The Colorado Avalanche have been the best team in the Western Conference all season. They are the favourite to represent the west in the Stanley Cup, so much so that Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said, “If you are a wildcard team I sure as hell wouldn’t want to play Colorado in the first round, because it’s going to be a waste of eight days.”
No question the Avalanche are a great team, but since Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson became coaches in Edmonton the Oilers have played just as well as Colorado.
— Here is a look at their 5×5 results since Woodcroft and Manson took over.
Edmonton has played one more game and it was an OT loss. They are very close across the board, except Edmonton has produced more high danger chances and goals.
— It is important to note, 5×5 isn’t the only aspect of the game. Goals per minute is always higher on special teams, and thus rather important in the outcome of games. Take a peek at the teams’ overall GF/GP and GA/GP and the breakdown of special teams.
|COL||3.47||2.53||25 of 91||27.5||15 of 82||81.7|
|EDM||3.79||2.73||23 of 98||23.5||20 of 106||81.1|
Edmonton has averaged 0.32 more goals/game, while also allowing 0.20 more goals against. Edmonton is +1.06 in GF-GA and Colorado is +0.94.
The Oilers averaged 2.97 PP opportunities/game and were shorthanded 3.21 times/game, while the Avs had 2.84 PPO/game and 2.48 TS/game.
It is interesting to note the Avalanche have seen a big drop off in their PP and PK per game. In their first 45 games, they averaged 3.71 PP/game and 3.04 TS/game. Meanwhile, the Oilers averaged 2.80 PPO/game and 2.93 TS/game under Tippett. Their PPO/game and TS/game is up since Woodcroft arrived. The opposite of the Avalanche.
— The Avs and Oilers have had almost equal results the past 10 weeks, and I wanted to see who was producing offence for both clubs.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog hasn’t played since March 10th. That’s a huge blow for the Avs, as he was rolling with 10 goals in his previous 14 games. Nazem Kadri returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing eight games, and he should give them a boost.
The Oilers’ offensive depth has been very noticeable the past 33 games. They have 14 skaters who are on pace for 27+ points in a full season. That is outstanding. Their big guns are still leading them offensively, but they are getting excellent contributions from forwards and defencemen. The Oilers are one of three teams (Florida and Carolina the others) who have three D-men with 35+ points.
— What about goaltending? Darcy Kuemper has been outstanding for the Avs since December first, and his play during the Avs previous 32 games has been the same. Mike Smith has played very well also.
RuAA = Rush Attempts Against.
ReAA = Rebound Attempts Against
ASD = Average Shot Distance
AGD = Average Goal Distance
Their numbers are quite similar, although Smith has faced fewer rush and rebound attempts. The shot distance is virtually identical.
— I also looked at their total minutes played.
Kuemper’s creates a bit of space in Sv%, but if Smith and the Oilers maintain a .924Sv% they will be very competitive. Smith hasn’t given up many rebounds and the Oilers have done a better job limiting second and third opportunities.
— The Oilers have been one of the best team’s in the NHL for the past 10 weeks. I don’t see why it should suddenly change. Some have brought up the 2021 playoffs as a concern, but that is in the past, plus this team is quite different.
— Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan are in the top nine while Ryan McLeod and Zack Kassian are the 10th and 11th forwards. Last year in the final two games against the Jets, Kassian and McLeod were on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They actually played well, but that line isn’t as good as Hyman-Draisaitl-Yamamoto. Jujhar Khaira, Devin Shore, Josh Archibald, Tyler Ennis and Gaetan Hass played in the bottom six. Now Foegele, RNH, Ryan, Kassian and McLeod are there. The team is more skilled, faster, and bigger up front.
I’d take the Oilers over the LA Kings in five right now. I just think the Oilers have more depth, they have a different coaching staff and an improved commitment to defence. Edmonton didn’t play terribly last year against the Jets. They made some ill-advised turnovers that cost them the series, but for long stretches they controlled play. They have more skill up front, and I expect they will score more in the first round this year.
— Colorado defeated the Oilers 3-2 in OT and 2-1 in a SO this season. The Oilers outshot them 50-34 in the SO loss. Both games were highly entertaining despite the lack of goals. The Oilers wanted to beat Dallas on Wednesday after losing the first two head-to-head matchups, and they have that same motivation tonight. I’m not sure I agree they could send the Avs a message by winning. I think it is more about an internal message to themselves that they can compete with the top teams in the league. Tonight is an opportunity to show themselves they can contend.
— I’d start Smith tonight and play Mikko Koskinen in Columbus. I think Smith should start game one of the playoffs, so I’d play him against the Avs. A victory clinches a playoff spot, and it keeps the Oilers ahead of the Kings for home ice advantage. The Kings defeated Chicago last night and are two points behind the Oilers. Edmonton has two games in hand, and they own the tiebreaker with three more regulation wins, so they are still in a good position to secure home ice advantage in the first round.
— The NHL playoffs will begin on Monday, May 2nd. The NHL would like all eight series to start on the 2nd, or Tuesday, May 3rd. The regular season wraps up next Friday, except for the Winnipeg/Seattle game that was rescheduled to Sunday, May 1st due to the snowstorm in Winnipeg last week. Carolina and Los Angeles will get one extra day’s rest as their season ends on Thursday, April 28th. Usually, the playoffs begin the Wednesday after the regular season is complete, but the NHL wants to get started quicker and so plan your playoff drafts to occur Saturday or Sunday.
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