The Oilers will look to snap their season-long six-game losing streak against the Colorado Avalanche who will welcome back Nathan MacKinnon from the Injured Reserve.
1. The Colorado Avalanche have been one of the most surprising teams in the league this year. After a miserable 2016-17 season in which they finished dead last in the league by a mile, Colorado has been thoroughly solid this year. Interestingly enough, their turnaround came after they dealt away Matt Duchene. When Duchene was traded, Colorado was 12-12-2. Since then, they’ve gone 19-10-2 with a massive 10-game win streak right in the middle of it. Their 10 wins over that streak represent nearly half of the wins they had in all of last season.
2. Nathan MacKinnon really broke out after the Avs dealt Duchene. I mean, he was already a very good player, but he was putting up an MVP-calibre season between the time Duchene was dealt and the time he was sidelined with an upper body injury. In 35 games since Duchene was dealt, MacKinnon put up a whopping 20 goals and 27 assists. He’s missed the team’s last eight games, but will be back in the lineup tonight against the Oilers.
3. The Oilers and Avs have played just once this season. It came on Feb. 1, which happened to be the first game MacKinnon missed due to his injury, and the Avs won 4-3 in overtime. It was the game the Oilers had a goal disallowed after the refs went upstairs and called it a good goal. Connor McDavid scored with under a minute left but the Avs ended up winning in overtime.
4. Semyon Varlamov will start in net for the Avalanche tonight. He’s had a pretty solid season as he owns a .913 save percentage. Last year, Varlamov had an .898 save percentage, which I would largely chalk up to the team being extremely bad. The Avs have had a pretty successful duo in net this year with Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier splitting the games.
5. What do the Avs do well? They’re ninth in the league in goals and 17th in the league in goals against in all situations. Their power play id mediocre, ranking 21st in the league, but their penalty kill is excellent, ranking fourth in the league. While their power play isn’t very efficient, the Avs get the second-most power play opportunities in the league, which has helped their goal totals. The key behind the team’s success, really, has been the top line of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen. The trio has scored 61 of the team’s 177 goals this year.
6. The Avs just recently got back from an extended road trip, but they haven’t lost a game on home ice since all the way back on Dec. 27 against the Arizona Coyotes. The subsequent win against Toronto after that game against Arizona is what kicked off their 10-game win streak. On the other hand, the Oilers haven’t won a game on the road since their Jan. 13 win over Vegas prior to their bye week.
7. This six-game losing streak has plummeted the Oilers down the standings very quickly. With yesterday afternoon’s loss to Arizona, Edmonton is now only six points above Arizona for 31st place in the league. Honestly I hadn’t checked the standings in a while and was shocked to see how low the team had sunk.
8. Will Colorado score a goal on their first shot of the game tonight? Arizona did yesterday and it was all they needed to breeze to a 1-0 win. The Oilers have allowed a goal on the first shot in nearly 20 per cent of their games this year, which is nothing short of incredible. When the other team scores first, which is quite often I should add, Edmonton is just 6-19-1. There’s just no resilience with this group whatsoever.
9. Another matinee game! Wow! It seems we’ve had waaaaay more afternoon games than usual this season. The Oilers have played nine afternoon games and they’ve won just two of them. After today’s game, they still have two more afternoon games on the schedule. That’ll bring them to 12 matinee games overall on the season.
10. Another wild stat: The Oilers have lost 18 coaches challenges in a row. That dates all the way back to last year’s playoffs. How does Cam Talbot feel about it? “There’s no consistency and I’m f*****g sick of it. It’s f*****g ridiculous. You can quote me, they can fine me, I don’t give a f*** anymore.” Same, Cam. Same.
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