You who hope for good news in Edmonton,
go to the game!
You who hope for good news in Rexall Place,
lift up your voices with a great shout!
Lift your voices without fear of mockery,
call out for the entire nation to hear,
"Our God has redeemed us!"
God, our ruler, is coming with great power,
Yahweh who rules this league with his mighty arm.
He holds both rewards and punishments in his hands,
and will hand a winning team to a faithful city.
God tends his people like a shepherd,
protecting all of us with his strong arms.
He holds the Oilers in his heart,
and counts the Oilogosphere as his possession.
Minnesota Wild (14-7-3) @ Edmonton Oilers (12-10-2)
Rexall Place, 7:30 p.m. MST
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report:
Derek got the blood boiling on this one last week, and I added my two cents in the following Game-Day Thread. But the facts are what they are. The Wild are a poor team getting very good results, mostly on the strength of ridiculously good goaltending. But what about a positive spin on this? Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have combined for an even strength save percentage of .941, which is about twenty points higher than average. On the other hand, the Wild have shot just 6.8% at even strength, which is well below average. And even if Harding and Backstrom can't sustain a .941 save percentage (and they likely can't), they are pretty darn good goaltenders. If Minnesota shoots at a league average percentage the rest of the way, maybe their current PDO of 100.9 isn't so unsustainable after all. And the possession numbers should improve. Mike Lundin was being counted on to play top four minutes on defense this season, and is just now getting back from injury (he'll play his second game tonight). If the goal for this team is to make the playoffs, the club has built up a pretty nice cushion with 31 points already in the bank.
I still don't think this team is very good, and feel very confident in saying that they won't be at the top of the standings in March or April, but they should, at the very least, be able to stay in the playoff hunt, and while I wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs (they'll probably need to play at a 90-point pace the rest of the way to make 95 points), it wouldn't be a huge surprise (at this point) if they end up in the top eight when the music stops.
Edmonton Oilers (12-10-2):
Gagner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Smyth - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Paajarvi - Belanger - Jones
Petrell - O'Marra - Hordichuk
Smid - Gilbert
Whitney - Petry
Peckham - Teubert
Minnesota Wild (14-7-3):
Clutterbuck - Koivu - Heatley
Bouchard - Cullen - Setoguchi
Johnson - Brodziak - Powe
McIntyre - Wellman - Staubitz
Schultz - Lundin
Zanon - Stoner
Spurgeon - Scandella
By the Numbers:
- Tom Gilbert leads the Oilers' in even strength ice time per game, but he's not actually playing that much relative to his peers. Gilbert's 18:18 per game is only good for 33rd in the NHL. Of course, if we look at total ice time per game, Gilbert moves all the way up to 18th with 24:37.
- Minnesota's leader in time on ice per game is Marek Zidlicky, who's well back of the leaders with just 21:07 per game. This more egalitarian distribution is very interesting because, like the Oilers, the Wild have a lot of unproven men on the back end.
- The Oilers continue to dominate in the category of "forwards with the most time on ice without a goal". Eric Belanger leads by over one hundred total minutes - he's in first place with 374:27 compared to just 264:43 for Brandon MacMillan in second - and both Sam Gagner (249:40) and Magnus Paajarvi (247:33) have moved into the top ten.
- Despite Gagner's lack of scoring, he still ranks eighth among the team's forwards in points per sixty minutes of five-five on ice time, which sounds at least decent. It's not. Gagner has amassed just 1.19 points per sixty minutes, by far the lowest rate of his career. It really is amazing to see the Oilers doing so well despite getting just about nothing offensively from their third and fourth lines.
- Both teams have recently added players from the AHL. The Oilers called up Ryan O'Marra, while the Wild recently called up Casey Wellman. Wellman was leading the Houston Aeros in both goals (11) and points (19) when he was called up (he'd played 20 games), and will be playing in his second game of the season tonight.