In the midst of a playoff race there is no time to relax and exhale. After a hard-fought OT loss to the NHL-leading Boston Bruins, the Oilers face the desperate Minnesota Wild, who are five points behind Calgary and Arizona for the second wildcard slot, but they have two games in hand on the Flames and five on the Coyotes. Nashville is in 10th place in the tight Western Conference, two points up on the Wild.
Minnesota needs the two points to stay in the hunt, while the Oilers need two points to stay atop the Pacific Division, while also trying to gain some separation from the Flames and Coyotes who are only three back of Edmonton.
1. I’d just like to say covering a playoff race is infinitely more exciting that discussing draft prospects. I’ve had 10 years of writing and talking about potential first round picks, and if I don’t have to talk about who is in the top-ten of a draft class until late May or June ever again I’d be very happy. No offence to the kids and their families who will be drafted in the upper half of the first round, but talking about it in February, March and April becomes tiresome.
2. A playoff race is so entertaining that even a game against the Minnesota Wild is exciting to cover. I can’t shake how I see the Wild. They are the epitome of boring in my eyes. I know it’s wrong, because they aren’t the trap-happy, fun-sponges of the past, but that’s what I envision when I see their uniforms. I’m sure you have a team or two in every sport who bores you to death. For me, it is the Wild and Coyotes. Maybe one day it will change, but not yet.
3. Wild GM, and former Edmonton Oiler, Bill Guerin fired head coach Bruce Boudreau last Friday. The timing surprised many as the Wild were in essentially the same spot they are today. In fact, they were three points out of a playoff spot last Friday, but they’ve only played two games since and they are now five back. They lost their first game under interim head coach Dean Evason 2-0 at home to San Jose, but they rebounded with a 4-3 shootout victory in Vancouver Wednesday night. They arrived in Edmonton well rested and desperate for a win.
4. After last night’s action the Pacific Division and Wildcard race looks as follows:
VEG 72 pts in 62 GP
EDM 71 pts in 60 GP
VAN 70 pts in 60 GP
WPG 69 pts in 62 GP
CGY 68 pts in 61 GP
ARI 68 pts in 64 GP
NSH 65 pts in 59 GP
MINN 63 pts in 59 GP
The Coyotes only have 18 games remaining. They will need to get really hot, and go 12-6 or 13-5 to get in. The Wild and Nashville Predators have five games in hand on the Coyotes and two on the Flames, but games in hand only help if you win them. If the Oilers can defeat the Wild in regulation tonight they will move 10 points ahead of them, with 21 games remaining. If the Oilers went 10-10-1 in their final 21 games, they finish with 94 points which I believe will be enough to get in.
5. The Wild would need to go 16-3-3- or 17-5-1 to catch Edmonton. An Oilers win tonight would eliminate the Wild from catching the Oilers in my eyes. It is a big game.
6. If you are superstitious or even a littlestitious (Michael Scott is the best), today the Oilers are on pace for 97 points and #97 Connor McDavid didn’t rule out playing tonight. It would surprise me if he played, but he is going on the three-game road trip, which starts Sunday in Los Angeles, and seeing him on the ice then seems very plausible. Many felt the Oilers would falter without McDavid, but they’ve done the exact opposite: they’ve proven to themselves they can compete with top teams when they work hard.
7. Leon Draisaitl has an 11-point lead in the Art Ross race. If he wins, he’ll be the third Oilers player to win the Art Ross (McDavid twice and Wayne Gretzky seven times), and the Oilers would become only the second franchise in NHL history to have a member of their team win the Art Ross 10 times. A Pittsburgh Penguin has won it 15 times: Mario Lemieux (6), Jaromir Jagr (5), Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (2).
8. In total, 59 players have had at least two 100-point seasons, but doing it consecutively is more difficult. Draisaitl needs five points to become the 60th player to have multiple 100-point seasons, but when he does he will become only the 42nd player in NHL history to do it in consecutive seasons. He’ll become the 23rd player to score 100 two years in a row, including active players like Crosby, Malkin, Nikita Kucherov and Joe Thornton.
Six players have done it three times, including McDavid and Alex Ovechkin.
Brett Hull and Jari Kurri had four consecutive 100-point campaigns.
Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito, Dale Hawerchuk and Bryan Trottier had five.
Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Peter Stastny and Steve Yzerman did it six years in a row.
Gretzky had an amazing 13 consecutive 100-point seasons
9. Here is the Oilers’ scoring last year compared to this season, though 60 games, as well as the Wild’s scoring.
|TEAM||TOP-5 FORWARDS||REST OF FORWARDS||DEFENCE|
10. It might only interest me, but I noticed the Oilers have been pretty consistent in their GF-GA in every period this season. Their goals for by period is 64-63-59, while their GA is 59-59-60. The Wild meanwhile are all over the map. Their GF by period is 46-72-58 and their GA is 50-63-70. The Oilers are 18-2-2 when leading after the first period. They have the third most victories in the NHL when leading after 20 minutes. They are 9-9-2 when tied after 20 minutes and 5-10-3 when trailing.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is 14-5-3 when leading after 20, they are 8-5-0 when tied and 6-12-4 when trailing. A lead after 20 minutes tonight could prove very beneficial for the Oilers based on how their season, and the Wild’s has played out thus far.
The boys are in the mix and we’re looking ahead to April. Please, Hockey Gords, make it so. Competitive games in February! Exclusively at NationGear.ca.
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