The Oilers begin a nine-game American road trip in Chicago tonight. The journey ends in Denver on March 12th, and in between, the Oilers play the entire Central Division (Chicago twice), Colorado, Minnesota and one Pacific team (thank goodness for realignment) - Dallas. Here's the daunting task in table form:
|Monday, 2/25||at Chicago|
|Thursday, 2/28||at Dallas|
|Friday, 3/1||at St. Louis|
|Sunday, 3/3||at Minnesota|
|Tuesday, 3/5||at Columbus|
|Thursday, 3/7||at Detroit|
|Friday, 3/8||at Nashville|
|Sunday, 3/10||at Chicago|
|Tuesday, 3/12||at Colorado|
The Oilers have17 points through 17 games, obviously 1 point per game. They sit 12th in the Western Conference in points earned per game. The points earned per game ranks of their upcoming opponents are listed below:
The Oilers have no chance of catching Chicago, Anaheim, Vancouver, St. Louis, Los Angeles, or San Jose. That means they've got to get through, over or around Phoenix, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and Detroit for 7th or Phoenix, Dallas, Minnesota and Nashville for 8th.
To ensure (probably ensure, the amount of 3-point games in the West is insane) a playoff spot the 8th-place team must earn 55 points, equivalent to 94 points in an 82 game schedule. The Oilers therefore need to finish with a record of 17-11-4 to make the playoffs, noted below:
17-15 and 1.23 points per game is a very tall order for a team that's won just three times in regulation thus far, but it's possible, especially if Steve Tambellini fixes the defense.
If the Oilers were to have a ".500" road trip, earning 9 of 18 points, which would be a successful road trip in most fans' eyes, the team would be, for all intents and purposes, out of the playoffs when they returned home from Denver.
As noted above, a 4-4-1 road trip means the Oilers would have to take 29 points in their final 22 games, or 13-7-3.
But if the Oilers win 6 of 9 (h/t Jimi Hendrix) the final month of the season shapes up a bit differently:
The Oilers then need to take 26 points in their final 22 games, or 11-8-4 (a losing record!) to make the playoffs.
The biggest complicating factor on this road trip is the cluster of opponents and it's impact on the standings. As I mentioned earlier, the Oilers are in compeition with Phoenix, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and Detroit for 7th and 8th in the standings. They play the last four on this road trip. Losing to those teams would be disastrous. If they go 4-4-1 with four losses to Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and Detroit, the post road trip standings would look something like this:
|Detroit Red Wings||31|
The Oilers would be 5 points behind 8th place, behind in most available tiebreakers, and behind three other teams just to get to 8th place.
Beat those four teams in the 4-4-1 road trip and the standings look much better:
|Detroit Red Wings||29|
Beat those four, Columbus and Colorado in a 6-3 road trip and the world is a better place:
|Detroit Red Wings||29|