The Edge of 300 and the Blue Paint
Photo credit:Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
With Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evander Kane all sitting at 299 goals going into tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, chances are at least one of them will provide a storyline or be a headline for the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow morning.
That’s as it should be just based on the rarity of the situation with all three at 299 goals. I’ve been to plenty of games where more than one player has hit one milestone or another, but games where three players can reach the same standard? I don’t recall one. You?
McDavid is cruising toward yet another Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champ and comes in with 299-537-836 in 560 career games. Draisaitl sits at 299-429-728 in 629 games and Kane has scored 299-270-569 in 844 games.
All that duly noted and certainly worthy of attention, what I’ll be looking at tonight is what the Oilers do in their own end of the rink in terms of defensive play and goaltending. With just nine games remaining before playoffs begin, I haven’t much liked how often the Oilers have been loose in their defensive zone lately.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Mar 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) celebrates with goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) after defeating the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
While the Oilers have won five of their last six games, including a 4-3 OT decision over the Coyotes last Wednesday, they’ve allowed 15 goals in their last four games. Eleven of those 15 goal have come in Stuart Skinner’s last three starts, where he’s recorded save-percentages of .882, .824 and .862.
While that’s not the only way to measure how a goaltender is playing and doesn’t address defensive lapses and mistakes we’ve seen in front of Skinner, now 23-14-4 with a 2.93 GAA and .909, you want to see him sharp and on top of his game going into the post-season. Without that, the Oilers have absolutely no chance, none, of earning a ticket back to the Western Conference final.
The only assignment for Jack Campbell, 18-9-4 with a 3.57 GAA and .882, the rest of the way is to spot in for Skinner where coach Jay Woodcroft sees a need and provide him a days off to keep him rested and sharp. Campbell is expected to start tonight. It’s no secret around here that it’s Skinner-or-bust.
The trio of McDavid, Draisaitl and Kane at 299 goals plus the other offensive storylines Jason Gregor wrote about this morning makes for some fun and some intrigue, but if I’m Woodcroft, I’d like to see this team click into playoff mode and get into the habit of winning games without having to score four or five goals to do it.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- I’m looking forward to the first Cancer in the Room podcast by friends Bryn Griffiths and Dave Jamieson, who will have Buck Martinez on as their first-ever guest for Episode 1 this week. Bryn and Dave, as most sports fans around here know, have their own stories about cancer to tell, and they’ll feature guests from the world of sports who’ve been down the same road they’re travelling. It’s going to be brilliant. By the way, today marks the three-year anniversary of Bryn’s stomach cancer surgery. Many more to come.
- I’d like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of noteworthy Oilers fan Byron Isfeld AKA Willie Nelson, who has passed away at the age of 81. Isfeld was one of those animated, dedicated fans you never forget once you’ve seen him around the rink and he was impossible to miss. RIP.
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