The Edmonton Oilers are now driving toward clinching a playoff spot and that could come as early as Tuesday. Added to that major news item is the possibility of pushing up the Pacific Division standings as teams ahead and behind sputter. Connor McDavid has a chance to win the scoring title and is approaching other-worldy, Leon Draisaitl is the Mannheim Steamroller (Mozart) and Cam Talbot is the best goalie in town since Dwayne Roloson. The interesting thing about this WC playoff season is there is just one power (‘Hawks) and seven teams who appear to be capable of beating each other any given hockey night. In a case of that kind, the best player on the ice can have an enormous impact. The scene is set for a very interesting spring.
GATEWAY TO THE NORTH, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2, goal differential -6
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-8-2 goal differential -3
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1, goal differential -9
- Oilers in December 2016: 7-2-5, goal differential +3
- Oilers in January 2016: 4-5-2, goal differential -5
- Oilers in January 2017: 9-4-1, goal differential +8
- Oilers in February 2016: 3-8-2, goal differential -18
- Oilers in February 2017: 6-6-0, goal differential -2
- Oilers in March 2016: 8-8-0, goal differential +5
- Oilers in March 2017: 6-3-1, goal differential +10
- Oilers after 74, 2015-16: 29-38-7, goal differential -38
- Oilers after 74, 2016-17: 40-25-9, goal differential +26
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MARCH
- At home to:
Detroit, NY Islanders, Pittsburgh, Montreal(Expected: 2-2-0) (Actual 1-2-1)
- At home to:
Dallas, Boston, Vancouver, Los Angeles(Expected: 3-1-0) (Actual 4-0-0)
- On the road to:
Anaheim, Colorado(Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual: 1-1-0)
- At home to: Colorado, Los Angeles, San Jose (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual: 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 7-5-1, 15 points in 13 games
- Current results: 6-3-1, 13 points in 10 games
After years of losing, the Oilers have been pretty good at delivering 1.2 points-per-game. They have been very consistent throughout 2016-17, save November. This isn’t a Stanley team, but there are players on the current Oilers club carving out their future roles in this important early time.
LAST 10 GAMES (forwards)
- Connor McDavid 10, 5-10-15
- Leon Draisaitl 10, 3-12-15
- Milan Lucic 10, 4-4-8
- Patrick Maroon 10, 5-3-8
- Jordan Eberle 10, 3-4-7
- Zack Kassian 10, 2-3-5
- Drake Caggiuala 7, 1-3-4
- David Desharnais 10, 2-2-4
- RNH 10, 2-2-4
- Mark Letestu 10, 2-1-3
- Benoit Pouliot 8, 2-1-3
- Anton Slepyshev 4, 1-1-2
- Matt Hendricks 6, 0-0-0
- Iiro Pakarinen 3, 0-0-0
- Jujhar Khaira 2, 0-0-0
The forwards have scored 32 goals in the last 10 games, a handsome total. The top line (McDavid with Leon and Maroon) has scored 13 of those goals and the second line (Lucic-Nuge-Eberle) has nine tallies. Good production through this period, with the 3line (Pouliot-Desharnais-Kassian) potting six and the 4line (Caggiula-Letestu-Slepyshev-Hendricks) with four. Some of that is on the power play, but this has been a solid 10-game performance.
LAST 10 GAMES (defense)
- Andrej Sekera 10, 1-5-6
- Darnell Nurse 10, 1-2-3
- Kris Russell 8, 0-3-3
- Oscar Klefbom 10, 1-1-2
- Adam Larsson 10, 1-1-2
- Matt Benning 7, 0-1-1
- Eric Gryba 5, 0-0-0
One of the things we will talk about a lot during the RE series is increased scoring from the defense this season. The defensemen scored 24 goals a year ago, and this year (with games remaining) that total has reached 29. Last year the team had one 30-point blue (Sekera) and have doubled it this year (Sekera, Klefbom). One of the key elements of Thursday’s third period came when Sekera and Klefbom engaged and joined the play.
LAST 10 GAMES (goalies)
- Cam Talbot 10 (5-3-1) 2.49, .918
- Laurent Brossoit 2 (1-0-0) 1.00 1.000
Cam Talbot had an unusual road trip but it allowed the team to get comfortable with Laurent Brossoit. I think the better bet is to play LB tonight, but Todd McLellan’s pick for goalie every night has been fairly consistent.
— AHL (@TheAHL) March 25, 2017
#AHL: RW Jesse Puljujarvi (EDM 1st/2016) scored a goal in Bakersfield's 5-1 win vs San Diego. Has pts in 4 straight & 10-14-24 in 29 games.
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) March 25, 2017
Gustavsson’s highlight happened in the minors, but good for him and he is quietly saving his minor league season with a strong run (now possessing a .920SP in Bakersfield). As for JP, a nice run here has his NHLE at 82gp, 15-21-36. For comparison, Mikko Rantanen’s NHLE last year was 82gp, 20-30-50. Puljujarvi is six months younger than Rantanen was at the same time he was playing his AHL season.
WITH OR WITHOUT YOU (OOO-HOO-OOO-OO)
Connor McDavid changes everything and it is interesting (and at times frightening) to see how this team performs when he is on and off the ice. Here are CMD’s numbers w/wo each of the three goalies:
- McDavid with Talbot (52.2); McDavid w/o Talbot (56.5); Talbot w/o McDavid (47.8).
- McDavid with Gus (57.8); McDavid w/o Gus (52.3); Gus w/o McDavid (54.2)
- McDavid with LB (54.6); McDavid w/o LB (52.6); LB w/o McDavid (46.0)
The numbers for McDavid with Talbot and Talbot without McDavid are equal to one year ago. As Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com shows, the big difference from last to this is McDavid when apart from Talbot (48.3 to 56.5 this year).
Bottom line? You are watching two different teams. When McDavid is on the ice, the Oilers are a power, extremely dangerous at 5×5. What’s more, they are more dangerous than a year ago, the sweat is getting more pronounced for opponents.
When McDavid is off the ice (and Talbot on), the world is flat. Edmonton hasn’t improved without McDavid year over year (47.7 to 47.8). I have seen a lot of folks pointing to that number as proof the Oilers aren’t getting better, but I’m surprised they haven’t slud (thanks Dizzy Dean) in year one without Taylor Hall. Depends on your perspective I guess. Note: I am not suggesting Taylor Hall is a bad bad man, nor commenting on his ability or personality. I am talking numbers and my reaction to them. I don’t hate Taylor Hall, or Adam Larsson. I am beginning to wonder about you, however. 🙂
Congratulations to Patrick Maroon for being named the Oilers’ candidate for the Masterton Trophy. He is a strong candidate in my opinion, and could be one of several winners come summertime. After a long drought (1990 for a major award) it appears we are about to see an invasion of fine silver in this northern town. Good to see and congratulations to Patrick Maroon.