G65 Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers face the NHL’s highest-scoring offence in the Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit:© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
3 months ago
1. For the first time this season, the Edmonton Oilers will face the Colorado Avalanche, the team that swept them in the 2022 Western Conference Final. The two Stanley Cup hopefuls will face each other three times in the final quarter of the 2023-24 NHL season, twice in Edmonton and once in Colorado.
Last season, all three meetings between the Oilers and Avs went to overtime. Cale Makar scored the overtime winner in a 3-2 win for Colorado in January and Mikko Rantanen capped off a 6-5 victory for the Avs in February. The Oilers avoided the season sweep thanks to Evan Bouchard’s game-winner in a 2-1 victory in April.
2. The Avalanche followed up their 2022 Stanley Cup Championship with a strong regular season in 2022-23 but were surprisingly taken down in the first round of the playoffs by the Seattle Kraken. This year, the Avs are in a tight race for the top spot in the Central Division with the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets, with all three teams currently tied with 89 points in the standings.
The team made multiple moves to bolster its roster ahead of the trade deadline. They traded former fourth-overall pick Bowen Byram to the Buffalo Sabres for centre Casey Mittelstadt, who has two points in three games as Colorado’s second-line pivot. He’s centring two other additions, Yakov Trenin and Brandon Duhaime, who were acquired to give the team added two-way depth on the wings. Filling into Byram’s spot on the blueline is Sean Walker, a responsible veteran defender who Colorado acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Since acquiring both Mittelstadt and Walker in two separate deals on March 7, the Avs have won all three of the games they’ve played. Most recently, they went into Calgary and handled the Flames easily with a 6-2 win and then edged out the Canucks 4-3 in overtime the following night.
3. The Avs adding some much-needed forward depth will take some pressure off of the team’s top line to do so much of the heavy lifting offensively. Colorado has scored the most goals of any team in the NHL this season but 101 of their 249 goals have come from their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Val Nichushkin.
The aforementioned top line are the only Avs who have passed the 20-goal mark this season. The next closest is defenceman Cale Makar with 17 goals and then Ross Colton and Logan O’Connor with 14 and 13 respectively.
4. This season looks like it’ll be the one where MacKinnon finally wins the Hart Trophy for the league’s most valuable player. He leads the league with 115 points and is only eight goals shy of reaching the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his career. MacKinnon has been involved in nearly half of Colorado’s goals this season and he’s scored nine game-winners.
Now in his 11th season in the NHL, the first-overall pick from the 2013 draft has finished in the top five in Hart Trophy voting four times. He finished a very close second behind Taylor Hall in 2017-18 and was the runner-up after Leon Draisaitl in 2019-20. MacKinnon also finished third in voting behind Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews in the shortened 2021 season when the two dominated the All-Canadian Division.

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