The race for the two wildcard spots in the Western Conference has eight teams within seven points, and seven teams within five points for the final spot. The Chicago Blackhawks have won four games in a row, and while they are at the back of the pack, only one team, St.Louis, has won more than five of their last ten games. If one team can get hot and win seven or eight games out of ten they’d be in the driver seat, but so far no one has stepped up.
The Edmonton Oilers picked up two points in consecutive matinee OT losses over the weekend, and after Vancouver lost last night the Oilers are three points behind the 8th place Canucks with a game in hand. Despite their five-game skid Edmonton is still in the mix, but as Captain Obvious points out at some point they need to win a few games if they want to stay in the hunt. The Hawks are one of the few teams below them in the standings. The Oilers must find a way to skate away with two points this evening.
1. Edmonton is 2-9 in their previous eleven home games after starting the season 10-4. They’ve been outscored 48-33 and outshot nine times. They must rediscover their home Mojo, and Ken Hitchcock needs to try and get the best possible matchups he can tonight. I’d play Connor McDavid against Patrick Kane’s line, because Kane is their lone elite threat.
2. Kane continues to produce big numbers. He is tied with Connor McDavid for second in NHL scoring, but unlike most of the other top scorers, he doesn’t have a teammate close to him in points. He has 25 more points than Jonathon Toews, the biggest gap between the first and second scorer on any team. All the other top-ten scorers have a linemate or teammate in the top-25 except Kane.
3. The second biggest gap comes in St.Louis, with Ryan O’Reilly (52 points) 17 ahead of Vladimir Tarasenko. Connor McDavid is 13 points ahead of Leon Draisaitl, which is the fifth biggest cap from first to second scorer. Only seven teams have a gap of 10+ points between their first and second scorer, and that’s what makes Kane’s season so impressive. He produces a lot despite no teammates producing big numbers.
4. Since the Brandon Manning for Drake Caggiula trade here is how the players and their teams have performed. In the ten games Manning has played the Oilers are 3-7. He has produced 1-0-1, -1, seven shots and plays 13:35/game.
In Caggiula’s ten games, the Hawks are 5-3-2 and he has scored 1-3-4, is even, has 14 shots and averages 14:33/game.
5. The Oilers need to shed over $1.2m off their roster to put Andrej Sekera on and be under the cap. Waiving Brandon Manning or Alex Petrovic would free up $1.025, but they’d still need to make another move. I wonder if they waive Petrovic first (let’s say Saturday for instance) to see if he gets claimed, because if he does it would free up his entire salary of $1.95 million. I doubt anyone claims Manning, because he has another year at $2.25m, but I could see Petrovic being claimed. If no one does claim him, then the Oilers would still have a day to decide who else to waive before activating Sekera.
6. Waiving Petrovic isn’t ideal, because it means they gave up a third round pick for six games of Petrovic. No different than if they waive Manning and he is in the minors after 12 or 13 games after trading Caggiula to do it. These deals are prime reasons why Peter Chiarelli was fired. The concerning thing, however, is I’m not sold Chiarelli made these trade all on his own. Others in the organization felt they were necessary deals.
7. I’m sure Keith Gretzky will try to facilitate a trade first, and a team who isn’t near the top of the waiver claims might give the Oilers a late round pick to secure Petrovic, but I’d be surprised it would be as high as third rounder. So even if they do find a trade it will be for less than what they gave up to get Petrovic. The opposite of good asset management.
8. I noticed a small change on the OIlers bench this past weekend. Manny Viveiros was on the bench the entire game. In the previous 50 games he’d watch the first two periods from the press box and then be on the bench for the third period some games. The Oilers had yesterday off so I couldn’t ask Ken Hitchcock why the change was made, but I will today. Hitchcock gets on guys hard on the bench, and I wonder if Viveiros is there to be more a vocal upbeat guy. I’ve heard some rumblings some of the younger players were having a hard time dealing with Hitchcock’s intensity or “whining” as former Dallas Stars Captain Brendon Morrow described it in his retirement article. I wonder if Hitch broughtViveiross on the bench to be a positive voice to counter his aggressive style?
9. Zack Kassian and Milan Lucic each have 4-2-6 in their past ten games. Only McDavid (7) and Leon Draisaitl (6) have more goals. The Oilers have slowly started to get some depth scoring, but now the team is leaking goals defensively. Since Hitchcock’s arrival, Mikko Koskinen has a .905sv% and a 2.92 GAA, while Cam Talbot has a .898sv% and 3.38 GAA. They need better goaltending.
10. Darnell Nurse picked up two assists on Sunday and tied his career-high with 26 points. He is on pace for 41 points and is now 30th in scoring among defenders. Nurse has really picked up his play in the absence of Klefbom. The disappointing aspect of this season for Edmonton is that McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson are all having career-best seasons, yet the Oilers are still 24th overall in the NHL and they are 21st in goals for. They compile 27.7% of the 18 skaters every night, and unless the Oilers can find another gear over their final 30 games, they will have wasted some really productive offensive seasons from these five players. The entire team’s defensive play has to improve or they aren’t going anywhere.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/5/2019 – 8:00 am MT