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GDB 70.0: Oilers battle the Jets in the race for home ice (6pm MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
22 days ago
The eight playoff teams in the Western Conference are set, and the next three weeks will determine home-ice advantage and the four first-round matchups.
Be sure to check out the latest NHL playoff odds with online sportsbook Betway.
Vegas defeated St. Louis 2-1 last night, and that pretty much assures the defending champs will be in the playoffs.
If Vegas goes 6-5 in its final 11 games, St. Louis needs to go 8-1-1 to tie them, while Minnesota would need to go 10-1. If Vegas is 6-4-1 then the Blues need to go 9-1 and Minnesota has to go 10-0-1. You get the drift. The Blues and Wild aren’t officially eliminated, but let’s be real: We know the eight teams that will be in the dance. However, no matchups are set, and Vancouver is the only team that seems destined to finish in its position. If they go 5-5 in their final 10 games, then the Oilers need to go 10-3 to catch them in points, but Vancouver would most likely own the first tiebreaker. Again, let’s be real, Vancouver will finish first in the Pacific Division.
But they are in a battle with Colorado and Dallas for first in the West and the #1 seed. Colorado has won nine games in a row to move ahead of Vancouver in P%, and the race for top spot in the West and Central will be tight. As will the race for second place in the Central, third place in the Pacific and the two wildcard spots.
Nashville is riding a 17-game point streak since February 17th. They are 15-0-2 and have been crushing teams. They lead the NHL in GF/GP at 4.06 and have the lowest GA/GP at 1.71. They’ve moved into the first wildcard spot, and if they continue to roll, and the Jets struggle, there is a slim chance they could finish third in the Central.
The LA Kings are one point back of the Oilers, and they meet Thursday in Edmonton. The Oilers have two games in hand, but games in hand only help if you win them. I don’t see any clear weak team in the West. Some teams are better matchups for others, and I wonder how much home ice advantage will matter in the opening round.

HOME AND ROAD RECORDS…

Here’s a look at the eight team’s overall home records.
COL: 28-6
VAN: 24-8-4
EDM: 23-8-3
WPG: 23-9-2
VGK: 23-11-2
DAL: 22-10-4
NSH: 20-15-1
LA: 17-11-7
Colorado has been great at home ice and Nathan MacKinnon has points in all 34 games. They’ve outscored teams 148-86 and their goal differential of +62 is best in the West by far. Edmonton and Vancouver are tied for second at +43.
Colorado is 5-1 at home v. the other seven playoff-bound teams while Vegas is 6-3, Vancouver is 5-4-1, Dallas is 4-4-3, Edmonton is 3-3-2, Nashville is 3-6, LA is 2-5-3 and Winnipeg is 2-6. Only Colorado and Vegas have won more than half their home games v. the other squads.
While the Avs are dominant at home, they’ve won less than half of their total road games.
DAL: 22-9-5
NSH: 22-10-3
LA: 21-11-4
VAN: 21-11-4
WPG: 21-13-3
EDM: 19-15-1
COL: 18-14-5
VGK: 16-14-5
The Avs have been outscored 125-119 on the road, and along with Vegas, also -6, are the only two teams with a negative goal differential on the road. However, they are much more competitive against the top teams in the West than the rest of the NHL.
Dallas is 6-1-1 on the road v. the other seven west playoff teams.
Nashville is 7-4, Vegas is 5-1-1, Vancouver is 5-2-1, LA is 5-4, Colorado is 5-5, while Edmonton and Winnipeg are both 4-4.
It is interesting to see how all eight teams have won at least half their road games, but only three have won half of their home games.
Maybe home ice advantage won’t be that significant in round one, however, I’d still want it for game seven.

JETS AND OILERS LOOKING TO REBOUND…

Winnipeg carries a three-game losing skid into tonight’s tilt, while the Oilers have lost two in a row. Neither streak is long, but considering Nashville is on a 15-0-2 run, Colorado has won nine in a row, Dallas and LA have won four consecutive games, Vegas has won three, and Vancouver had their winning streak snapped by LA last night, the Oilers and Jets have lost ground to all six teams the past few days and a victory tonight seems a bit more important.
Winnipeg has been the best defensive team in the NHL all season, but they’ve allowed 13 goals during their three-game skid (one was an empty netter). They’ve only scored four goals, and offence continues to be their weakness. On the season they are 18th in goals/game at 3.07, however since they acquired Sean Monahan (February 3rd) they are 20th at 2.92, and since March 1st they rank 12th at 3.15. Since March 1st only Vancouver and Vegas rank below them in offence among the eight playoff teams.
The Jets rank 10th in GA/GP since March first at 2.62, but that is still behind Nashville, LA, Vancouver, Colorado and Edmonton.
The West is ultra-competitive. The stretch drive features 21 head-to-head matchups between these clubs, and those games will go a long way in determining the four first-round matchups.
Home game = Black
Road game = Red
Top-10 opponent = Green
Bottom-10 opponent = Yellow
Nashville and LA are currently 11th and 12th in P%.
Edmonton and Winnipeg have seven head-t0-head matchups, while Colorado, Vegas and Vancouver have six, Dallas four, LA three and Nashville only has two. LA has the easiest strength of schedule, followed by Nashville.

GAME DAY ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Henrique – Draisaitl – Foegele
Kane – McLeod – Perry
Janmark – Ryan – Brown
Ekholm – Bouchard
Nurse – Ceci
Kulak – Desharnais
Skinner was pulled after 40 minutes in Toronto on Saturday. It was the fourth time in his career (110 starts) he didn’t finish a game he started. In his previous three games after being pulled Skinner is 2-0-1 with a .950Sv% and 1.62 GAA. Earlier this season after being pulled in Carolina, he shutout Washington in his next start, which was the beginning of the Oilers’ 16-game winning streak. We’ll see how he bounces back tonight.
Desharnais with Kulak is where they’ve had the most success, so reuniting them makes sense. Darnell Nurse needs to play better. He’s their more talented overall defenceman, and when he plays up to his capabilities, he is a difference maker. The past few months he hasn’t been at his best, but he’s more than capable of getting back on track. It doesn’t matter who is partner is, he will be the backbone on the pairing, whether he plays with Cody Ceci, Vincent Desharnais or Troy Stecher, and Nurse needs to be the one controlling the play.

Jets

Connor – Schiefele – Iafallo
Ehlers – Monahan – Toffoli
Niederreiter – Lowry – Appleton
Barron – Namestnikov – Perfetti
Morrissey – Demelo
Dillon – Pionk
Stanley – Schmidt
Hellebuyck
Head coach Rick Bowness returns to the bench after taking a medical leave for the past four games. “Just the body reminding me that I am 69, not 39,” said Bowness this morning regarding his health. He feels good and is excited to get back to coaching. His return will likely give the Jets a boost, as he is well liked by his players. Gabe Vilardi skated this morning, but still isn’t ready to play. He has battled injuries much of the season having only played 38 games, but when he’s played, he’s been very good producing 16 goals and 30 points. He hasn’t played since February 29th but is getting close.
Hellebuyck, like Skinner, allowed five goals on Saturday before getting pulled. It was the first time this season he didn’t finish a game he started. Over the past seven seasons (419 starts), Hellebuyck has been pulled 11 times and he has a record of 6-4-1 in his next start. He has been pulled twice v. the Oilers.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: I expect both teams to be alert defensively and we see another low scoring game. Oilers win 3-2 in OT.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers’ PP scores another goal. They are 9-for-20 (45%) over their past six games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores his first goal v. Winnipeg in 23 months. His last goal was February 19th in Winnipeg. He does have 54 points in 31 career games v. the Jets, but only 12 goals.

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