G60 Game Notes: Oilers Focused on Catching the Canucks in Pacific Division standings

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
“We are looking at the standings and we want to finish first in our division and first in the West.” — Warren Foegele.
Foegele casually said this after Sunday’s 6-1 victory over Pittsburgh. The Oilers aren’t satisfied with finishing second in the Pacific, nor should they be, but it was nice to hear a player outline what the Oilers expectations are the rest of the regular season.
— On December 20th, the Vegas Golden Knights were first in the Pacific Division, and the Western Conference, with 47 points in 33 games (.712 P%). Vancouver was second in both with 46 points (.697P%). The Edmonton Oilers trailed Vegas by 20 points and sat fifth in the Pacific with 27 points (.466P%) and ranked 12th in the West. Grabbing a wildcard spot seemed like the best-case scenario for the Oilers. At the time, I didn’t see them getting back in the race for home ice advantage, but fast forward 75 days and that is exactly where the Oilers find themselves.
— Since December 21st, the Oilers are 24-5-1 and have the most points, 49, and the best points% in the NHL (.817). Vancouver is tied for the eighth-most points (39) and tied for the seventh-best P% at .650, but the Oilers still managed to gain 10 points on the Canucks, and now trail them by nine points with four games in hand. The Oilers have blown past Vegas, who went 12-15-2, and instead of looking in their rearview mirror, the Oilers have their sights focused forward on Vancouver.
— Catching the Canucks won’t be easy, but with four games in hand, the Oilers are closer than the nine-point deficit. On April 1st the Oilers will still have two games in hand, and if they want a realistic chance to catch Vancouver, they likely need to be five or six points back when the month starts. It is doable, but won’t be easy. Edmonton plays four top-10 teams this month (Boston, Colorado, Toronto and Winnipeg), six bottom-10 teams (Buffalo twice, Columbus, Montreal, Ottawa and Anaheim) and three games v. teams in the middle tier in Pittsburgh, Washington and LA. Winning nine of their final 13 games is very realistic, and they could win 10+.
Vancouver is in LA tonight, and in Vegas on Thursday before they start a nine-game homestand to finish March against Winnipeg, Colorado, Washington, Buffalo, Montreal, Calgary, LA, Dallas and Anaheim. If Vancouver goes 8-3 or worse, the Oilers will have a chance to be within five or six points and make April quite interesting.
— It is stunning to see how badly Vegas has struggled the past four months. Vegas started the season 12-2-1, while the Oilers were 2-9-1. Edmonton hired Kris Knoblauch, while the Golden Knights battled injuries. Since November 12th, Edmonton is a league-best 34-11-1, while Vegas ranks 23rd at 21-20-6. Edmonton suddenly is three points up on Vegas, with three games in hand.
LA actually has a higher P% than Vegas but sits one point back with two games in hand. Vegas just lost to Buffalo and Columbus by scores of 7-2 and 6-3 with their top-six defenders and both goalies, Logan Thompson and Adin Hill, healthy. They didn’t have Mark Stone or Jack Eichel v. Buffalo, but Eichel returned in Columbus. I could understand their offence struggling, but to allow 13 goals to teams ranked 20th and 23rd in offence shows the Knights’ struggles are legit.
Boston won 4-1 in Toronto last night and won’t skate this morning. Edmonton was comfortably in their hotel while the Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs. I’m not sure there is any rest advantage for Edmonton. The Oilers will be playing their third game in four nights with a long travel day in between, while the Bruins will also be playing their third game in four nights and on the second half of a back-t0-back.
— Having the lead after the first or second period would be huge for the Oilers. Here are both team’s records when leading/trailing after the first and second periods (since Knoblauch took over).
Edmonton is 16-3 when leading after the first, and 8-5 when trailing.
The Bruins are 16-1-5 when leading after 20 minutes, but 1-8-2 when trailing.
The Oilers are 16-2 when leading after 40 minutes and 7-7 when trailing after two periods.
The Bruins are 20-0-6 when leading after the second, but they are only 1-12-3 when trailing after 40 minutes.
Edmonton has been much better at overcoming deficits than the Bruins.
— Since Knoblauch’s arrival the Oilers are 19-4 when scoring first while the Bruins are 20-3-7. Boston has scored first in 30 of 49 games (61.2%), while Edmonton has scored first in 23 of 45 games (51.1%).
— Edmonton is 13-3 in its last 16 road games while outscoring the home club 55-38. They’ve done it by dominating at 5×5 and outscoring teams 41-22. Their special teams have actually been below average. Their penalty kill is 75.5% allowing 12 goals on 49 kills, while their power play has limped along at 14.6%, scoring only six goals on 41 opportunities. Eventually their PP will get back on track, but it is a great sign for the Oilers they’ve been crushing teams 5×5 on the road lately.
— Thirteen different Oilers have scored a goal 5×5 over that span. Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Ryan McLeod lead the team with six goals, while Draisaitl and Connor McDavid led with 12 points followed by McLeod and Warren Foegele with 11. The only Oilers skater with a GF% below 50% is Derek Ryan at 20% (1-4), and no Oilers player has been outshot at 5×5 over the past 16 road games.
— McDavid has started to awaken from his odd road slumber. In 2022 and 2023 McDavid was equally productive on the road or at home. In fact, he was slightly more productive in 81 road games (52-87-139) as he was in 81 games on home ice (56-81-137). This season McDavid has produced 15-49-64 in 29 home games and 8-25-33 in 28 road games. He does have 10 points in his last six road tilts, after scoring only 23 points in his first 22 road games. McDavid getting back to normal, production-wise, on the road will only make Edmonton more dangerous. The Oilers’ recent 13-3 record on the road is more impressive when you consider they haven’t needed McDavid going nuclear to win.
— Edmonton is 6-1 in the McDavid era in Boston. He was injured in their first meeting in December of 2015 when the Oilers won 3-2, and they are 5-1 with him in the lineup since. They’ve won their last three meetings by scores of 3-2, 5-3 and 4-1 and McDavid had zero points, one point and one point in the three victories.
Since the start of the 201-2020 season the Bruins have the best home record in the NHL at 119-35-22, but the Oilers are 3-0 in that span. So are the Calgary Flames. Odd.


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