The NHL can be extremely ruthless. While players and management respect each other they won’t hesitate to pile on when you hit a rough patch. That is the reality of the league, and right now the New Jersey Devils are decimated by injuries. Reigning Hart Trophy winner, Taylor Hall, is out with a knee injury, as well as Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, Brent Seney. All of them are among their top-nine scoring forwards. Defencemen Sami Vatanen and Mirco Mueller are also out, so the Devils will skate into Edmonton tonight without eight of their regulars.
Edmonton can’t show mercy. They need to take advantage of a depleted roster.
Last night in Calgary the Devils gave the Flames all they could handle for the first 40 minutes. The Devils led 4-3 to start the third period, but then the Flames took over and scored three goals in the first 2:37 of the period and added three more to win 9-4. Johnny Gaudreau had four points in the third frame.
The Devils have lost seven games in a row and have been outscored 26-11. Since January 1st, they have allowed the most goals in the NHL, surrendering 112 in 32 games. The Oilers should see the red in the Devils jerseys skating across the ice similar to how a predator would see and smell the blood of a wounded animal dripping across the snow as they try to escape.
As Cobra Kai Sensei, John Kreese said in the great 1980s movie The Karate Kid, “We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. An enemy deserves no mercy.”
I realize Daniel Russo defeated Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence in the tournament, but don’t get caught up in technicalities. The Oilers need to be merciless and attack the depleted Devils from the opening faceoff.



Oscar Klefbom got good news. No laceration on from taking a shot in the pills on Monday. He is good to go. Milan Lucic returns after missing two games. He joked yesterday it isn’t a hip injury, but wouldn’t go into detail on what is ailing him. Jujhar Khaira had a maintenance day yesterday, but will play. His day off had zero to do with his fight with Brendan Lemieux. “Just trying to give some nagging stuff a rest. I got some treatment and feel much better,” he said.
Leon Draisaitl will be looking to extend his point streak to 15 games tonight, and when he does he will become only the fifth Oilers player with a point-streak of 15+ games and the first to do it since Wayne Gretzky had a 15-gamer from October 28th to November 29th, 1987. Gretzky had 12 point streaks of 15+ games: 15, 16, 16, 17, 18, 18, 19, 24, 28, 30, 39 and 51 games with the Oilers. He had 19 overall. Paul Coffey had one of 28 games, Jari Kurri had two (15 and 18 games), and Glenn Anderson went 17 games with a point. Connor McDavid’s longest point-streak was 14 games in 2017.
In Gretzky’s NHL record setting 51-game point streak he scored 61-92-153. The only other players to have more than 153 points in a full NHL season are Steve Yzerman with 155 points and Mario Lemieux, with 160, 161, 168 and 199. Gretzky had nine seasons of 163+ points. Unreal.
I asked Hitchcock which element of Draisaitl’s game has he improved the most recently. His answer might surprise you.
“The thing that has helped his game is patience with the puck and it hasn’t led to frustration. He had held onto the puck, made good plays under pressure, rather than force the play and skate back 200 feet. I always thought he was a good 200-foot player without the puck, but now he is also a good 200-foot player with the puck,” said Hitchcock.


Despite the Devils giving up the most goals in 2019, Schneider has played very well in his 11 games, sporting a .923sv% and 2.35 GAA. In 11 starts MacKenzie Blackwood has a .897sv% and 3.37 GAA, while Keith Kincaid posted a .871sv% and 4.20 GAA in eleven games before being traded. Kinkaid allowed 22 more goals than Schnieder despite playing only 33 more minutes. That’s remarkable. Also stunning that Columbus would trade for Kincaid with him struggling that much.


Write your thank you letters to Ray if you’re hoping next years Devils don’t look like this year’s Oilers, because thanks to Shero they probably won’t. Shero’s building depth around his highlight reel players (no, really, he is) while the Oilers have utterly failed to support McDavid and Draisaitl. Where it counts, McDavid and Draisaitl have performed above and beyond for Edmonton. Both players can be found among the top ten players in almost every offensive category. McDavid is second or tied for second in the league in points, total assists, and points per game. Draisaitl is second in goals, fourth in total points, fifth in points per game, and tied for second in power play goals. Surrounded by names like Ovechkin, Crosby, Kane, and Kucherov on the leaderboards, a team with two players like these should be running for the cup, not reaching for the wild card spot.
What’s rotten in Edmonton can and probably will be blamed on former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, who was fired in January. The biggest problem with Edmonton’s lineup can be seen in McDavid’s biggest stat: of the Oilers 192 goals this season (compare that to the Devils 190), McDavid’s 98 points means that he has either scored or directly assisted on more than 50% of the goals scored for the Oilers this season. Draisaitl, with 89 points, is not far behind on that mark. McDavid and Draisaitl alone have scored 40% of the team’s goals. The two are first and second on the team in nearly every single statistic, but the rest of the team? Miles behind them.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton has scored 5+ goals in four of their 34 home games. They make it five tonight with a 5-1 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl becomes the 105th player in NHL history to have a 15-game point streak. He picks up his 43rd goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid becomes only the 19th player in NHL history to record three consecutive 100 point seasons. He is only the second to do it since 1994 joining Alex Ovechkin (2008-2010).


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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/13/2019 – 12:30 pm MT