The wildcard race in the Western Conference is at a level we’ve never seen in the shootout era. The Minnesota Wild made the playoffs with 87 points in 2016, the lowest point total for a wildcard/eighth seeded team since 2003 when the New York Islanders made the postseason with 83 points. There was no shootout in 2003 and after overtime the game ended in a tie, so we didn’t have “three point” games.
Two weeks ago the Wild held the final wildcard spot and were on pace for 87 points, but this morning the Colorado Avalanche have it and they are on pace for 83 points.
1. The Avs have 61 points in 60 games, while Chicago and Minnesota are on pace for 82 points, followed by Arizona and Vancouver for 80, Anaheim at 78 and Edmonton at 75. The Oilers dressing room still believes they are in the race, and they should, considering seven games ago Chicago was six points back of Minnesota. All you have to do is get hot for ten games and you will be in the thick of the Unamazing race.
2. The most concerning factor for me regarding this season is how the Oilers could miss the playoffs in a year where it was the easiest to make the playoffs in 15 years. All they need is 82-84 points most likely and yet, right now it looks like they won’t reach it. That is why many fans’ and season ticket holder’s frustration is at an all-time high. With two elite forwards you couldn’t build a supporting cast good enough to achieve 84 points. Brutal.
3. This year looks like a major outlier. Since the shootout began in 2006 here are the point totals for the final two playoff spots in each conference.
Year East West
2006 93, 92 95, 95
2007 93, 92 104, 96
2008 94, 94 94, 91
2009 95, 93 92, 91
2010 88, 88 100, 95
2011 96, 93 98, 97
2012 92, 92 96, 95
2013 95, 94* 95, 94* (Prorated due to 48-game schedule)
2014 93, 93 98, 91
2015 99, 98 100, 99
2016 100, 96 96, 87
2017 102, 95 94, 94
2018 97, 97 98, 95
The final wildcard berth in the West over the past 13 seasons was 93.8 points and 93.5 in the east. In nine of the 13 years you needed 94 points to get in.
4. Many are asking why? I can’t find a reasonable answer. Parity is the easy answer. Right now no teams are trending to be below 72 points, so with none hovering around the 62-67 point mark they have to take points from other teams. Also only three Western teams are on pace for 100 points with Calgary trending for the most at 109. Most years we have seen at least five teams with 100+ points and some years up to seven.
5. Wild GM Paul Fenton had a great quote when asked about the Wild’s brutal month of February. “It hasn’t been a lot of fun trying to sleep at night. When I go to sleep, I find myself crying like a baby.” I suspect Oilers management and many Oilers fans can relate.
6. Yesterday, Christian Pagnani had a good piece on finding the next Alex Chiasson. Last year he said the Oilers need to find a replacement for Maroon, and Chiasson was one of his suggestions. His list was interesting, but I ask: what about just re-signing Chiasson? I keep reading and hearing how he was on a heater, and that this season is an outlier for him. But when you look at his 5×5 play numbers are right in line with previous years.
2014 with Dallas he had 6-14-20 in 846 min.
2015 with Ottawa he had 7-11-18 in 780 min.
2017 with Calgary he had 11-9-20 in 940 min.
This year with Edmonton he has 9-5-14 in 641 min.
The difference this year is he has excelled on the PP with 6-5-11. If you could get him signed at $1m and have him produce around 20 5×5 points I’d have no issues with that. He can help on the PP and PK as well. Yes, he had a hot month, but his overall 5×5 numbers aren’t much different. The difference is he got an opportunity on the PP, and right now I see no other right shot on the team who is a for sure to produce the same in that role. Pagnani brought up some names I’d look at for sure, but what if you re-sign Chiasson on a decent deal and sign one of those names he mentioned? It is obvious Edmonton needs to improve many winger positions next season. If you trade Chiasson you are creating another hole to fill.
7. I’ve learned people will believe things even if the truth stares them right in the face. If people actually believe not vaccinating their child is smart, it doesn’t surprise me that some will keep hammering the drum that Leon Draisaitl is only good with Connor McDavid. Science has proven we NEED to vaccinate our children, and the stats show Draisaitl is an elite point producer. Does he produce more with McDavid? Of course, just like McDavid produces more with Draisaitl.
Here are McDavid’s 5×5 numbers this year. (992 total minutes)
In 566 minutes with Draisaitl he has 31 points.
In 416 minute without Draisaitl he has 14 points.
Here are Draisaitl’s 5×5 numbers. (956 total minutes)
In 566 minutes with McDavid he has 27 points.
In 390 without McDavid he has 12 points.
McDavid has also played 302 minutes with the Oilers third best forward, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while Draisaitl has played 71 minutes with him.
I don’t see how anyone can believe Draisaitl is overpaid or only good because of McDavid. Yes he produces more when he plays with McDavid, like pretty much every other top scorer when they play with another highly skilled forward. Can he improve the odd defensive read? Yes, but don’t confuse the two situations. They are separate conversations.
8. Last year the New York Islanders allowed the most goals, 293, in the NHL. This season they’ve allowed the fewest at only 137. That is 17 fewer goals than Dallas, who is second with 154 allowed. The Islanders allowed 3.57 goals/game last year and 2.29 this season. It is an amazing turnaround. Their top-six D-men are the same, although Ryan Pulock is now playing 22 minutes/game up from 18/game last year. Barry Trotz improved their overall team defence and both their goalies have played excellent.
9. In 30 starts Robin Lehner 18-9-4 with a .929sv% and 2.08 GAA. Thomas Greiss has made 29 starts and has a .928sv% and a 2.26 GAA. Prior to this season Lehner’s career SV% was .915 while Greiss’ was .912. Trotz has revamped the Islanders defensive and neutral zone commitments. He demands it, the players have bought in, are playing much more responsible which has resulted in wins. I look forward to speaking with Trotz about how he has gone about it. It isn’t as easy as saying, “play this way.”
10. Their offence has slowed down. They were 7th last year with 3.18 goals/game, and now they are 21st at 2.85, but the .33 goals/game drop isn’t easily countered by dropping their goals against by 1.28 goals/game. The Islanders are scoring less, but they have 35 wins in 59 games this year. They won 35 times in 82 games last season. The Islanders are +31 in GF/GA, which is 5th best in the NHL behind Tampa Bay (+77), Calgary (+47), Toronto (+41), and San Jose (+32). The Oilers are 29th at -35.
11. I expect Patrick Kane will get a lot of consideration for the Hart trophy. Kane has been unreal for Chicago, especially lately. He is on a 19-game point streak where he has scored 16-26-42. Even if he goes pointless in his next game he’ll have averaged over two points a game for a 25% stretch of the season. Twenty-eight of those points have come at even strength. He is absolutely shredding the league right now, and even with Nikita Kucherov having a stretch of 15 points in four games, Kane is only seven back in the scoring race. Right now he and Kucherov are the front runners for the award. The crazy part is on January 1st no one had Kane in the Hart conversation.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
From peewee to the pros, Albertans loves the atmosphere, energy, and life lessons that take place at rinks across the province. And where there’s an arena, you’ll find an ATB branch nearby—with our team members cheering and fundraising along with you. See more information at ATB.com.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/21/2019 – 7:00 am MT