After a tough loss at home to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, the Oilers are now off on a mini two-game swing through the Central Division. They’ll face the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday and then the Predators in Nashville on Thursday.
1. This will be the third and final meeting between the Oilers and Wild this season. The Wild came into Edmonton and won 4-1 in the middle of the Oilers’ six-game losing skid in early December and then they won in Edmonton again by a score of 7-4 to snap the Oilers’ five-game losing streak right at the start of the Jay Woodcroft era in February.
In order to find the last time the Oilers beat the Wild, you have to go all the way back to February of 2019, a season in which both teams missed the playoffs. Minnesota swept the three-game season series in 2019-20, the two teams didn’t face each other in 2021, and the Wild have won the first two meetings this year.
2. Both the Oilers are Wild are in a similar position in the playoff picture as teams who won’t win their division but are jockeying to host their first-round playoff series. The Oilers are seven points back of the Calgary Flames and are four points up on the L.A. Kings and six points up on the Vegas Golden Knights. The Wild are a country mile behind the Colorado Avalanche and they’re tied with the St. Louis Blues with a game in hand.
3. Speaking of the Kings, they got dealt a major blow on Monday when it was announced that Drew Doughty would miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs after undergoing wrist surgery. Doughty hasn’t played since March 7 and the Kings have gone 6-7-3 in his absence. They’re currently on a three-game losing streak and will look to snap that tonight as they head to Chicago to play the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights have won six of their last seven games. Vegas is now two points back of L.A. with a game in hand.
4. Getting home-ice advantage in the playoffs really would be a game-changer for the Oilers. They’re 23-12-1 at home all told this season and that 2-1 shootout loss to the Avs on Saturday represented the first time they’d been beaten at home since losing 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens on March 5. Their most recent home loss before that? The 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks that ultimately put an end to the Dave Tippett era.
5. The Wild are one of the best scoring teams in the league, which feels strange to say because the legacy from the Jacques Lemaire days of being a boring, defence-first team lingered around well after he left. Minnesota ranks fifth in the league in goals scored with 258, which is on pace to shatter their current franchise-high of goals in a season of 266 set in 2016-17.
Kirill Kaprizov has already set a Wild franchise record for points in a season, which was previously Marian Gaborik’s 83-point 2007-08 season. Kaprizov has also tied Minnesota’s all-time single-season goal record of 42, shared by Gaborik and Eric Staal, while Mats Zuccarello has tied the Wild single-season assist record of 50 set in 2007-08 by Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
6. Keeping the puck out of their own net was a big issue for the Wild earlier in the season but it seems that the trade deadline acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury has fixed that. Since making that trade, the Wild have played 11 games and they’ve allowed more than three goals in just three of those games. Fleury has a .926 save percentage in five games with the Wild while Cam Talbot has responded with a .932 save percentage in six games since the deadline.
7. Edmonton’s goaltending has also been great lately. Since that 9-5 loss to the Flames in which both Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith were shelled, the Oilers have gone 6-0-1 and their goaltenders allowed just 13 goals against.
8. I’ll finish off with a few statistical things to pay attention to as the season winds down. The Oilers have nine games left and are at 90 points, so they’re just 10 points shy of becoming the second Oilers team since the 1980s to have a 100-point season. The other one, of course, was the 2016-17 team, who finished with 103 points. This year’s team needs to pick up 14 more points to finish the season to jump the 2016-17 team as the most successful non-80s Oilers team in franchise history.
Connor McDavid is eight goals shy of reaching the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career. He’s also 18 points away from reaching 700 for his career. Whether it happens this season or next, McDavid will become the seventh player in NHL history to reach 700 career points in fewer than 500 games.
Wayne Gretzky did it in 317, Mario Lemieux in 363, Peter Stastny in 457, Mike Bossy in 469, Jari Kurri in 483, Sidney Crosby in 497. McDavid is at 682 in 479. He needs to score 18 points in 17 games to reach the mark faster than Crosby did.