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Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Deep Dive Into Remaining Schedule

There are 30 days remaining in the NHL season. Thirty days to decide which 16 teams will battle for the Stanley Cup, while the other teams’ greatest excitement will be watching a ping pong ball draft lottery. I’m certain I know which cluster teams, and their fans, would rather be in.

The final 30 days will be exciting as 11 teams are battling for eight playoff spots in the Western Conference, but realistically I think there are six teams battling for three spots.

Don’t fret Oilersnation, your team is one of the five with an excellent chance to make the playoffs. Yes, anything can happen, but the Oilers would need a monumental collapse to miss the post season. Let me explain. Here are the updated standings:

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I think St.Louis, Colorado and Dallas are locks in the Central and I have Vegas and Edmonton also in the five teams destined to make it. Calgary is very close as well to being a lock.

The Oilers are in a good spot with 14 games remaining. Let’s say they only play .500 hockey and go 7-7. They’d finish with 94 points. Nashville would have to go 10-5 or 9-3-2, and Winnipeg and Arizona would need to go 10-4 or 9-2-2 just to tie the Oilers. Edmonton has more regulation wins (first tiebreaker) than all of them. Six more than Arizona, four more than Nashville and three more than Winnipeg, so those teams likely need 21 points if the Oilers only win seven games. I’d argue even going 6-7-1 will get the Oilers to the post-season.

Let’s also look at how long it takes for multiple teams to surpass a single team.

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Here is a look at the standings on February 24th and today (Record since Feb 24th):

Feb 24th                                Today
VEG 76 pts                          VEG 82 pts (3-1)
EDM 73 pts                         EDM 80 pts  (3-2-1)
VAN 72 pts                         CGY 77 pts (3-1-1)
Wildcard                             Wildcard
CGY 70 pts                         MINN 75 pts (5-1)
ARI 70 pts                          VAN 74 pts (1-4)

WPG 69 pts                       NSH 74 pts (3-3)
NSH 68 pts                        WPG 74 pts (2-1-1)
MINN 65 pts                     ARI 74 pts (2-1)

Minnesota got hot and made a big jump due to Vancouver hitting the skids, and because the Wild played six games while Winnipeg and Arizona played four and three respectively. Minnesota made their games in-hand count.

Vegas, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Arizona all have 14 games remaining. Minnesota and Nashville have 15 while Vancouver has 16. The Canucks need to win those extra games, as the Wild did, or their advantage is negated. Nashville only gained one point on Winnipeg and two on Arizona because they lost their two games in hand since February 24th. Edmonton went 0-1-1 in their game in hand on Vegas and only gained a point.

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Remaining Opponents

Who you play and where you play matters down the stretch. Here are the remaining schedules for all the teams.

**Teams in red are playoff teams**

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Vegas has four home games, 10 on the road, and all of their games, except against Detroit, are against playoff teams or teams in the wildcard race.

Edmonton has 10 games at home, four on the road and 10 against playoff teams or those in WC race.

Calgary has 10 home games, four on the road and 11 against playoff teams or those in WC race.

Minnesota has six home games, nine on the road and nine against playoff teams or those in WC race.

Vancouver has nine home games, seven on the road and 12 against playoff teams or those in the WC race.

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Nashville has six home games, nine on the road and 11 against playoff teams or those in the WC race.

Winnipeg has six home games, eight on the road and all 14 are against playoff teams or those in the WC race.

Arizona has eight home game, six on the road and 11 against playoff teams or those in the WC race.

Edmonton and Calgary have 10 home games, Vancouver has nine, Arizona has eight, Minnesota, Nashville and Winnipeg have six and Vegas only has four. How much of an advantage it that?

Twitter user @ahennawiyoussef asked me about the remaining strength of schedule and also made a comment about the Oilers being a better road team than home team. I think many feel the same, however, it only looks that way because Edmonton has played more road games.

The Oilers are 16-10-5 at home and 20-14-3 on the road, but in fact Edmonton has a .596 points% at home and .581 points% on the road. I think it is important to mention who teams play, and how good they are at home or on the road.

Here is their home points% (HP%), their road points% (RP%) and how many games they have in each location.

TEAM         HP%                   RP%
VEG         .648 (4GP)          .548 (10GP)
EDM        .596 (10GP)        .581 (4GP)
CGY         .548 (10GP)        .581 (4GP)
MIN         .614 (6GP)          .500 (9 GP)
VAN         .687 (9GP)          .441 (7 GP)
NSH         .542 (6 GP)         .563 (9GP)
WPG        .557 (6GP)          .530 (8 GP)
ARI          .575 (8 GP)          .514 (6 GP)

Vancouver has been the best home team and the worst on the road. Calgary hasn’t been very productive at home to this point, and they have 10 games at home with eight of them against playoff contending teams. If they go 6-4 or 5-3-2 they will have a .600 points% and that should get them to the playoffs.

Looking at the remaining schedules, combined with who they play, where they play and injuries, I think Vegas, Edmonton, Calgary and Minnesota will be in the playoffs. Which leaves four teams to battle for one spot.

The injury to Jacob Markstrom has hurt the Canucks. They won their first game without him, but have lost four in a row since. They relied a lot on Markstrom and Thatcher Demko and Louis Domingue simply aren’t as good. They haven’t played poorly per se, but they simply haven’t made the timely saves that Markstrom has this season. The injury combined with 12 of their remaining 16 games against playoff contending teams has me picking the Canucks to just miss the playoffs.

Winnipeg has the toughest schedule based on quality of opponents, but they’ve managed to stay in the hunt all season. Arizona has Darcy Kuemper back in goal and I think these two teams will battle it out for the final spot. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Jets, and I love how loud their rink is in the playoffs, so I’m leaning for them to get in. But that is more picking with my heart.

The Oilers have a more favourable schedule than Vegas, however the Oilers play Washington, Philly and Tampa Bay — three of the top six teams in the NHL.

Edmonton hosts Vegas this Monday and it will be the Golden Knight’s third game in four days and the second half of a back-to-back. The Oilers need to take advantage of that scheduling and get a win in regulation if they plan on winning the division.

EASY GAMES…PFFT

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) and goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) and the Oilers celebrate the win over the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think there are easy games down the stretch, well except Detroit. The Red Wings are awful, but the other bottom feeders are competitive and they’ve played quite well recently against playoff teams.

Since February 24th Anaheim is 3-2. They defeated Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Colorado.

San Jose is also 3-2 and defeated Pittsburgh and Toronto. They lost 3-2 to Minnesota last night, but outshot them 42-27. Alex Stalock stole the game for the Wild.

Los Angeles is 4-0 after beating Vegas, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Chicago is 4-1 with victories over Edmonton, Tampa and Florida

Ottawa is 3-2 and defeated the Islanders and Canucks.

The contending teams plays these teams and while in the standings they are inferior, there are no guarantees. At this point, I don’t think it matters who you beat, as long as you win enough games to get in. If the Oilers defeat Washington and lose to Ottawa, yeah it is disappointing, but right now what matters to them and Vegas is they likely only need to win seven games to make the playoffs. Calgary likely has to win eight to guarantee a spot.

The final month of the season will be entertaining as teams jockey for positions. There are only three playoff slots in the NHL that I see as guarantees right now. Boston will win the Atlantic and Tampa Bay will finish second. Boston has 98 points and Tampa has 89. I think Dallas, currently with 82 points, is locked in third spot in the Central .

But the other 13 slots are wide open.

In the Metro Division.

Washington has 87 points with 15 games remaining.
Philadelphia has 87 points with 15 games to go.
Pittsburgh has 84 points and 16 games left.

Those three are in a great race for home-ice advantage.

The Eastern Wildcard looks like this.

‪Atlantic third place is Toronto with TOR 79 pts in 68 GP‬

‪Wildcard:‬
‪CBJ 79 pts in 68 GP‬
‪NYI 78 pts in 68 GP‬

‪NYR 76 pts in 67 GP‬
‪CAR 75 pts in 65 GP‬
‪FLO 74 pts in 67 GP ‬

Toronto looks safe in third, but Florida has a game in hand and they have seven games remaining against teams out of the playoff race.

And in the Central St. Louis and Colorado are in a battle for top spot.

Blues have 90 points with 15 games remaining, while the Avalanche have 88 points and 16 games to play. They play on the final day of the regular season.

Enjoy the remaining 30 days of the season. It should be a wild ride, and it beats the alternative of calculating draft lottery odds.

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