In their last road game of the season, the Edmonton Oilers will face the Minnesota Wild and look to wrap up a clean sheet on the season series for the first time since the year 2000.
Can you believe that we’re already down to the final three games of the season? This morning, I was thinking back to the pre-season and the first game of the year when things looked so promising and we were all filled with hope, and it’s such a bummer to see how things actually played out. Even the most ardent detractors probably wouldn’t have seen this season coming, and that’s what makes this so tough to swallow. I mean, to be 19 points out of a playoff spot in the last week of the season when Connor McDavid is running away with the NHL points race for the second straight season? Come on.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Oilers have lost their last four and really seem to be limping their way into the finish line. Despite all four of those games being reasonably close on the scoreboard, the Oilers were extremely porous in their own end and couldn’t get the saves they needed, which really made for an awful week of hockey. They gave up leads, fell behind early, let the wheels fall off in the third period and really seemed to be finding new and creative ways to lose hockey games. But that’s the way the year has gone, hasn’t it? One step forward, two steps back.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
- Historically, games against the Minnesota Wild have not gone well for the Oilers. The Wild lead the historical head-to-head match up by a sizable margin with a 50-27-10 record (26-14-3 at home). That said, the Oilers have won both games in the season series which sets them up for a series sweep, which would be the first time that’s happened since the Wild’s inaugural season. Minnesota’s 50 wins against the Oilers are its most against any team.
- I don’t think I need to tell any of you that Connor McDavid has been blazing hot over the last half of the season. In March, McDavid went supernova and put up a ridiculous 28 points (13G, 15A) in 16 games, which propelled him to the top of the NHL scoring race. Coming into tonight’s game, McDavid has a six-point lead over the second place Kucherov as he looks poised to win his second straight Art Ross Trophy.
- Cam Talbot has a 4-4-1 record with a 2.46 GAA and a .917 save% in nine career starts versus the Wild, and the Oilers will need his numbers to look more like that than what they’ve gotten from him lately. Talbot will get the start tonight after getting the hook on Saturday night in Calgary after he allowed three goals on seven shots.
- Mike Cammalleri is the Oilers’ all-time scoring leader versus the Minnesota Wild, with 20 points (8G, 12A) in 35 career games. After scoring his first goal in eons against the Flames on Saturday night, maybe Camo Larry could be heating up! *sarcasm font*
- Eric Staal’s amazing comeback season continues as he has once again reached the 40-goal plateau — the first time he’s done it since 2008-09. This is Staal’s third career 40-goal season and could be even more impressive than his first two when you consider that he only had 33 total points two seasons ago.
- We’ve talked about the special teams a lot this year and none of it has really been positive. While the penalty kill has been much better over the past couple of months, the power play continues to struggle. The Oilers’ 14.3% success rate with the man advantage slots them in dead last in the NHL and it’s hard not to imagine a few more wins being up on the board had the PP even been middle of the road.
According to Jack Michaels, the Oilers will be running with the same line combos that we saw in Calgary on Saturday night. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury which, after doing some digging around, seems like a groin issue.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The story of tonight will of course be how the Wild responds in its first game since losing its outstanding top defenseman. What can’t get lost in that shuffle, however, is that the Wild badly needs to rack up a couple more victories to close out the season. It plays tonight at home, then goes on the road to face three California-based teams that are all battling for playoff positioning. Minnesota can’t go down to the wire to get itself into the playoffs, so it better figure out a way to win tonight, as things will get a lot more comfortable for this team if it can manage to do so.
This is a gigantic game for the Minnesota Wild, so every player will need to step up to collectively figure out a way to win this one.
Game Day Prediction: The Wild are working through some injuries to key players right now and are unable to overcome the hole, paving the way for a 4-2 Oilers victory.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid remains one of the only reasons to watch Oilers games at this point in the season.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Milan Lucic was inspired by his big fight with Tanner Glass on Saturday night and he uses that energy to go out and get his first two-goal game of the season.
Take home a growler, a crowler, a sixer, a mixer, whatever. Sherbrooke Liquor. Where’s Your Beer?
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 4/2/2018 – 12:00 pm MST