After hammering the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 7-2 on Saturday, the Oilers will look to extend their winning streak to five games when they take on another basement team, the Ottawa Senators.
1. Monday night’s game will be the official halfway point for the Oilers’ 2021-22 season. They’re currently 22-16-2, which is a .575 points percentage, and they’re on pace for 94 points. Usually, reaching the 95-point mark will get a team into the playoffs over an 82-game season, but that isn’t a guarantee. The Oilers will need to be better in the second half than they were in the first in order to guarantee themselves a spot in the dance.
For the sake of comparison, the Oilers were 20-17-4 at the halfway point of the 2019-20 season, putting them on pace to finish that season with a 40-34-8 record, which wouldn’t have been good enough for a playoff spot. That Oilers team heated up in January and February and had a 37-25-9 record in mid-March when the season got paused due to the pandemic.
2. The difference between this season and the 2019-20 season is the fact that Edmonton will have a more intense schedule in the second half because so many games were shifted to accommodate Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions. After the All-Star break this weekend, the Oilers will play 12 games in 28 days in February, 15 games in 31 days in March, and 14 games in 29 days in April.
It’s pretty much a playoff-style schedule from here on out for the Oilers and the other Canadian teams. Over the course of February, March, and April, the Oilers won’t have any stretches in which they’re off for longer than two days in between games.
3. I wonder if teams will consider doing load management over the next three months. The schedule is jam-packed and players are going to be burnt out by the time the playoffs roll around, which would give American teams who played more in the first half of the season a bit of an advantage.
If you’re a team like Toronto with a playoff spot all but locked up, do you just have a scheduled loss here and there where you let John Tavares and Auston Matthews take a game off? Maybe on the second leg of a back-to-back? What about the Oilers? What would you think about Edmonton resting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for a game when the team plays three times in four nights? It’s harder to justify when you aren’t comfortably in a playoff spot.
The Raptors played Kawhi Leonard in 60 of the team’s 82 regular-season games in 2018-19, the season they won the NBA Championship. It was annoying at the time watching them lose games without him and it probably cost them the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but he was fully healthy and seemed to have an extra step on opponents during the playoffs.
4. If the Oilers beat the Senators, they’ll match their longest winning streak of the season at five games. The team won five games right out of the gate to start the season and had a four-game winning streak immediately after that had them at 9-1-0 after 10 games.
Edmonton’s longest winning streak in 2021 was also five games, a run in February that took them from 9-8-0 to 14-8-0. They also won five games right out of the gate in 2019-20 but never had a winning streak go longer than three games after that.
5. One year ago today the Oilers had their biggest offensive output of the 2021 season when they beat the Senators by a score of 8-5.
I remember thinking in the middle of the second period when Edmonton scored their seventh goal that McDavid or Draisaitl could challenge Darryl Sittler’s record of 10 points in a single game. McDavid wound up with five and Draisaitl had six. This game was also the first of Stuart Skinner’s career. He stopped 33 of 38 shots for the win.
6. It was pretty incredible just how much the Oilers dominated the Sens last year. Edmonton beat Ottawa in regulation in all nine of their meetings and outscored them 41-to-18.
Ottawa was very bad to start the season, going 2-12-4 in their first month of play, but they turned things around after their wild third-period comeback against the Maple Leafs and were a respectable team the rest of the way. After that miserable 15-game stretch, the Sens went 21-16-1, finishing with a 23-28-5 record.
If you take away their nine losses against the Oilers, the Sens had a 23-19-5 record.
7. There was some genuine optimism for the Sens heading into the 2021-22 season given their solid finish to the season in 2021. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t taken a step forward at all. Ottawa lost 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, pushing their record to 13-21-4 for the season. What was their record last year after 38 games? Hilariously enough, 13-21-4.
8. The fact that the Sens were such a punching bag for the Oilers throughout all of 2021 made Edmonton’s loss to Ottawa a couple of weeks ago so frustrating. The Oilers carried a 3-1 lead into the third period in that game and allowed the Sens to score five times in the third to ultimately pick up a 6-4 win. The team surely won’t take Ottawa lightly this time around.
9. The Sens are a below-average team offensively and they took a massive hit when Drake Batherson got injured last week. Batherson was chasing a defender around the net and got bumped by Buffalo Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell, causing Batherson to fall awkwardly into the boards. It was announced that Batherson had a high-ankle sprain and that he would miss two months of play.
Batherson is Ottawa’s leading scorer with 34 points through 31 games. Their next highest scorers are Brady Tkachuk, who has 27 points in 35 games, Josh Norris, who has 26 points in 36 games, and defender Thomas Chabot, who has 21 points in 38 games.
One player who hasn’t taken the step forward that the Sens had hoped is 2020 No. 3 overall pick, Tim Stutzle. In his rookie season last year, Stutzle scored 12 goals and had 29 points over 53 games. This season, he has only seven goals and 20 points through 37 games.
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