The Oilers will have an opportunity to go into the All-Star break on a positive note with the Detroit Red Wings in town. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Detroit Red Wings currently sit in a tie for dead last in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, and Ottawa Senators. If they finish last, it would give them the highest odds of drafting first overall for the first time since they selected Joe Murphy with the first pick in the 1986 draft. Murphy, of course, was dealt to the Oilers along with Adam Graves for Jimmy Carson where he would help the team to their only post-Gretzky Stanley Cup.
2. Barring some miracle run in the final few months of the season, the Red Wings are on pace to miss the playoffs for the third year in a row. It would represent the first time Detroit has missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons since the franchise’s period of darkness in the 1970s. Between 1971-72, which was the end of the Gordie Howe era in Detroit, and 1982-83, which was the beginning of the Mike Ilitch era, the Wings missed the playoffs in 11 of 12 seasons.
3. At this point, losing is a good thing for the Red Wings. Their historic 25-season playoff streak that featured four Stanley Cup victories ultimately ended with the organization refusing to enter a full-on rebuild when the core was no longer good enough to compete. The Wings had an old and expensive roster when they missed the playoffs for the first time in 2016-17 and a farm system devoid of game-changing talent. In the past two drafts since ending their playoff streak, the Wings have selected 21 players, adding high-quality talent like Filip Vadina and Joe Veleno to their system. Getting Jack Hughes first overall would be a game changer like drafting Steve Yzerman in 1983 was.
4. The Wings will be a very interesting team to follow this off-season. There are already rumours that Steve Yzerman, who stepped down from his role as general manager in Tampa Bay in September, is planning to join Detroit’s front office. If the organization decides to move on from head coach Jeff Blashill, they could be in the running for free agent coach Joel Quenneville. About $18 million will be coming off the books this summer, giving the Wings the opportunity to make a big free agent stab at somebody like Erik Karlsson.
5. The Oilers and Red Wings have met once already this season. Edmonton won the game 4-3 which was a score that really flattered Detroit. The Oilers threw 42 shots at Jonathan Bernier and he managed to stop 38 of them. Without that performance, the score could have been a lot more lopsided.
6. The Wings were right in the middle of their best stretch of the season the last time these two teams met. Edmonton snapped a three-game winning streak with that 4-3 victory and then the Wings went on to win their next four in a row, bringing them up to respectability after a 1-7-2 start to the season. Since that seven-wins-in-eight games stretch in November, though, the Wings have gone 10-17-5 and have won back-to-back games just three times.
7. The Oilers took a big risk on Mikko Koskinen, signing him to a three-year extension worth $4.5 million annually yesterday. It was odd timing, that’s for sure. The team allowed 12 goals in two games over the weekend and Koskinen hasn’t looked sharp in the past few weeks. The spotlight will certainly be on Koskinen tonight as he faces off against a Red Wings team ranked 19th in the league in goals for.
8. Remember a few games ago when Ken Hitchcock had a damning observation about the Oilers and the pattern of their compete level? He said the team only completes hard after they’ve been embarrassed and they feel they have something prove. It creates a vicious cycle in which they get embarrassed, they come back strong, they then get complacent. Rise, wash, and repeat. Well, if that pattern is correct, the Oilers should be in line for a big win tonight as they spent all weekend getting absolutely embarrassed at home.
9. If Edmonton loses tonight against Detroit, they’ll go into their break with a 23-24-3 record. Depending on how other teams around them perform on Tuesday and Wednesday, Edmonton could get passed in the standings by the Coyotes, they can get caught by the Blues, and they can be as many as five points out of a playoff spot. I would definitely call tonight’s game a must win. If
10. I would definitely call tonight’s game a must win. If this team can’t beat Detroit in your final game before the All-Star break after the horrendous showing over the weekend, they don’t deserve to make the playoffs, and they aren’t worth adding to at the trade deadline. I don’t like to ever put too much stock into just one game, but a big win over Detroit with a long break on the horizon and Oscar Klefbom set to return soon could be a nice momentum changer for this group.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/22/2019 – 12:00 pm MT