G64 Game Notes: Oilers Square off Against the Capitals, Look for Season Series Sweep

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
Tonight will be the 12th head-to-head matchup between Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin. Edmonton is 5-6-1 in the previous 12 meetings and 6-7-1 in the 14 games they’ve played since McDavid entered the NHL in 2015. McDavid and Ovechkin have each missed one game during that time — the Oilers won with Ovechkin out of the lineup and the Capitals won when McDavid was out. In a strange twist, McDavid has more goals in their head-to-head matchups with 7-13-20, while Ovechkin has tallied 5-6-11.
McDavid is in the prime of his career, while Ovechkin is chasing history late in his career.
— Ovechkin is 54 goals shy of tying Wayne Gretzky for the most goals in NHL history in the regular season. He started slowly with only five goals in his first 29 games, but he’s picked up the pace since, tallying 13 goals in his last 31 games. If he maintains a pace of 13 goals in 31 games, he will need another 130 games to tie Gretzky. The Capitals have 19 games remaining this year, so at his recent pace, he would break the record at some point during the 2025-26 season. Even the greatest players in history start to slow down, and we have seen that this season with Ovechkin, although his 18 goals rank 96th, which is still pretty damn good.
— Ovechkin needs two goals to reach the 20-goal plateau for the 19th time in his career. That would tie him with Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr and Dave Andreychuk for third-most seasons with 20+ goals. Ron Francis did it 20 times, while Gordie Howe had 22 seasons with 20+ goals. Ovechkin is tied with Mike Gartner for the most 30-goal seasons with 17. He has the most 40-goal campaigns with 13 and is tied with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons with nine.
— It will be difficult for him to catch Gretzky, even though 54 goals don’t seem like a lot for a guy who scored 50+ goals nine times. Tonight, he is playing with Hendrix Lapierre and Aliaksei Protas. Lapierre will play his 39th NHL game, while Protas is trying to become a regular NHLer. Lapierre was a first-round pick in 2020, and the Capitals are hoping he can be their center of the future, but he’s not yet in the same category as Niklas Backstrom or Evgeni Kuznetsov, who helped Ovechkin surpass 800 goals. Ovie’s quest to catch Gretzky will be challenging due to his age and the lack of talent around him.
— Fun trivia question: There are 134 players with at least 10 seasons with 20 goals. Only three of them weren’t first round draft picks. Can you name them, without using the Internet? *Answer will be in GDB*
— “He will fight and battle, and he moves the puck well,” Knoblauch on Troy Stecher. “He won’t play tomorrow (tonight), but we plan on getting him in the lineup very soon.” Knoblauch wouldn’t give a specific number of games he’d like Stecher play down the stretch, but I’d expect he will play five or so, just to keep in rhythm in case an injury occurs come playoff time.
— Matt Larkin wrote an interesting article about the importance of team heaviness in the playoffs. Lately, it is becoming more critical and that could bode well for the Oilers, as they are the fourth-heaviest team in the NHL right now. Big, fast and skilled are more important than ever, it seems.
Commenter MCJCMC said this about the Oilers’ power play: “Their PP will find success against weaker PKs, but any solid D-team is going to have success against it until it changes.”
Just a quick note. The Oilers’ PP is 28.5% since the start of the 2019-20 season. Claiming the Oilers’ PP needs to change to have success is comically wrong.
Only nine teams in NHL history, excluding this Oilers team, have had one season of 28.5% success. The Islanders did it three times (1978, 1979, 1981), followed by Montreal (1978, 1980), the Rangers (1978), Edmonton (1983), Calgary (1988) and Tampa Bay (2024). The Islanders from 1978-1982 also had a PP success rate of 28.5%, to tie the Oilers for the best PP% over a five-year period. Montreal’s best five years was 27.2%, the Oilers (1982-1986) had 26.4%, Calgary posted 26.2%, Tampa Bay had 24.8% and the Rangers 23.4%.
—  And what about MC’s claim the Oilers are only good against weaker PKs? Only four teams have held the Oilers’ PP to under 20% in the past five years. Boston (13.6%), Detroit (15.8%), Florida (16.7%) and LA (19.8%). The Bruins have the second-best PK over the past five years, while LA is 15th, Florida is 17th, and Detroit is 27th.
Here is how Edmonton ranks against the top-10 PKs since 2019-20:
1st Carolina: 23.1%
2nd Boston: 13.6%
3rd Calgary: 30.7%
4th Washington: 38.5%
5th San Jose: 21.2%
6th NYR: 39.1%
7th Tampa Bay: 25.9%
8th Pittsburgh: 20.8%.
9th Dallas: 20%
10th Colorado: 30.4%
Edmonton has a combined 26.1% v. the top 10 penalty kills in the NHL in the past five seasons. Toronto has the second-best PP% in the NHL the past five seasons at 25%. So, the Oilers would still be first if they only faced the top-10 PK teams.
Edmonton’s PP has struggled in March. Fair, but that’s all it is — a six-game funk. Trying to suggest it is too predictable or teams have figured them out is a massive reach. The truth is the Oilers’ PP has struggled on the road this season, which is very odd, considering their PP success didn’t vary whether they were at home or on the road the previous four seasons. Here are their home and road splits since 2020.
— From 2020-2023 the Oilers’ power play was a combined 28.9% at home and 29.3% on the road. They scored 121 goals on the road on 413 chances and tallied 136 goals on 471 chances at home.  But this season there has been a massive difference at home compared to the road. The PP is 34.1% at home and 18.2% on the road.
The PP success at home and struggles on the road mirror McDavid’s splits. He has 64 points in 29 home games and 39 pts in 32 road games. From 2020 to 2023 McDavid had 245 points in 233 home games and 233 points in 143 road games. I asked McDavid about his splits and the power play splits. “When I play better the PP is often better,” said McDavid. He added he doesn’t have a good explanation to the odd road/home splits, and I think that is valid. It is an outlier. Both McDavid and the PP have been equally effective on the road and at home prior to this season. McDavid is the leader of the team, and I’m not surprised he tried to put the struggles on him, but when the power play is effective all five guys are making an impact, and when it is struggling, I see it being a group challenge.
— “You have to find a balance of playing with structure and intuition, and lately we haven’t played with enough structure,” said Knoblauch on the recent PP funk. “I thought we did (play with structure) our last game in Pittsburgh, and we had some really good looks. You will go through stretches where the PP doesn’t look good, but it still finds ways to get the puck in the net. It hasn’t been firing on all cylinders, but we’ve also had some bad luck. We’ve hit some posts in Buffalo. Leon hit one, Connor hit one and I think Bouch hit one on the road trip.”


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