OK – I refuse to pretend that the Blues are even in this but with the trainwreck that is the hunt for the final four playoff spots in the Western Conference, I’m increasingly hopeful that the Oilers might somehow stumble across the finish line in eighth or, more importantly if an upset is possible, seventh, which would give them Detroit and a Conklin/Osgood duo on the other end of the ice. The thought of Ty Conklin taking the ice at Rexall in April with it meaning something makes my heart beat a little faster – one would hope that he would be righteously savaged for the Stanley Cup Final loss. I’d take a Battle of Alberta too – the key to having a hope of an upset in the playoffs is having the better goaltender and, with the way that Kiprusoff has played this year and Keenan giving him 75 games or so, anything seems possible.
First things first though, and the Oilers need to get there. I don’t think that it’s impossible.
PTS GR HGR GRPT B2B BIG4 DAL 59 30 16 17 5 7 ANA 59 26 13 14 4 6 MIN 57 30 12 17 8 10 VAN 56 30 13 13 3 4 EDM 56 29 15 16 3 7 CBJ 55 27 15 15 6 9 LAK 53 31 11 19 5 8 NSH 53 29 17 17 5 10 PHX 53 28 14 15 4 5 COL 51 29 12 20 3 5
(Let me know if that doesn’t work for people; I used the pre tags, which could save me a ton of time.)
Pretty straightforward, I think: points, games remaining, home games remaining, games remaining against playoff teams, back to backs remaining and games with CGY/CHI/DET/SJS.
A couple of things catch my eye. First, Minnesota has an absolutely brutal schedule going forward. Sure, they’ve got a bit of a cushion, in that they’re in a playoff spot right now amd have thirty games left. It gets ugly after that column though: they have just 12 homes games left, seventeen games remaining against current playoff teams, eight back to backs and 10 games remaining against the Big Four. The Oilers’ position – a point back, with one fewer game played but three more home games, one fewer game against a team in a playoff position, five fewer back to backs and three fewer games against the Big Four sure looks preferable to me.
Colorado is in an interesting position. I don’t know if Chicago would do it but a first round pick for Nikolai Khabibulin might be an interesting move for the Avs. They’ve got some favourable aspects to their schedule and could almost ride one goalie the rest of the way. It’s probably worth noting that Phoenix and Colorado, both a couple of points back, have fewer games left with the best teams (and by implication, have played more). They might have too many teams to overcome at this point but they’re both probably closer than things look.
I don’t know that this is going to be the Jackets’ year. Too many games played, too many back to back games left and too many games with Chicago and Detroit to come. I’d like Nashville better if they weren’t in the same position in terms of games with the Big Four.
If I was betting, I’d probably have it like this: Dallas, Anaheim and Vancouver – in. The last spot is a tossup between Edmonton and Minnesota and, given the schedule, I’m inclined to think that, if nothing else, the Oilers are positioned to make it extremely close.
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An aside: one half of the Oilers radio crew was vehement following the Penner signing in his view that Penner would put up more points than Smyth over the next three seasons. As of today, Penner is at 35G and 36 A for 71P in 132 GP while Smyth sits at 108 GP 30 G and 49 A for 79P. Smyth is doing the same stuff he always did in Edmonton, while Penner is still struggling with effort.
I should note that I don’t know that Penner’s durability is any great selling point – if Smyth gives you a bonfide top line winger when he’s in the lineup and he’s in the lineup 80% of the time, that still beats a guy who isn’t a bonafide top line winger who’s there every day.