81
Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 55.0: Looking to Move Up The Standings (3pm MT, SNW)

Edmonton is locked into second spot in the North Division. They will face the Winnipeg Jets in the opening round of the playoffs. Their remaining two games won’t impact the North standings, but they still have something to play for due to this season’s playoff format.

The four division winners will be seeded 1-4 based on their regular season point totals. If the Oilers pick up one point in their remaining games they finish ahead of the New York Islanders and if they pick up three points they will finish ahead of the Boston Bruins as well.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

If the Bruins or Islanders win the East, which is very possible, then finishing ahead of them would ensure the Oilers don’t face the highest seed. These final two games still matter, and the Oilers are approaching them that way. Every organization is different. The Boston Bruins rested 14 skaters last night. Seriously. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Craig Smith, Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo and Tuukka Rask.

The Oilers couldn’t do that even if they wanted to, due to lack of AHL recalls available to them, but captain Connor McDavid, along with head coach Dave Tippett, both want to keep the positive vibes rolling. They don’t want to disrupt their momentum.

Edmonton is currently 12th in the NHL and can finish as high as 10th, but then for the past three months they’ve been much better than that.

From February 1st to now the Oilers have the sixth best points% at .698%. If they win their final two games they will move up to fourth.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

From April 1st to today Edmonton has the fifth best P% at .735%. Win their final two games and they can finish anywhere from first to third.

They have been a really good team for much of the season, after a sluggish first nine games. How a team is playing in April and May matters more than how it played in January. I think it is important for the Oilers to continue their strong play.

In the future, I could see McDavid being okay with possibly sitting out a game, but this team hasn’t had much playoff success. Their star players don’t have much playoff experience, and it makes sense why McDavid wants to keep playing and stay in a rhythm. He is still playing, but Tippett has dialed back his TOI recently.

McDavid’s TOI in his previous five games:

19:07
22:15 (night he was going for 100 points)
20:01
19:04
18:20

In his previous 21 games, he played fewer than 20:01 only three times. And he played more than 23 minutes 15 times. Tippett has dialed back McDavid’s minutes since May 3rd, so there should be zero concern about fatigue. McDavid is freakishly well-conditioned, and reducing his TOI/game by almost four minutes/game is equivalent to him sitting out a game. McDavid gets to stay in “the zone,” but Tippett gets to pull the reins back a bit on his thoroughbred.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It is a win-win for all parties.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Kahun – McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – Draisaitl – Turris
Neal – McLeod– Chiasson
Shore – Khaira – Archibald

Nurse – Barrie
Kulikov – Larsson
Jones – Bear

Smith

No morning skate for the Oilers, so not 100% sure of no lineup changes. I don’t see why there would be unless someone is banged up. Mike Smith seems like the likely starter.

**Edit. Kailer Yamamoto is banged up so Kyle Turris will draw in and play in his spot on 2nd line RW.**

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Canadiens

Armia – Suzuki – Caufield
Tatar-Kotkaniemi-Perry
Lehkonen- Evans – Byron
Belzile – Frolik – YlonenKulak – Chiarot
Romanov – Ouellet
Gustafsson – Merrill

Primeau
The Canadiens won’t have Carey Price, Shea Weber, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin again tonight. Josh Anderson got banged up last game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they give him the night off as well. Defenceman Xavier Ouellet and forward Jesse Ylonen were recalled and will play tonight. I could see Ouellet coming in for Jeff Petry. **Edit** Also Tyler Toffoli, Eric Staal and Joel Edmundson are also out.
Primeau will start in goal.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton keeps rolling and evens their season series against the Canadiens with a 5-1 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Tyson Barrie picks up a point to grab the scoring lead among NHL defencemen. Barrie has been an incredibly productive UFA signing on a one-year deal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: James Neal scores in consecutive games for the first time since October, 2019. He buries his seventh career goal against Montreal and now has 7+ goals against 26 NHL teams. Can you name the five teams he doesn’t have seven goals against? (Answer in comment section at 12:30 p.m.)

Recently by Jason Gregor: