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Oilers Can Win the Pacific Division

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 year ago
The Edmonton Oilers haven’t finished first in their division since 1987, the longest drought in the NHL. But with two weeks remaining they’ve given themselves a chance to end the streak.
When the week started the Edmonton Oilers needed to defeat Vegas and Los Angeles in regulation to have any hope of finishing first in the Pacific Division. They did, and they did it in a completely different fashion. The Oilers dominated Vegas with high-end speed and pace, but played a patient, defensive game in a 2-0 shutout over LA.
The victories, combined with LA’s loss to Calgary and Vegas’ OT loss in San Jose last night, suddenly have the Oilers within two points of Vegas and one point ahead of LA.
Now it is a legitimate race for not only first place in the Pacific, but also the Western Conference.
Vegas is banged up and has the most difficult remaining schedule among the top-three Pacific teams. Shea Theodore joined their wounded brigade and didn’t play last night.
APRILLVKLAEDM
1stMIN@ SEAANA
2nd@ VAN
3rd@ MIN
4th@ NSHEDM@ LA
5th@ ANA
6thLA@ LVK
8th@ DALCOL@ SJ
10thVAN@ COL
11thSEA
13th@ SEA@ANASJ
LA and Vegas have seven games remaining while the Oilers have six. Edmonton likely has to win five of six to catch Vegas. Sweeping Anaheim and San Jose seems very plausible, so the Oilers would need to split their remaining two games v. LA and Colorado. The game v. LA next Tuesday is the most important game.
Six of Vegas’ remaining seven games are against playoff teams, and the other is against Nashville, which is fighting to stay in the playoff hunt.
The Kings have four games v. playoff teams and three v. non-playoff teams.
Edmonton controls its destiny for home ice advantage. If the Oilers win out, LA can’t catch them, and if they go 5-1 and the loss is to Colorado, LA won’t pass them. The Oilers enter April the hottest team in the NHL at 12-2-1, followed closely by Minnesota. Four games vs. Anaheim and San Jose give them the easiest remaining schedule of the top three in the Pacific. They need to take advantage.
Edmonton’s record-breaking March (more on that later), has put them in a position to battle for 1st in the Western Conference. Dallas plays tonight in Arizona, and here is the April schedule for Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado.
APRILMINDALCOL
1st@ LVKCOLDAL
3rdLVKNSH
4th @ SJ
6th@ PITPHI @ SJ
8thSTLVGK@ LA
9th@ ANA
10th@ CHI@ DET
11thWPGEDM
12th@ STL
13th@ NSHSTLWPG
14th@ NSH
Dallas has six games v. non-playoff teams and faces Colorado and Vegas.
Minnesota, which is playing incredibly well at 16-1-4 in its last 21, has four playoff games and rotates road and away the rest of the year.
Colorado has five non-playoff games, but two sets of back-to-back games.
Edmonton faces the Ducks tomorrow night, while Dallas plays Colorado, Minny plays Vegas and LA faces Seattle. The Oilers have the easiest opponent and if they take care of business, they will gain ground on some teams. The out-of-town scoreboard watch will add to the excitement of the push for home ice advantage for the top-three teams in the Pacific and Central divisions. And their fans.
It will be a great two weeks.

RECORD SETTING NIGHT…

The Oilers’ 2-0 victory over LA last night pushed them to 12 wins in March setting a new franchise high for most wins in one month.
The Oilers’ 25 points tied the franchise record for most in a month. In March of 2004 they went 10-1-2-3 (W-L-T-OT).
Stuart Skinner set a new franchise high for most wins by a goalie in a month with 10. He was 10-1-1 and picked up his first shutout of the season. His 43 saves were third most in a shutout behind Curtis Joseph’s 52 on December 10th, 1996, and Ben Scrivens’ 59 saves on January 29th, 2014, v. San Jose.
Connor McDavid scored his 300th career goal and joined Evander Kane and Leon Draisaitl in the 300-goal club. They are only the second trio of teammates to score their 300th goals in the same season along with the 1981 Philadelphia Flyers trio of Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Rick MacLeish.
McDavid’s shorthanded goal extended his point streak to 10 games, and he became the first player in NHL history to have five different point streaks of 10+ games in the same season. He’s had streaks of 17, 15, 11, 10 and his current 10-game streak.
He also became the fifth player in NHL history with 300 goals and 500 assists prior to his 600th career game.
Wayne Gretzky scored 524 goals, 924 assists and 1,448 points in 599 games played.
Mario Lemieux had 494 goals, 717 assists and 1,211 points in 599 GP.
Peter Stastny scored 321goals, 580 assists and 901 points in 599 GP.
McDavid has 300 goals, 541 assists and 841 points in 563 GP.
Bryan Trottier tallied 306 goals, 521 assists and 827 points in 599 GP.
And it might not have happened had the officials given McDavid a major for boarding Mickey Anderson. It was very close. If Adrien Kempe hit Evan Bouchard square in the numbers, and took Bouchard out of the game, you might have wanted a major. It was borderline and could have gone either way. One game your team will get a break and the next they might not.
Leon Draisaitl extended his point streak to 11 games and tallied 70 assists in a season for the first time in his career. Draisaitl needs three goals to become the 17th player to score 50 goals and 70 assists in the same season.
Wayne Gretzky: 9x
Mario Lemieux: 5x
Guy Lafleur: 4x
Phil Esposito and Marcel Dionne: 3x
Steve Yzerman: 2x
Mike Bossy, Bernie Nicholls, Dale Hawerchuk, Jaromir Jagr, Pat Lafontaine, Dennis Maruk, Mark Recchi, Bryan Trottier, Pierre Turgeon and McDavid did it once.
Gretzky and Nicholls (1989), Lemieux and Jagr (1996) are the only teammates to do it in the same year. Draisaitl and McDavid could join them.

Nurse is Oilers’ #1 D-man

Mar 20, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Darnell Nurse (25) scores the overtime winning goal against San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer (47) at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mattias Ekholm has played very well since arriving in Edmonton, but Darnell Nurse is still the Oilers’ #1 D-man when it comes to facing the toughest matchups. Last night, Dave Manson, even with seven D-men dressed, had a hard matchup of Nurse and Cody Ceci v. the Kings’ top line of Anze Kopitar, Adrien Kempe and Quinton Byfield.
Kopitar played 17:01 at 5×5 and Nurse was out against him for 14:06. Ekholm and Bouchard played one minute v. the Kings’ top line.
“I thought that was maybe Darnell’s best game of the year last night,” said Jay Woodcroft. “That is interesting to say because he’s had a career year offensively, and he’s a plus machine, but I saw a level of hardness to his game and somebody who contested every inch of the ice. They have experience in going up against that line (Kopitar), they are a big line and that’s why we went for that matchup.” It worked well. In the 14 minutes v. Nurse and Ceci Kopitar’s line was outshot 13-7. In his other three minutes he outshot the Oilers 7-1.
Ekholm has been a huge addition, and he and Nurse were on the ice in the final minute together protecting the lead. Cup contenders need two strong pairings, and those two are the anchors of both, but Nurse still plays the tougher minutes.
In the 15 games in March, Nurse played 99 minutes v. Elite opponents, Ceci was 96, Ekholm was 70 and Evan Bouchard 68. Nurse played 37% of his 5×5 time v. Elite. Prior to Ekholm’s arrival, Nurse had played 37.6% of his 5×5 TOI v. Elite according to PuckIQ.comEkholm has really solidified the second pair. He and Bouchard play second pairing matchups, as they should, because Bouchard shouldn’t be asked to face elite competition too often. Ekholm and Bouchard have played very well, which is great. Edmonton needed another solid pair and they’ve found one.
Nurse and Ekholm give the Oilers one pillar on each of their top-two pairings, and in the final minute of tight games they will be on the ice together, which is a huge bonus for the Oilers. But Nurse still faces the toughest matchups, and that is fine, because he’s got the ability to handle it.

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