G82 Game Notes: Oilers should rest Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and more

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
16 days ago
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Evan Bouchard are among the top 30 scorers in the NHL this season. All four should get a night off in Denver as the Oilers prepare for the playoffs.
— The schedule maker did not help the Oilers with five games in the final seven days of the regular season, including three games in four nights. It isn’t ideal, and last night the Oilers rested Darnell Nurse, Cody Ceci and Evander Kane. The Oilers recalled Sam Gagner and Adam Erne from Bakersfield yesterday, and both will play tonight. The Oilers have four extra forwards and two spare defencemen on the roster now, and I’d expect them to rest many of their top players tonight.
— Bouchard picked up his 82nd point of the season last night, guaranteeing he will finish the season as a point-a-game player. He has logged the most minutes of any player this season. If the Oilers didn’t finish with five games in seven nights, I could see them dressing him because he’s young and can handle it. But, with nothing to gain tonight, and an incredibly condensed schedule, I’d rest him. And I’d do the same with McDavid, Draisaitl and Hyman.
— Mattias Ekholm is playing the best hockey of his career. In his last 40 games, he has the second-most even strength points among NHL defencemen with 27. Only Roman Josi has more with 31. Bouchard is tied with Zach Werenski and Josh Morrissey for fourth with 25 points. Ekholm is also +28 at 5×5 with a 52-24 GF-GA differential in those 40 games. He set a new career high in points last night with his 45th, after setting a new high in goals with 11 last week. I expect he, too, will get tonight off.
Last night in Arizona the Oilers played a cautious game. They didn’t match the emotional level of the Coyotes, and when you consider the human element, it is understandable. The Oilers wanted to play better, and they wanted to match the hunger of the Coyotes, who were playing their final game in Arizona, but it is difficult to match that type of emotion when you have nothing to play for and you aren’t saying goodbye to your fans. I don’t think that result means much in the big picture for the Oilers.
— Tonight could be the same story. The Oilers will rest many of their top players, and those who do play just want to get through the game healthy. Warren Foegele reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career last night. His goal celebration showed how much that milestone meant. He’s a pending UFA and will get paid after the best season of his career. None of the other players are chasing a round number. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is two goals shy of 20, but he’s scored 20 five times, so it’s not like he really needs it — if he plays. He is a candidate to be the fourth forward getting a night off, but that can only happen if Evander Kane is ready to play. The Oilers might opt to give him the entire week off.
— Even though the Avalanche have nothing to gain in the standings, I suspect we will see most of their regulars tonight. They haven’t played since Sunday. And they haven’t played very well for the past few weeks. They lost 6-2 in Edmonton on April 5th. Then they went home for three games. They lost 7-4 to Dallas on April 7th, defeated Minnesota 5-2 on the 9th, and then got spanked 7-0 by Winnipeg on the 13th. They blew a 3-0 lead in Vegas the next day and lost 4-3. In those four games against playoff-bound teams they were outscored 24-9.
— They will want a solid performance tonight. Especially from their starting goalie Alexandar Georgiev. He’s struggled down the stretch. In his last eight starts, he’s been pulled twice and has an ugly .856Sv% and 4.80 GAA. He hasn’t been as good as they’d like, but the team has also been giving up too many quality chances lately. Since February 1st the Avs rank 22nd in high danger chances against/60. They haven’t been stellar in front of their goalies.
— Is fatigue a factor for Georgiev? He has started the second-most games in the NHL, however, since February 1st the Avalanche have limited his starts. He’s started 22 games, which ranks 10th among goalies. Among the 60 goalies who’ve made 10+ starts since February 1st, Georgiev is 41st in Sv% at .895 and he’s 47th in GAA. Justus Annunen, who has actually faced a higher rate of high danger chances than Georgiev, has a .928Sv% and 2.20 GAA in his 10 starts. However, he only faced one playoff team, Tampa Bay, in those 10 starts, while Georgiev had 15 games v. playoff-bound teams.
— The Avalanche will start Georgiev in the playoffs, but Winnipeg has the advantage in goal with Connor Hellebuyck. The Avalanche will need to tighten up defensively, or hope Georgiev somehow stands on his head. Tonight’s game won’t have much intensity, as both teams will just want to get through it without any injuries, but you wonder how concerned Jared Bednar is about his team’s defensive play heading into the post-season.
— It is interesting when you compare the Avalanche blue line to the Oilers’ blue line. Cale Makar is an elite player, and Devon Toews is an outstanding defender as well, but their seasons haven’t been as good as Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm’s.
Ekholm8-29-3788-49 (+39)61.05%63%
Bouchard8-29-3794-58 (+36)61.67%63.54%
Toews10-28-3878-60 (+18)55.5%56.2%
Makar11-29-4071-64 (+7)53.8%53.03%
Makar and Toews played 731 minutes with Nathan MacKinnon and outscored the opposition 43-32. Without MacKinnon they played 283 minutes and were outscored 11-10.
Ekholm and Bouchard skated 709 minutes with McDavid and outscored the opposition 53-29. In 473 minutes without McDavid they outscored opponents 25-16. The Avalanche don’t have a second-line centre like Draisaitl, and without McDavid and Draisaitl, the Oilers’ top pair skated 289 minutes and outscored the opposition 15-13.


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