The Oilers have 33 games remaining. They are eleven points back of the Calgary Flames and ten points behind the Colorado Avalanche. While the Senators had to leap from three teams, they actually passed four to finish seventh. The Oilers need to go on a great run, but they also have to pass Chicago, Anaheim, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Colorado to grab the final Wild Card spot.

It is daunting.

If we assume 95 points is the cut off to make the playoffs, then the Oilers need to to gain 48 points in their final 33 games.

They likely need 22 wins. If they are 22-7-4 or 23-8-2 they will hit 95 points. The Oilers were 21-11-1 (43 points) in their final 33 games last season.

But they will need Talbot to play better. They will need exceptional goaltending. He will likely need a .925sv% or higher for the Oilers to win that often.

Connor McDavid will need to increase his production like Karlsson did, and McDavid is capable of it. In his final 33 games last season he produced 43 points.  McDavid had 57 points in his first 49 games last season. He has 54 this year. It isn’t completely unrealistic to think he could produce 43 points again.

Leon Draisaitl has 40 points in 45 games. He has been quite good at 5×5, but his PP numbers are almost non-existent with only four PP points. Draisaitl hasn’t been nearly as bad as some have inaccurately suggested this season. He is tied for 14th overall in EV points in the NHL. He is capable of being a point-a-game player over a 33 game stretch. He had 34 points in his final 33 games last year.

The challenge for McDavid and Draisaitl, and mainly the coaches, will be to revive their stagnant powerplay. It has been horrendous over the past 29 games, scoring only seven goals on 75 opportunities (9.3%.). Of course the PK needs to improve, which shouldn’t be that difficult considering it is the worst in the NHL right now at 72.2%.

If the PK could just be average, 81%, and the PP clicks at 17% (it is currently at 14.5%), then the Oilers might be able to win four or five games in a row. But outside of their special teams, they will need their best players to carry them.

McDavid, Draisaitl and Talbot will need to be great down the stretch, if the Oilers have any hope of making the final 33 games exciting. McDavid and Draisaitl were very productive while Talbot had a .919sv% in the final 33 games last year, and those three will need to be very good to make the final 33 games watchable.

A playoff berth is highly unlikely, but as the Ottawa Senators proved, anything can happen when a team gets hot.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

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  • freelancer

    The Bettman point era makes comebacks like this almost impossible in today’s NHL. Hope to see this team try and play for something down the stretch but the truth is they tripped out of the gate.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      If they do make it, history shows that teams that “squeak-in” the play-offs go really deep, some win… recently, Pittsburg, Nashville, L.A. all come to mind…
      That’s encouraging, (I’m totally grasping here, but,… hey?)

  • GK1980

    “But they will need Talbot to play better. They will need exceptional goaltending. He will likely need a .925sv% or higher for the Oilers to win that often.”

    Fair statement, but the better the D plays and the more the limit the opposition to glorious scoring chance the better Talbot will be, hypothetically anyways. If Connor can be Connor and the D can learn to step up their game then it might be an interesting end to the season.

  • The Future Never Comes

    I like the optimism, a very commendable trait to have indeed. Although, as I have mentioned from the beginning of the season this team has been to inconsistent and to lifeless far to often. They have not been able to string together solid efforts, not to mention wins, more than four games at a time without falling off of a cliff in terms of performance. Many variables have not been in sync enough all season. No one wants them to fold like a cheap suit, but to have a rallying cry at this stage in the season is far to late. They pissed away the season much earlier with about 20 of their mulligan “no show” performances.

      • The Future Never Comes

        They have been under performing from every aspect of their game all season, you think they are just going to magically improve by literally 30% on their penalty kill at home, score at about a 10% higher rate on the PP, get .20% better save percentage, and about 20% more production from each individual player from every game out? Seems unimaginable, no?

  • PDX Tier 2 Fan

    Like Fox Mulder, “I Want To Believe”.

    But I think their playoff chances are much closer to John Blutarsky’s grade point average at Faber College: Zero. Point. Zero.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    In 10 games ill give you an opinion. Now that’s stepping out on the ledge.

    right now , I still believe. Bring it Oil. You have nothing to lose , no one expects us to make it. My town , My team , I wont give up until they say
    we are out. Plus – we have Connor. That alone jumped my faith.
    All Oilers , All the time, no matter what.

  • Prairiechicken

    Imagine how amazing that first playoff game would be after a run like that. Date to dream.
    Most daunting is the number of teams to leap frog. If we go on a run, chances are one or 2 of the other teams will as well. And we don’t gain any ground. Highly unlikely but man would it be fun.

  • Coiltown Soilers

    Talbot continues a long and storied tradition with the Oilers of being a Big Talker Betty Crocker. The Oilers are always keen to tell the world how great they are going to be in the future. Oh the glory and success they will have! In the future of course. And lets not forget how great they were a thousand years ago. Remember when Gretzky did that thing, then Messier yelled at so and so, and they all drank from the sweet chalice of victory. Ya man, those were great times. Just don’t look at the present. Only haters and trolls would dare to point out how bad this team is currently. Just keep on rehashing the glory days and thinking about future greatness. I guess whatever it takes to get a guy through the season until the draft lottery.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Heres a thought for all you Chiarelli haters put there. If Ottawa doesnt pull that off, Chiarelli is still GM in Boston.

    As for me, I dont see this happening for a few reasons.

    1. Goaltending – Call it a cinderella story all you want (considering what happened to Hammond after all that), but he gave them the goaltending that was required to do this. I like Talbot, but this season he’s been downright horrible at times.

    2. Defence – Now I’m not sure what Ottawa’s blue-line was looking like during that run (Methot, Ceci, Karlsson aside), but Edmonton’s blue line is still “meh” for me. While it is legions better than what we were using 5-6 years ago, we don’t have an Erik Karlsson or a Marc Methot.

    3. Adequate PK and PP – 5v5, Edmonton is one of the beat teams in the league. EASILY. But when your PP and PK cant do their jobs, then you’re not going to win many hockey games, as we’ve clearly seen this season.

    Like I said on the Talbot article, I like the optimisim because it CAN and HAS happened, but this group is better suited to playing solid consistent hockey and missing the playoffs by the least amount of points posible. I DO NOT want another 1st overall. This team should be beyond that now.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Alexitof, Talbot has been downright terrible this season.
      31 teams and he is 41st in SV %. How many years has it been, a DOD and a couple..12 years? The Passionate Oiler fan base deserves much better.
      This Franchise should be beyond that!

  • Serious Gord

    Put it a different way: if the oil make the playoffs they have to be among the favourites to win the cup – they will have to be the best team in the league from here on to just make the playoffs.

  • The Dave

    Honestly, if we can go the rest of the year without getting blown out and/or shut out (or both at the same time) I will consider that progress, and I guess that’s what this year is probably going to have to be about, unless our special teams do a complete 180.

  • jcapss

    I mean the oilers have won 4 of 5. If they do that for the next 30 games that’s a 24-6 record. Add on the last 3 games 26-7 doesn’t seem too difficult if they hit their stride. I believe.

  • crabman

    Gregor as always I applaud your optimism but I think it is more than just unlikely they turn this around but almost impossible. Hammond couldn’t lose if he tries on that run. Talbot didn’t play close to that well in last year’s 103 point year and looks lost out there most nights this year. I hope he bounces back but I don’t think he has it in him to have a run like that. And since the pk has been awful since the 20 game mark.last year and only gotten worse I don’t see anyway that gets fixed until the off season. The Oilers are dead in the water and I really thought you finally given up hope with your rock bottom piece.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    It’s crazy how goalies can get hot & cold…
    Dubnyk, Price, Reimer, Scrivens, Hellebuyck, Mason, to name a few… have all had ups & downs. Hammond stands out because he was relatively unknown at the time. I think he is in Colorado now, pretty good gamble on Sakic’s part as those were outrageous numbers for a goaltender, what a streak… Does Talbot have it in him? Maybe Montoya, has he ever had his “15 games of fame”? Let’s go Oiler’s, I firmly believe you have it in you…

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Oilers making the playoffs. The old jingle just popped in my head “Koolaid Koolaid tastes great, Koolaid Koolaid can’t wait”. Loser points make it impossible.

  • Still Hate the Flames

    Sure, “anything can happen”, but the chances that “anything” happens to the particular team you happen to be cheering for, when that particular team has been as dreadful as the Oilers have been, is next to nil. Sportsclubstats.com has it correct: 0/4%. Can we just stop with this?

  • nijames

    Stick a fork in them folks we are done. Colorado won 10 games in a row and are still not in the playoff picture. Oilers are 5-5 in last 10 games and have lost ground on every team in a playoff spot now. It would take a collapse by about 5 teams for the Oilers to make it. With 3 point games the norm during the last few months of the season just too difficult. Need to change to 3 points fopr a regulation win and then teams could make up ground. Aww the draft lottery parties are back.