We’ve reached the finish line. The one-of-a-kind 2021 season will be wrapped up this afternoon as the Oilers face the Canucks for one final tune-up game before going into their first-round series against the Jets next week.
1. For the first time in NHL history, there will be a regular-season game and a playoff game played on the same day. The Oilers and Canucks will go at 12:30 MT and then the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals will kick off their first-round set on primetime in the evening. It’ll be the same over the next few days as the Canucks slog through their meaningless set of rescheduled games against the Flames. Vancouver and Calgary play on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday while the American playoff series will be in full swing.
2. Save for the draft lottery positions of the Canucks and Flames, there’s nothing left for grabs in these remaining regular-season games. From a team perspective, the Oilers can jump the Bruins in the standings with a win or an overtime loss today, which would put them in 10th place in the league. That could be important if the Oilers were to face the Bruins later on in the playoffs, as it would give them home-ice advantage. Otherwise, this is just a tune-up game before the playoffs start with the simple goal of nobody getting banged up.
3. Speaking of the Bruins, we saw Boston rest just about every regular player for their final game of the season earlier this week. The Bruins sat out Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, and Tuukka Rask. We won’t see the same from the Oilers on Saturday, as it appears they’ll be icing something close to their optimal lineup.
4. It looks like we’ll see Slater Koekkoek get himself into a game for the first time since Feb. 20 when he suffered a broken collarbone. Also, Gaetan Haas will reportedly draw into the lineup for the first time since May 1 and Joakim Nygard will apparently play for the first time since April 19. I wouldn’t expect any of these three to be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Jets but it’s good to give them some reps just in case they’re called on at some point in the series.
5. Connor McDavid has obviously already iced the Art Ross Trophy with 104 points. Leon Draisaitl is the next skater behind him with 83 points and then Brad Marchand sits third with 69 points. Tyson Barrie has also locked up the NHL’s scoring lead among defencemen with 48 points. Everything for this trio is just gravy at this point.
6. When was the last time an NHL team had the top two scorers in the league and the top-scoring defenceman? Well, naturally, you’d have to go back to the 80s Oilers. In 1984-85, Wayne Gretzky led the league with 208 points, his wingman, Jari Kurri, put up 135 points, and Paul Coffey led defenders with 126 points. Elsewhere, the early-70s Bruins with Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr accomplished the feat twice, the 60s Hawks with Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Pierre Pilote did so three times. The Habs have also done so twice with a combination of Bernie Geoffrion, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, and Doug Harvey, while the Red Wings, with a combination of Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Sid Abel, and Red Kelly, did so three times. That’s some pretty impressive company.
7. Another accomplishment that’s really flown under the radar is Darnell Nurse’s Iron Man streak. Nurse missed a good chunk of time back in 2016-17 due to injury but he hasn’t missed a single game since. This will be the fourth consecutive season that Nurse has suited up for every game, putting his streak at 310 games. He’s got a ways to go to reach Doug Jarvis’ all-time record of 964 games, which may eventually be broken by Keith Yandle, who’s played 922 games in a row, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Nurse truly has become a rock on Edmonton’s blueline.
8. If you’re looking for a Connor McDavid storyline to follow this afternoon, here’s the best I can do… If McDavid scores four points, he’ll catch Doug Weight for seventh in all-time Oilers scoring. Weight had 577 points with the Oilers in 588 games. McDavid has 573 points in 406 games.
And, of course, though it’s very unlikely, if McDavid goes ahead and explodes for an eight-point game, he’ll finish the season with 112 points in 56 games, good for a two-point-per-game pace. That would make him the third player in NHL history to produce at two-points-per-game over the course of a season. The only two to do so are Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.