Worst Oilers team ever? Edmonton fans starting to ponder the possibility

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When thinking about the woes of the Edmonton Oilers this year, a very young team surrounded with veteran parts that are a mix of successful and abysmal, you wonder just how someone thought it was going to work out this year. Sure, with the influx of talent like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi there was some thought and hope that they’d all be able to become instant success stories and help the Oilers to fight for a playoff spot.

As things go in the NHL, the best hopes and dreams are often dashed quickly. Hall has been solid but took a while to find his way on such rough team. Eberle has been the best of the bunch while Magnus Paajarvi took even longer than Hall to find his stride. Veterans Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky have been solid while captain Shawn Horcoff has struggled through injuries to try and be the team’s top center.

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal looks at things with the Oilers with a cold, harsh dose of reality for how the Oilers are doing this season and he wonders, even in spite of the youthful hope on the ice, if this is the worst Oilers team in franchise history.

The all-time points low is 60 in ’92-93 when Ted Green had 41 players tug on an Oilers jersey. Current Oilers’ TV colourman Louie DeBrusk was on that team. So were Steve Rice, Dave Maley, Joe Beranek. They didn’t have one player with even 50 points in an 84-game season, not the current 82. The goalies Billy Ranford and Ron Tugnutt were fine, but the team couldn’t beat the Sisters of the Poor.

This year’s team has 40 points in 56 games. Doing the math, they’ll have to win 10 of the last 26 to get to 60 points. How are they supposed to do that in the ultra-competitive Western Conference where only three teams–Edmonton, Colorado and St. Louis–look to be out of the playoff race? How are they supposed to do that when they have 16 wins in their first 56? They have 20 games left against Western Conference teams. They have  10 wins against the West all season. They’ve won two in their own Northwest Division in 13 games.

Yes, things are that bad and already talk has begun of just who the Oilers will look at when they’re near or at the top of the 2011 NHL Draft. After cleaning up in recent years with forwards and with the number of issues they’ve found for themselves on defense, blue line prospects will get looked at heavily and Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson will most likely be the top one available. There’s no doubt that if the Oilers can grab him they will.

Fellow basement dweller Ottawa is their main threat for the top pick in the draft but the Oilers can take a bit of solace in knowing that the Sens have plenty of prospects waiting in the wings on defense. I suppose if there’s a silver lining to be had in what’s essentially a lost season, it’s that the Oilers can at least look ahead to continuing to make the team better through the draft. It’s a trick they’ve had to get used to the last few seasons and until those youngsters begin to mature, it’s how things are going to continue in the great white north.

Leafs chase Rask, hold on to win Game 5

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The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they managed to extend force a sixth game thanks to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

The Maple Leafs managed to build up a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission thanks to goals by Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson. They also had a 4-1 lead in the second period. That’s when the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.

After the goalie swap, Sean Kuraly managed to cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end of the frame.

 

Toronto did their best to blow their lead, as they took penalty after penalty in the second half of the game. The Leafs took the final four penalties, but the Bruins failed to convert on their opportunities on the man-advantage. They even gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play for over 1:30 before Kuraly scored moments later.

Goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 42 of 45 shots. This was the third time in five games that he faced at least 40 shots in this series.

The Leafs will now return home for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ll need to perform more like they did in the first half of Saturday’s game if they want to force Game 7 in Boston.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

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We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck