Game Notes Oilers @ Bruins: Best of the Best
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor22 days ago
The Boston Bruins are the best team in the NHL, and are on pace to have the most wins all time. At the 52-game mark, they had a record of 39-8-5. They were on pace for 61 wins, but they’ve actually gotten better since. They’ve won 10 in a row and are now 49-8-5 and now on pace for 64 wins, which would surpass the 62-win mark set by the 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning and 1996 Detroit Red Wings.
— The Bruins could also break the NHL record for most points in a season, set the by 1977 Montreal Canadiens. They went 60-8-12 and amassed 132 points in an 80-game season. The Bruins are on pace for 136 points and could set many NHL records. They won’t have the largest gap from first to second place, however.
— The 1996 Red Wings (131 pts) finished 27 points ahead of Colorado (104). The 2019 Lightning (128) were 21 points better than Calgary and Boston, while the 1977 Canadiens (132 pts) finished 20 ahead of Philadelphia (112). The Carolina Hurricanes are on pace for 121, which would put them 15 back of the Bruins. But Boston’s dominance in many categories is obvious.
— Boston is +66 at 5×5 outscoring its opponents 152-86. Carolina is second at +40 followed by New Jersey (+39), Seattle (+38), and Toronto (+33). And their overall GF-GA is even better at +94 followed by Carolina (+56), New Jersey (+54), Toronto (+46), Dallas (+44), and Edmonton (+37).
— The Bruins are a league-best 26-2-3 on home ice and outscored teams 118-56. Washington (2-1) and Seattle (3-0) beat them in regulation while Buffalo won 4-3 in overtime. Vegas and Los Angeles beat them in a shootout. Three Pacific division teams have won in Boston, albeit only one playing actual hockey. The Bruins have allowed four goals once and three goals eight times. They don’t give up much. The Oilers will have to earn their goals tonight, especially against the league’s top goalie.
— Linus Ullmark leads the NHL in every meaningful goalie category. He is first in wins with 32, leads the league with a .938Sv% and 1.89 GAA. He’s also tied for first in goals saved above expected by Sportlogiq. He isn’t just putting up great numbers behind a good team. When they give up quality chances, he’s making huge saves. Stuart Skinner will need another strong performance as he had in Buffalo. Skinner was outstanding v. the Sabres. The Bruins have rotated their goalies regularly for the past few months. Only a few times has Ullmark made consecutive starts, so the Oilers might get Swayman again, but I have to believe Ullmark wants to face the league’s top offensive team.
— The Oilers played very well v. the Bruins last week in a 3-2 loss. At 5×5 the Oilers had more OZ possession time 5:59 to 5:00 and the Bruins got a bit of a lucky bounce on their third goal, when a diving stab by Pavel Zacha rolled up the shaft of Stuart Skinner’s stick and into the net for the winning goal. Edmonton will need another strong 60-minute effort to have any hope of upsetting the dominant Bruins.
— Boston owns the best record and is the best overall team, while the Oilers are the best offensive team in the NHL averaging 3.86 goals/game. They also have the league’s #1 power play at 31.7%, almost a full 5% better than second place Tampa Bay. And they have the league’s top-two scorers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. This should be another great game like we witnessed last week.
— Evander Kane practiced on a line with Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman yesterday and all arrows are pointing to him returning to the lineup. Jay Woodcroft wouldn’t commit 100% after practice yesterday, but I’d be shocked if Kane doesn’t play. “I haven’t followed up with our training staff just yet, but all signs are pointing in the right direction,” said Woodcroft. “We’ll see in the morning tomorrow, but it is a good sign.” Kane hasn’t played since February 17th v. the Rangers. He pushed to play in Buffalo but couldn’t get the green light. Three more days rest should only help his ribs feel better. His return means one forward has to come out of the lineup. There isn’t an obvious choice.
— Some might say Devin Shore, because he had a regular seat in the pressbox in December and January, but since being recalled from the AHL Shore has been excellent. Only McDavid, Draisaitl, and Warren Foegele have more points 5×5 than Shore’s four. And his possession numbers in those eight games are excellent. When he’s been on the ice the Oilers have outshot opponents 49-30, outscored them 5-1 and he has a 63.56 xGF%. I don’t see any easy choice. Jay Woodcroft will have to take a player out who has been playing well. It is a tough decision, but a good problem to have. Outside of McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, and Kane, I think any of the other eight forwards could take a seat in the press box for a game down the stretch.
— Nick Bjugstad set an Oilers franchise record for most faceoff wins without a loss in a game. He went 10-0 v. the Sabres. The previous high was Will Acton going 9-0 in 2013. The NHL started tracking faceoffs in 1997-98. The Oilers’ record for most faceoff wins in a game is 32 set by Doug Weight. That is the second most faceoff wins in a single regular season game. Only Travis Green (33) had more. Weight does own the NHL record for most faceoffs taken in a game with 54. He was 32-22 v. the New York Islanders on November 5th v. the New York Islanders.
— The record for most faceoff wins in a game without losing a draw is 19. Dave Scatchard (2000 with NYI) and Curtis Brown (2001 with BUF) are tied at 19-0 while Patrice Bergeron (2017 with BOS) and Bo Horvat (2022 with VAN) each went 17-0.
— The Oilers also own the dubious record of being involved in the game with the most faceoffs in NHL history. In the same game that Weight took 54 faceoffs, the Oilers and Islanders had 148 faceoffs. Yes, a ridiculous 148 which equates to 2.27 faceoffs/minute. They played 65 minutes and the game ended in a 4-4 tie. Edmonton had 58 shots while New York had 48.
— Only three games in NHL regular season history (since they began tracking faceoffs in 1997-1998) have had 100 faceoffs. The Oilers/Islanders had 148, the Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks took 141 faceoffs (three days after the Oilers/Islanders game in 1997) and Detroit and Chicago had 101 faceoffs on March 23rd, 1998. Only two playoff games had more. The Penguins/Flyers five OT game on May 4th, 2000, had 159 faceoffs and the Ducks/Stars five OT game on April 24th, 2003, had 156. Those games played 192 and 181 minutes respectively, while the Oilers/Islanders had 148 draws in 65 minutes. Utterly amazing. I’d like to watch that game again.
— The most faceoffs in a game this season is 81. Colorado/Columbus on November 4th and Minnesota/Anaheim on December 3rd. The Oilers and Avalanche took 79 faceoffs in their February 19th game. Bo Horvat took the most draws in a game this season. He had 36 v. Nashville on November 5th. Draisaitl has taken 30 in three different games while Patrice Bergeron has taken 31 twice this season.
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