Game Notes Blue Jackets @ Oilers: Edmonton Will Win Division

The Edmonton Oilers haven’t finished first in their division since 1987 — the longest drought in the NHL, one year longer than the New York Islanders. However, the Oilers’ recent play, combined with their remaining schedule, has them in a very good position to win their division (in the regular season) for the first time in 36 years.

— Edmonton is 9-3-1 since Christmas. They lead the NHL with 4.00 goals/game and have the fifth-lowest goals against/game at 2.62. They are averaging the second most 5×5 goals/game and sit with the seventh-best goals against/game at 5×5. Even their PK has improved, clicking at 82.9%.

— Last night New Jersey tied Vegas in the final 70 seconds and then won in overtime, which means an Edmonton victory tonight moves them within two points of first place in the Pacific.

— The biggest benefit the Oilers have is their remaining schedule. Half of their games are against bottom 10 (BT) teams. The Oilers have 17 games v. those teams and 17 against the rest of the NHL. Seattle also has 17 v. BT teams, Calgary has 16, while Los Angeles and Vegas only have eight.

— The Oilers are 8-2 v. BT teams. Vegas is 13-4-1, LA is 12-2-4, Calgary is 7-2-3 and Seattle is 5-3-2. It isn’t unrealistic to expect the Oilers to go 12-5 or 13-4 in their 17 games v. those weaker teams.

— Let’s say the Oilers go 12-5, which is much lower than their current P%v. BT teams, but let’s go with a cautious projection. That would give them 81 points, and if they go 9-7-1 in their other 17 games, they’d finish with 100 points. Vegas is on pace for 100 points, but they only have eight games remaining v. BT teams. The odds they maintain the same points/game over their final 33 games are low. Edmonton going 12-5 v. BT and 9-7-1 v. the rest of the league is not unrealistic. I’d argue it is a conservative projection.

— Edmonton has a chance to win seven in a row for the first time since 2001. Edmonton is the only team in the NHL without a seven-game winning streak in the last 20 years. You can see the chart here. They couldn’t ask for a better opponent to extend their winning streak tonight than facing the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus is 4-9-1 since Christmas and have only scored 20 goals 5×5 and 32 overall. They are not a threat offensively. They’ve been outscored 183-121 so far this season. Columbus is 12-1 when they score four goals, but they are 2-29-3 when they score three goals or fewer.

They have scored two goals or fewer in 51% of their games (24 of 47). They are 0-23-1 in those games. They don’t score enough, and they give up way too many goals. A losing combination.

— Every team, even Boston, has a losing record when they score two or fewer goals, but it is the number of games Columbus has played when only scoring twice that is the issue. The Oilers have lit the lamp twice (or less) in 29% of their games (1-12-1), but they have scored four or more goals in 50% of their games and are 23-1 in those games. The Oilers’ offense is rolling while the Blue Jackets can’t defend.

— Before you say the Oilers don’t beat teams they should, remember they are 8-2 v. BT teams this season. Only Minnesota, Winnipeg, New Jersey (.823W%), Boston, and Tampa (.813) have a higher winning% v. the BT teams than the Oilers (.800). If Edmonton wins tonight, they’d have a .818W%. Edmonton has done a good job of beating the teams “they should beat.”

— Evander Kane won’t play tonight. He is attending his bankruptcy case. Mattias Janmark is healthy and will draw back in. Stuart Skinner starts. I’d expect to see Jack Campbell v. Chicago on Saturday.

— Columbus forward Kirill Marchenko is only the fourth player in NHL history to score 10 goals before registering an assist in his NHL career. The last time it happened was in 1926. It is extremely rare. The rookie has 10 goals in 24 games since being recalled from the AHL.

— Another obscure stat: Vincent Desharnais could become the 30th player in NHL history to win his first seven games in the NHL. He’d be the 13th player to do it since 2000. Only 12 have won their first eight.

Bill Hutton won his first 12 games with Boston in 1930 and Mike Busniuk won his first 10 with Philadelphia in 1979. They are the only two in double figures.

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