For just the second time this season, the Oilers will face the team that took them down in last spring seven-game second round playoff series. We’ll be seeing a lot of the Ducks to close out the season, so hopefully, the Oilers can do some damage to their playoff hopes.
1. Thanks to this year’s strange schedule, the Oilers and Ducks have only played once so far this season. They play tonight and then they’ll meet two more times before the end of the regular season. So they played once in the first 52 games, and they’ll play three times in the final 30 games. That’s very odd. Anyways, the Oilers won the only meeting of the season between the two teams thus far back on Jan. 4 by a score of 2-1 in the shootout. It was an evenly played game with John Gibson and Cam Talbot both stopping 33 of 34 shots in regulation and overtime before Mike Cammalleri scored the winner in a shootout.
2. The Oilers and Ducks played 12 times last season. Five times in the regular season, and seven times in the playoffs. The Oilers fared well against the Ducks during the season, going 3-1-1, but as we all remember too well, lost in seven games in the playoffs after going up 2-0 on the road in the series. I feel like I need to mention that one of those wins was garbage because Ryan Kesler interfered with Cam Talbot’s pad.
3. The Oilers aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, but they can play the role of spoiler. I’m not really interested in the team tanking because they aren’t anywhere near bad enough to get top lottery odds, and, even if they were, the lottery is set up to avoid tanking and the last placed team only has an 18 per cent chance at choosing first overall. Edmonton, as I mentioned earlier, plays those dirty Ducks three more times this season. Anaheim is currently a couple points out of a playoff spot, locked in a battle with Los Angeles, Calgary, and San Jose for two spots in the Pacific Division. Winning all three games against the Ducks and putting a massive dent in their playoff hopes would be a decent way to get back at them for all the crap from last year’s playoff series.
4. It’s honestly pretty impressive that the Ducks are even in the playoff discussion given the injuries they’ve dealt with this season. They were without Ryan Kesler until Christmas, and Ryan Getzlaf was also injured a few weeks into the season. There was a whole month the Ducks were without their top two centres, but they managed to stay above water. A big key for the Ducks has been rock solid defence and the stellar play of John Gibson, who boasts a .922 save percentage on the season.
5. Speaking of Gibson, the Ducks No. 1 goaltender might return to action tonight after missing just over a week with a groin injury. That’s a good thing for Anaheim because veteran backup goalie Miller wasn’t very good in relief of Gibson. In his last four appearances since Gibson got hurt, Miller posted an .874 save percentage. Having Gibson back will be a big boost for the Ducks. The Ducks have yet to confirm a goalie.
6. Another key reason for Anaheim’s modest success this season has to be Rickard Rakell. In 50 games, the 24-year-old winger had 22 goals and 45 points, and he leads the team in both categories. Him and Getzlaf are the only players on the team performing at or near a point-per-game pace. Rakell’s play this season is especially important given the regression of Corey Perry’s offence. For the better part of the last decade, Perry was a name you’d consistently see towards the top of the league in goals, but he’s taken a step back in each of the past two seasons. Last year, Perry recorded 19 goals, his worst in a full season since 2006-07. This year, he has just 10 goals, putting him on pace for another 19-goal season. Perry has always played a physical game and it seems time is catching up with him. Getzlaf, on the other hand, is still his excellent self, as he has 34 points in 31 games.
7. The Ducks are mediocre when it comes to special teams. Their power play scores at a 18.30 per cent rate, which ranks 22nd in the league, and their penalty kill operates at a 80.79 per cent efficiency, which ranks 16th. That, of course, looks very good in comparison to Edmonton’s special teams. The Oilers are 30th in power play, scoring on 15.6 per cent of opportunities, and 31st in penalty kill, with a 71.52 per cent rate. That said, the Oilers are on the road, meaning their Jekyll and Hyde penalty kill should be very good. They kill 85.9 per cent of penalties on the road, which is the best rating in the league, for some reason, while they can’t kill them at home. It makes no sense whatsoever and is truly one of the most bizarre statistical anomalies I can remember.
8. The Oilers’ power play has looked a little bit better as of late. Against Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, the Oilers moved the puck around quickly and with a purpose and they saw some success because of it. That could bode well tonight as the Ducks are the league’s most undisciplined team. Anaheim has taken 222 minor penalties, which is the most in the league. All told, the Ducks spend 10:56 minutes per game in the box on average.
9. If the Ducks miss the playoffs this season, it’ll be their first time out of the dance since 2011-12, a five-season streak and their longest in franchise history. This year will also be the first time the Ducks don’t win the Pacific Division since that same 2011-12 season. It’s pretty incredible the Ducks managed to win the division five years in a row, though they don’t have a trip to the Stanley Cup Final to show for it.
10. Connor McDavid has nine point in his last three games and has rocketed up the Art Ross Trophy conversation. He has 63 points on the year, which ranks (in a tie for) third in the league, and he’s only five points back of Nikita Kucherov for the league lead. His 1.21 point-per-game pace is just slightly lower than the 1.22 pace he scored at last season, which is pretty incredible given how bad the team has been on the power play this season.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 02/09/2018 – 1:00pm MST