GDB 78.0: Can the Edmonton Oilers inch closer to the top of the Western Conference?

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
It is just starting to hit me: the Edmonton Oilers have a really, really good team.
“But Zach! Haven’t you been watching all the games lately?”
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Well of course I have. But the truth of the matter is that I’ve watched this team for far too long be just straight-up bad. They may have clinched a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season — a feat they hadn’t done since they clinched five straight between 1996-97 and 2000-01 — but even these recent appearances have involved more heartbreak than you’d care to admit. They flopped in the 2019-20 qualifying round losing in four games to the godforsaken Chicago Blackhawks. In 2020-21 it was the Winnipeg Jets who levied a four-game sweep.
When you look at the recent schedule, it’s obvious. 12-1-2 in March, a .833 points percentage. Quietly, the Oilers have been the best team in the league for 84 days now dating back to January 10th. They have a .771 points percentage over that time, a shade higher than that of the Boston Bruins, who have posted a .770 points percentage of their own.
Connor McDavid is at 62 goals and 146 points. Leon Draisiatl scoring his 50th goal on home ice as the hat trick goal to go along with 120 points, a career high. Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are enjoying career years. Darnell Nurse is playing solid hockey. Mattias Ekholm is looking like the second coming of Chris Pronger. Evan Bouchard has more than settled into his own. Depth forced a rookie who was playing good hockey in Philip Broberg out of the top-six. Stuart Skinner is looking like a number one goalie.
They have the right mix of players right now to go on a serious run in the playoffs once again. They’ve been playing at a high level for a long time, and it truly feels like it’s crept under the radar of many. It’s not just one guy. It’s a group of players who have all bought in. That’s dangerous.
As Jason Gregor alluded to in the game notes, this game is key if the Oilers want to win home-ice advantage this post-season. It’s not going to be an easy game. We saw the Oilers play a tight game last week against the Kings in a game that resulted in a 2-0 shutout for Edmonton, the first of their season. The Oilers come into tonight one point back of the LA Kings for second in the Pacific Division and are four points back of the Vegas Golden Knights for top spot in the Western Conference. A win tonight would be big.
Edmonton has a chance to take advantage of things tonight. The Kings appear to be without Gabe Vilardi, Kevin Fiala, Mikey Anderson as well as Alex Edler, who reportedly left a Sunday 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. After seeing Jonas Korpisalo last week, the Kings go with Phoenix Copley in net. In his last 10 games, he’s gone 7-0-2 with a .894 save percentage. In his last five, he’s 4-0-1 with a .913 save percentage.


Waited for a while to see what lines could look like, but with morning skates having come and gone for both teams, Jay Woodcroft and Todd McLellan have left us guessing.
Lines from last game.
RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – Bjugstad – Janmark
Kostin – Shore – Ryan
Ekholm – Bouchard
Nurse – Ceci
Kulak – Desharnais
Skinner (projected)
Lines from last game.
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Iafallo – Lizotte – Kaliyev
Grundstrom – Kupari – MacEwan
Gavrikov – Doughty
Durzi – Roy
Bjornfot – Walker
Copley (Likely)


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers continue to roll winning their fifth game in a row.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With a two-point night, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gets one away from 100.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After allowing 37 shots on goal to the Kings last week, the Oilers tighten up defensively allowing under 30.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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