The Ducks roll into Edmonton in the heat of a battle for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Oilers are rolling during garbage time and playing spoiler with the team that beat them in last year’s second round would be a nice way to cap off the final couple weeks of the season.
1. The Oilers and Ducks have met three times this season, and, like last year, the games have been tight. The first game came back on Jan. 4 when the Oilers earned a shootout win at home, the Ducks won 3-2 on Feb. 9 at The Pond, then finally the Oilers won 6-5 in Anaheim in a shootout on Feb. 25. This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season.
2. The Ducks have 89 points through 75 games. That puts them in third in the Pacific Division, but they have the same amount of points as the Blues and Kings, who sit in eighth and ninth respectively. It’s really up in the air at this point who makes it between Anaheim, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Colorado. Dallas and Calgary are pretty much out of it at this point, but three of those aforementioned teams will make it and one will miss out.
3. The Oilers, hilariously enough, could pass the Flames in the standings before the end of the season. It seemed a few weeks ago like our trip down to Calgary for the Battle of Alberta was going to be all about spoiling the Flames’ playoff run, but they’ve done that themselves. Calgary is 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and they’ve lost five in a row. The Oilers are now only seven points behind them in the standings and they have one game in hand. If Edmonton wins their next three games and Calgary doesn’t win a game before their meeting Saturday, the BOA could push the Oilers above the Flames in the standings.
4. Since the Oilers had that big losing skid in mid-February, Connor McDavid has gone nuclear. In his last 15 games, he has 15 goals and 15 assists. Two goals last night against the Kings put him ahead of Nikita Kucherov for the Art Ross trophy race. Both Kucherov and McDavid have seven games left to go and given the way McDavid (and the Oilers, really) are flying, he should take home his second Art Ross trophy in a row.
5. If he does win the Art Ross, McDavid would become the first Oiler since, yep, you guessed it, Wayne Gretzky to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Gretzky won it every year from 1980-81 to 1986-87 with the Oilers. I doubt that anybody is going to dominate league scoring like that ever again. Also, McDavid could become the first player in the NHL in general to win the award in back-to-back years since Jaromir Jagr won it four times in a row between 1997-98 and 2000-01.
6. Nikita Kucherov has 95 points and Connor McDavid has 96 points and both players have seven games left. The Lightning are firmly in first place in the Eastern Conference so we could see Kucherov and Steven Stamkos rested in the final weeks, which would give McDavid a major edge in this race. Tampa Bay will play Arizona, Boston twice, the Rangers, Nashville, Buffalo, and Carolina. That’s a very, very soft schedule. Edmonton will play Anaheim, Columbus, Vancouver twice, Calgary, Minnesota, and Vegas. There’s potential to score a lot of points there.
7. The Ducks have nobody anywhere near the NHL’s scoring lead. Their leading scorer is Rickard Rackell who has 63 points in 70 games. After him, it’s Ryan Getzlaf with 56 points, which is impressive given that he missed two months of play. Rackell is the only Duck who’s broken the 20-goal plateau this year.
8. As a team, Anaheim ranks 22nd in the league in goals scored in all situations. The driving force behind their modest success this season has been strong defence and goaltending. Their blueline, as we know from last year’s playoff series, is quite good, both at being physical and effective in the defensive zone and fast and dynamic at breaking out the puck. John Gibson has been spectacular this season, posting a .927 save percentage, while Ryan Miller has been excellent too, as he owns a .926 save percentage.
9. Cam Talbot, speaking of good goaltending, has been excellent recently. After getting off to an ugly start and ultimately having a very disappointing season, Talbot has been excellent over the past month. In March, he has a .936 save percentage in 10 starts. He’ll start again tonight as Al Montoya, who was supposed to start, injured himself before the game.
10. Pontus Aberg scored the first goal of the game yesterday against the Kings, giving him eight points in 11 games with the Oilers. The eight points matches what he had in 37 games with Nashville before being traded. It’s been a good showing for Aberg, but, like with Ty Rattie, how much stock should we put into garbage time statistics?
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