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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 66.0: Are You Having Fun Yet? (6pm MT, SNW)

When the calendar turned to February the playoff races in the Pacific Division and wildcard looked like this:

Vancouver 62 points in 51 GP
Edmonton 60 points in 51 GP
Calgary 60 points in 52 GP

Wildcard
Vegas 59 points in 53 GP
Arizona 58 points in 53 GP
Nashville 55 points in 50 GP
Winnipeg 54 points in 52 GP
Minnesota 52 points in 50 GP

The push to the playoffs was on and Oilers fans were happy to be in the conversation.

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Fast forward to today and the standings look like this.

Vegas 80 points in 67 GP
Edmonton 76 points in 65 GP
Calgary 75 points in 67 GP

Wildcard
Vancouver 74 points in 65 GP
Nashville 72 points in 64 GP
Winnipeg 72 points in 67 GP
Arizona 72 points in 67 GP
MINN 71 points in 65 GP

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The Oilers are still in second place. They gained one point on Calgary, despite playing one fewer game. They gained four points on Vancouver, but Vegas gained five points on the Oilers.

February started with a bang for Oilersnation. Edmonton went into Calgary and crushed the Flames 8-3 and Mike Smith fought Cam Talbot and the Battle of Alberta reached a level of intensity we haven’t seen in decades.

Connor McDavid was injured against the Predators on February 8th, and the pessimistic fan declared the Oilers season was over. The players didn’t agree. They went 3-2-1 without McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl scored 12 points in those six games to remove any doubt league wide that he wasn’t an elite player on his own.

Injuries to Oscar Klefbom, Kris Russell, James Neal, Joakim Nygard and Kailer Yamamoto, along with a seven game suspension for Zack Kassian, added to the adversity, but the Oilers managed to keep their head above water.

Now they begin March in the exact same spot they were at the start of February. Second place in the division, but only four points ahead of ninth place Winnipeg. They were five points ahead of ninth place Nashville on February 1st.

The gap has narrowed slightly, but despite the injuries the Oilers essentially maintained their positioning and if they do the same in March they will be in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

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Of their 14 February games, 10 of them were against western conference teams and six were against teams they are battling for in the Pacific Division and wildcard race. Edmonton went 3-3 in those games, beating Calgary, Nashville and Winnipeg, while losing to Arizona, Minnesota and Vegas.

Starting tonight, Edmonton plays nine games in the next 15 days. There will be no shortage of emotions for you. Buckle up.

They have 17 games remaining, with 11 against the West, but only five are against teams they face in the playoff race. They play the Predators tonight and their final game is in Calgary, while they host Vegas on March 9th and 31st and Winnipeg on the 11th.

If the Oilers finish 8-8-1 they will make the playoffs with 93 points. I don’t see eight teams finishing with more than 93 points and the Oilers currently lead in the first tiebreaker (regulation wins, RW). They have 29 RW, while Vegas and Minnesota are at 28, Vancouver and Winnipeg at 26, Nashville and Arizona with 25 and Calgary has 24.

A record of 8-8-1 seems very doable, but if the Oilers want home ice advantage in the first round, they probably need to win nine or 10 games.

Enjoy the ride. This month will be the most fun you’ve had as an Oilers fan in a long time, and based on Leon Draisaitl’s post-game on-ice interview on Saturday, you know the players are just as excited as you are.

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LINEUP…

Oilers

RNH-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
Ennis-McDavid-Archibald
Athanasiou-Sheahan-Kassian
Khaira-Haas-Chiasson

Nurse-Bear
Jones-Larsson
K.Russell-Benning

Smith

Kailer Yamamoto returns to the lineup after missing three games with an ankle injury. The second and third lines could change depending how the game goes.

Predators

Forsberg-Turris-Granlund
Jarnkrok-Duchene-Arvidsson
Blackwell-Johansen-Sissons
Grimaldi-Bonino=Smith

Josi-Ellis
Tinordi-Ekholm
Hamhuis-Fabbro

Rinne

The Preds don’t lack scoring depth, but they lack a dominant line right now. Their most dangerous offensive threat is blueliner Roman Josi. Edmonton has to be on alert when he is on the ice. He’s excellent at joining the rush and transporting the puck through the neutral zone.

Pekka Rinne is 5-6-1 in 2020 with a .911Sv% and 2.98 GAA. His numbers have been okay, but when you drill down game-by-game he has either been really good or struggled. There hasn’t been much middle ground. In his six good starts, he’s only allowed nine goals, and no more than two in any game. He’s posted Sv% of .974, .968, .958, .947, .947 and .935. In his other six starts he’s allowed 25 goals with Sv%’s of .903, .886, .867, .857, .844 and .765.

Rinne is 22-9-1 all-time against the Oilers. He’d won 12 straight against the Oilers until they beat him and the Predators 4-2 in Edmonton on January 14th, 2020. He hadn’t lost a game in almost six years prior to that defeat. He can still dominant games, but as the aforementioned numbers show he’s more susceptible to an off-night now that he is 37 years young. Edmonton needs to get him moving side to side.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Preds won 13 in a row over the Oilers between October, 29th, 2014, to October 20th, 2018. Since then Edmonton has won three of the past four, and their only loss was in a SO. Edmonton continues their strong play against the Preds and skates away with 4-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl scores. He has 10 goals in 16 career games against the Predators.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Kris Russell scores. He has more career goals and points against the Predators than any team in the NHL. The Cowboy scores his first goal of the season tonight.

MVP! MVP! MVP!

How could we not? The dude is on a heater to end all heaters, and that calls for a t-shirt. Get your MVP tee exclusively at NationGear.ca

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