GDB 72.0: An Unexpected Battle (8:30pm MT, SNW)

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 year ago
This is a battle few, if any, expected.
Connor McDavid has been the NHL scoring leader all year. It isn’t much of a surprise that McDavid leads the NHL with 18 goals and 48 points over the past two months, dating back to January 22nd. But did you know tonight he will go head-to-head against the second-leading scorer in that time, Clayton Keller?
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Keller has 17 goals and 38 points over the past two months. Keller has 29 even strength points to McDavid’s 26. Keller has been on an amazing run and very few people are talking about.
The other top scorers include Nathan MacKinnon, Matthew Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Elias Pettersson, Mitch Marner, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Artemi Panarin, and Leon Draisaitl. Keller and Stutzle aren’t usually mentioned in the same category, but Kellar has quietly had an excellent season in Arizona.
He’s now 21st in league scoring with 76 points in 71 games. Keller is 28 points ahead of the Coyotes’ second leading scorer, Nick Schmaltz. Keller showed this potential in his rookie season when he produced 65 points in 82 games in 2018. But he followed that up with seasons of 47, 44, and 35 points (56 games shortened season). He rebounded last year with 63 points in 71 games and is on pace for his first 80+ points campaign.
Being second in the NHL for any two-month period is impressive, especially when you play for a team without much supporting talent. Keller isn’t on McDavid’s level — no one really is — but for the past two months he has been very impressive, and the Oilers will need to be leery of him tonight. Scoring 17 goals and 38 points in 25 games is excellent production, and if McDavid wasn’t scoring at an even more ridiculous pace, maybe Keller’s stats would garner more attention (or, more likely, if he played in a market with more than a 5,000-seat arena, he’d get more attention), but I suspect the Oilers will be on notice tonight.
Of course, the Coyotes have to be on notice as well, as McDavid is shredding the NHL and on pace to become only the third player in history to score 156+ points in a season. McDavid scored 2-2-4 in the Oilers’ 8-2 win over Arizona on December 7th. On that night the Coyotes’ blue line consisted of Jacob Chychrun, Shane Gostisbehere, Patrik Nemeth, Troy Stetcher, JJ Moser, and Jussi Valamaki. Chychrun, Gostisbehere, and Stetcher were all traded at the deadline.
In their place tonight will be former Oilers prospect, Michael Kesselring, Connor Mackey, and Victor Soderstrom. They have a combined 72 games of NHL experience. And they will be asked to slow down McDavid, Draisaitl, and the NHL’s most productive offence. Good luck.
Keller likely has to score three or four points for the Coyotes to stay in the game.




Kane – McDavid – Hyman
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – Bjugstad – Janmark
Kostin – Ryan
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Devin Shore wasn’t on the ice this morning, and he will be a game-time decision. If he can’t go, then the Oilers will dress 11 forwards and seven D-men, which isn’t an issue for them. The Oilers are 8-2 in their last 10, and if they play to their strengths this is a game they should win. The Coyotes lost last night in Winnipeg.


Schmaltz – Hayton – Keller
Maccelli – McBain – Crouse
Ritchie – Boyd – Fischer
O’Brien – Dauphin – Kassian?
Nemeth – Moser
Valamaki – Kesselring
Mackey – Soderstrom
Karel Vejmelka was in goal last night in Winnipeg, and he hasn’t started back-to-back games all season, so expect Connor Ingram to get the start. Ingram has been the better goalie in 2023. In 19 starts Vejmelka has an .898Sv% and 3.58 GAA, while Ingram has a solid .926Sv% and 2.84 GAA in 14 starts since January 1st. While he is the backup, he’s played better recently.
The Coyotes only dressed 17 skaters last night as Zack Kassian and Josh Brown were injured. If Kassian can’t play tonight, they could make an emergency recall. Michael Kesselring, who the Oilers traded to Arizona for Nick Bjugstad will play his sixth game for the Coyotes tonight. He’s averaged 18:24/game thus far. The trade has been great for him, as he wasn’t going to play in Edmonton, but it also illustrates the lack of NHL depth on the Coyotes’ blueline.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton scores five-plus goals for the 29th time this season and win 6-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up two assists and sets a new career high in assists in a season. He had 79 last year and starts tonight with 78.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers’ PP is only 4-for-18 (22.2%) in their last seven games. They’ve gone seven games without scoring two PP goals in a game. That streak ends tonight. Leon Draisaitl scores two power play goals in a game for only the second time this season.

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