The last time the Edmonton Oilers met up with the New York Rangers, @Connor McDavid scored the goal of the year to get the game to overtime before Draisaitl finished it off in the bonus frame. Now that they’ve dropped three straight and nine of their last 11 games, could a date with the Rangers be just what the doctor ordered?
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I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that these last three games have been incredibly painful to watch for an array of reasons. Not only are the Oilers back on another losing streak — they’re sure pissing away the points they banked back in October, huh? — but they’re dropping games that should be easy wins and don’t even look like they’re on the same page at all. They’re not establishing themselves in the offensive zone and when they do they’re passing up chances to shoot, they’re not grinding out garbage goals near the crease, they’re not hustling to the point of earning power plays, and they look about as disengaged as one could imagine after starting out the season on a torrid 9-1 pace. To put it mildly, the Oilers are spinning their wheels and they need to figure out a solution to what’s going on or it won’t be long before we’re talking about a team that had the best points percentage in the league to one that’s on the outside of the playoff picture. I mean, two wins in their last 10 games? That’s nowhere near good enough.
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The good news here is that the Oilers have played very well against the Rangers over the last few seasons and enter tonight’s contest riding a five-game winning streak against the blue shirts, who will be playing in the second half of their back-to-back set. Yet, even with the break from the schedule makers, New York will be a tough nut to crack. Yesterday, the Panarin-less (COVID protocol) Rangers toppled the Lightning in an impressive 4-0 victory that saw Mika Zibanejad put up a hat trick while Igor Shesterkin made 38 saves for his second shutout of the year. Coming into this game, the Rangers sit only two points back of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division and will provide a major test for our boys despite playing yesterday. To win this hockey game, the Oilers will need to do a hell of a lot better offensively than the 19 measly shots they mustered against the Islanders, and they’ll have to figure out how to make that happen while also stopping the bleeding in their own end. Over the last month and change, the Oilers have been outscored by a 44-33 margin and it doesn’t take a spreadsheet wizard to figure out that’s a recipe for disaster.
Let’s see what the numbers say.

THE NUMBERS

OILERS
RANGERS
RECORD
18-12-2
21-8-4
WIN/LOSS STREAK
L3
W2
LAST 10 GAMES
2-6-2
5-4-1
GOALS FOR
110
97
GOALS AGAINST
103
84
POWER PLAY%
31.2
25.3
PENALTY KILL%
81.3
84.5
AVG. SHOTS/FOR
32.5
28.5
AVG. SHOTS/AGAINST
33.1
31.8
TEAM SAVE%
.909
.929
CORSI FOR%
51.01
44.80
PDO
0.990
1.010
TEAM SHOOTING%
8.11
8.06
EXPECTED GOALS FOR%
50.75
45.87
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Hyman – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Foegele – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Shore – McLeod – Turris
Benson – Ryan – Sceviour
Nurse – Bouchard
Keith – Ceci
Koekkoek – Barrie
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Koskinen
Based on the line rushes from practice this morning, it looks like Dave Tippett is flipping Warren Foegele and Devin Shore on the second line, which makes way more sense to me than how things played out two days ago. From where I blog, Foegele has way more offensive upside than Shore and it will be interesting to see how he looks alongside Draisaitl and Yamamoto in his first stint alongside that duo.

Rangers

Kreider – Zibanejad – Kakko
Lafreniere – Strome – Goodrow
Hunt – Chytil – Gauthier
Gettinger – McKegg – Reaves
Miller – Trouba
Hajek – Fox
Jones – Lundkvist
Georgiev
The big win here for the Oilers is that Panarin is out on COVID protocol but that still doesn’t mean this will be an easy ride either. The Rangers just dummied the defending Stanley Cup champs without their best player in the lineup, and even though they may be a bit tired after playing on back-to-back days, I expect nothing less than a big effort from that group. With players that can burn you littered throughout their lineup, New York will be a challenge the Oilers will need to get pumped up for if they have any chance of winning this hockey game.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

The magic number since 2005-06 has been 97 points.  No team with that many points in a season has missed the playoffs. In that case, the Rangers will need to get 53 points in their last 50 games. To do that, they can go 26-23-1.  Do-able?
Consider this, they still have 14 games to play against the 10 worst teams in the NHL  Since they have played the most road games of any team in the NHL, they play 56% of their remaining games in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden.  The Rangers have also been lucky when it comes to postponements.  They still have to schedule three make-up games, but with the February schedule freed up by the Olympics opt-out, the rest of the schedule should be manageable.
Even if their play suffers considerably in 2022, they are almost a lock for a playoff spot.  It would have to be a complete reversal of fortune for them to miss and no one expects that.  In The Athletic’s (subscription required) projections, they see the Rangers finishing with 100 points and a 90% lock for a playoff spot.  They also give the Rangers a 6% shot at winning the Division with a 4% shot at making it to the Stanley Cup Final.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
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Game Day Prediction: The Oilers finally figure out how to play as a unit and it pays off to the tune of a 4-2 victory.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: McDavid and Draisaitl each get a point.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: For the fourth straight game, the Oilers get one or fewer power play opportunities.

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