Edmonton Oilers fans haven’t had much to cheer for over the past 12 seasons, and another year without the playoffs is only adding to your misery. But since February 1st, Connor McDavid has made every Oilers game a must-watch.
McDavid has 24 goals and 45 points in 27 games since February 1st. He has been involved in 53.6% of the Oilers offence (45 of 86 goals) and has outscored every player in the NHL by ten points, except Evgeni Malkin (37 points) in the past seven weeks.
The first overall pick in 2015 has taken his game to another level recently, and his quest for back-to-back 100-point seasons and consecutive Art Ross trophies is the main storyline for the Oilers final six games.
McDavid could join a very select club if he maintains his position atop the NHL’s leader board, and he has been very honest about how much a scoring title means to him. Of course it does, as it should, and while he would much rather finish fifth in league scoring and make the playoffs, his focus down the stretch has been to play his best every night.
At times we forget how young he is. He turned 21 in January. Tonight is only his 204th NHL game, and as he said last week to me, “I’m still learning new ways to attack and how to become more effective.” That type of response makes you wonder where his game will be in two or three years.
Is a 130-point season possible? The last time a player surpassed 130 points was in 1996, when Mario Lemieux had 161 and his linemate Jaromir Jagr had 149. Prior to them, Wayne Gretzky scored 130 in 1994.
It is interesting to note Lemieux’s best season, 199 points, came when he was 23 year old. Jagr’s best, 149 points, also came when he was 23, while Steve Yzerman scored 155 when he was 23 and Wayne Gretzky had 208 when he was 23 (his best season, 215 points, occurred the next season when he was 24).
When you look at some of the elite of elite scorers in the NHL, many of them had their best seasons after five or six years of NHL experience. I’m intrigued to see what McDavid can do before 2022.
Until then, enjoy what he is doing now, and if he keeps up his 1.66 points-per-game pace (over the past 27 games) in the Oilers final six games, he will finish the season with 109 points. Not bad.
Zack Kassian returns in place of Iiro Pakarinen. Drake Caggiula will play after taking a puck in the eye on Sunday. It was a freak thing. He was battling in front of the net and got pushed, and when he bent over the puck squeezed through the space between the top of his visor and bottom of his helmet and hit him square on the bone above his left eye. “Been a tough year eating pucks,” joked Caggiula. He took a puck to the face earlier this season and lost three teeth.
Adam Larsson is the Oilers nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” It has been a challenging season for Larsson on and off the ice, but mainly off of it after the sudden passing of his father Robert.
“Whenever you get recognized for something on or off the ice it is nice, but under these circumstances it is probably not what I’d wish it was, but it is still an honour,” Larsson told me this morning.
The Oilers will start the game rolling their top three lines on the powerplay with two D-men. The PP was dreadful on their first two opportunities on Sunday and after that head coach Todd McLellan just rolled out his lines with two defencemen. Ty Rattie scored moments after the PP expired in the second period, and then Ethan Bear scored a third period powerplay goal using the 3F/2D combination.
“We need to learn how to work on the powerplay again. We get a little too cute, too fancy, and that is all fine and dandy when you are in the top three or four in the league (on the PP) and you are trying different things, but when you are where you need to be prepared to work on the powerplay.
“The players responded well in the second and third period, when we went with three lines. There is no given, there is no jump over the boards just because you are a certain player. The groups will go out and we’ll see what they can do when they work,” said McLellan.
Brandon Dubinsky doesn’t have a point since February 13th. He was a healthy scratch for two games last week and the Blue Jackets are hoping he can find his game. “The biggest thing Duby (Dubinsky) bring to this team is his will,” said head coach John Tortorella.
“An injury to an eye or a hand that shouldn’t impact, right now, the will that he can bring to us. I have stated all along that Duby, like most players, makes a lot of mistakes on the ice, but he makes up for it with his drive, personality and will. That is what he needs to find again. I think he has been knocked around a bit. He has lost his confidence. He has had some struggles all through the year. I called him Sunday, two days before we practiced last week and said here is a great opportunity to flush the other s*&t down and just concentrate on this small window of games to try and help us get in (the playoffs). He had a great attitude. He is looking forward to the opportunity and we need him to rediscover the bite in his game,” continued Tortorella.
Sounds eerily similar to the plight of Milan Lucic.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers upset the Blue Jackets 4-3 in OT.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid reaches 100 points for the second consecutive season.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Aberg scores again. He had two goals and eight points in 37 games for the Predators. He had 2-6-8 in 12 games with the Oilers prior to scoring his third goal with the Oilers tonight.
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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 3/27/2018 – 1:15 pm MST