Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Oilers @ Flames: Appreciate Greatness

The Edmonton Oilers are 7-2 in their last nine games. They’ve outscored opponents 25-20 at 5×5, and 10 of the goals against came in their two losses to Calgary and Winnipeg. Slowly the Oilers are showing signs of reducing their 5×5 goals against, and they will be looking for a bounce back effort tonight in Calgary after losing to the Flames 6-4 two weeks ago.

One of the biggest positives over the last nine games is how Edmonton hasn’t had to rely on the offensive greatness of Connor McDavid at 5×5 to produce goals. Thirteen Oilers have a 5×5 goal in the past nine games and McDavid isn’t one of them. He has seven assists at 5×5. This is a positive for the team, and McDavid is doing quite well, thank you, producing 18 points in the last nine games, including scoring his 500th and 501st career points on Wednesday.

— He tied Sidney Crosby for eighth fewest games needed (369) to register 500 points. It truly is an amazing achievement, and I think it is important we take some time to focus on it. Often we don’t appreciate greatness until after the fact. When I enter the arena to cover games, or while watching at home, I assume McDavid will score points — he’s just that good. But I also need to remind myself it isn’t easy to consistently produce points in the NHL, yet he does it, and he’s getting better at it.

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— Let’s take a quick look at his scoring prowess since he entered the league at 18 years of age.

In 2016 he scored 48 points in 45 games for an average of 1.07 points/game.
In 2017 he tallied 100 points in 82 games at a 1.22 P/GP pace.
In 2018 he scored 108 points in 82 games, good for 1.32 P/GP.
In 2019 he produced 116 points in 78 games at a 1.49 P/GP.
In 2020, after rehabbing all summer, he scored 97 points in 64 games, a 1.52 P/GP pace.
And this season in 18 games he has 32 points, which equals a 1.78 P/GP pace.

The next closest scorers are Leon Draisaitl (1.56 P/GP), Jonathan Huberdeau and David Pastrnak (1.43) and Joe Pavelski at 1.42.

— Since entering the NHL McDavid has averaged 1.36 P/GP. Nikita Kucherov is next at 1.22 (464 points in 381 games), and Patrick Kane is third at 1.18 (488 points in 415 games). McDavid is averaging over 0.36 more points per game than every player in the NHL except 12. Really offensive players like Mitch Marner and Alex Ovechkin have averaged 0.99 points/game in the same span. Being 28% more productive than player of that ilk is amazing.

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— McDavid became the 492nd player to score 500 points. He is now tied with Bob Gainey for 488th with 501 points. Scoring consistently in the NHL is difficult, and here are some quick numbers to show it.

Currently there are 493 players with 500 points.
335 players have 600 points.
247 have 700 points.
171 have 800 points.
117 have 900 points.
90 have 1,000 points.
62 have 1,100 points. Evgeni Malkin needs 17 points to reach 1,100.
49 have 1,200 points. Patrick Marleau needs 11 points to reach 1,200
34 have 1,300 points. Alex Ovechkin needs nine to reach 1,300 and Crosby needs 25.
20 have 1,400 points including Joe Thornton.

— While watching McDavid score 500 points, I had already looked to see how quickly he could reach 1,000. I didn’t hesitate for a moment thinking he wouldn’t. Of course he should, but to just assume a player will score 1,000 points is odd. By the time he reaches 1,000 points there might 97 or 98 players at that mark as Ryan Getzlaf, Anze Kopitar, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, John Tavares and Blake Wheeler could get there. But they will all have needed close to, or over, 1,000 games played. McDavid is tracking to reach 1,000 points around the 750-game mark, possibly even sooner. It is difficult not to take it for granted how elite he is at producing points. Some days I have to remind myself that what I’m watching on a nightly basis is not close to normal, but is in fact extremely rare.

— McDavid has played 369 games. He has at least one point in 276 of those games. He had two points in 146 games. He’s had 58 games with three points and 14 games with four or more points. In 40% of his games he’s scored at least two points. Amazing.

— He loves playing the Flames. He has 16 goals in 21 games against Calgary and he’s had three points four times.

— Since McDavid entered the NHL, his 501 points lead the league. Only eight players have even 400 points led by Patrick Kane (488), Kuchervov (464), Draisaitl (441), Brad Marchand (436), Artemi Panarin (430), Crosby (422), Blake Wheeler (413) and Nathan MacKinnon (409). McDavid has scored 105 more points than Johnny Gaudreau (who is tied with Ovechkin for 10th most points), and Gaudreau has played 30 more games. Gaudreau is a really productive player, but even he isn’t close to McDavid’s production.

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— Edmonton enters tonight three points ahead of Calgary, but the Flames have two games in hand. A weekend sweep of the two games for either club would be huge, but the Oilers could be seven points ahead of Calgary by 11 p.m. tomorrow night. The Flames have struggled to find any consistency in their play this season according to head coach Geoff Ward.

“We’ve been talking about that (inconsistency) for a while now,” said Ward after Wednesday’s loss in Vancouver. “It’s time to put this thing to bed and take charge and take control of what we can. We can control the way we start and we can control how we pay attention to details and how hard we compete and how much we care. All those things are certainly within our control.

“It’s time for us to start giving a shit about it.”

Ward was not happy with their play, and yesterday they had a lengthy on-ice chat before practice began. I’d expect the Flames to ready, but if the Oilers can score early, you wonder if frustration might set in.

— The Oilers are 8-2 when leading after the first period, but  1-5 when trailing after 20 minutes, while Calgary is 3-1-1 when leading after 20 and 4-5 when trailing. Calgary has scored first in six of their 16 games and Edmonton has lit the lamp first in nine of their 18 games. Edmonton has been very good when scoring first (7-2), but an early goal against a frustrated club would be huge.

Mike Smith is officially 3-0 (he ended up with a no-decision after getting pulled on Monday), but I’d say he is 3-1. He has a sparkling .938sv% and 2.07 GAA. Outside of the Mason Appleton goal, I think he has looked really solid in his four starts. I also loved his new ode to Andy Moog on the mask he wore on Wednesday. I’d start him tonight and go with Mikko Koskinen tomorrow in Edmonton, and if Koskinen plays well let him start Tuesday in Vancouver and get them back into a similar pattern as last season if both are playing well.

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