McDavid, Oilers, get chance to take lead in Pacific
LOS ANGELES — The Edmonton Oilers are the hottest team in the NHL and getting a healthy season from Hart Trophy candidate Connor McDavid is helping.
McDavid and the Oilers can move into first place in the Pacific Division and into the second seed in the Western Conference on Tuesday night when they visit the Los Angeles Kings.
The Oilers (44-25-9) are on a five-game winning streak. Edmonton is 9-1-0 in its last 10 games since March 12.
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Edmonton’s surge has given them 97 points and another win would give them the edge of the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific via tiebreaker. While the Oilers are playing the Kings, the Ducks will be hosting the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
McDavid leads the league with 94 points (29 goals, 65 assists) in his second season. Since March 12, McDavid has 19 points and has recorded three games with at least three points in that span.
One of those was Saturday when McDavid set up Leo Draisaitl’s game-winner 1:26 into overtime in a 3-2 win over the Ducks.
“I’ve had the honor of being around some tremendous players in my day like Pavel Datsyuk and Sidney Crosby,” Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said. “Connor is at a very high level right now and he’s separating himself from a lot of players in the league. He’s just remarkable right now.”
Cam Talbot also is surging for the Oilers. He recorded his 40th win Saturday, tying the team record held by Grant Fuhr
“Any time your name is anywhere near Grant Fuhr’s name, that’s pretty special,” Talbot said. “To be on that list is a pretty big achievement. It just shows the kind of team we have this year and how we have come together and how we’ve played.”
Milan Lucic, who left Los Angeles as a free agent to sign an eight-year deal with Edmonton last July, feels something special is happening in northern Alberta.
“Ever since the calendar turned over to March it feels like everything is rolling in the right direction,” Lucic said. “From the goaltending to the defensive play and to guys stepping up offensively, that’s what makes it so much fun to play this time of year. We’re definitely in a good spot. “
Los Angeles (37-34-7) has arguably fashioned the most disappointing performance in the league this season. Despite having many of the core players who won Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 the Kings faded badly down the stretch, winning four of their last 11 games.
The exclamation point was a 2-1 home loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday that officially eliminated the Kings from the postseason for the second time in three seasons.
Defenseman Drew Doughty failed to replicate his Norris Trophy-winning campaign this season and believes that it was more than an anemic offense that prevented the Kings making the playoffs. Despite his presence and other big names like Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, Los Angeles enters the contest ranked 26th of 30 in offense, a statistic that supports the claim that its signature bruising, puck-possession style is no longer effective in today’s game.
“There are a lot of reasons why we didn’t make the playoffs, there is not one that stands out,” Doughty said.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, who missed 59 games with a groin injury also sees the failure as a collective effort. Despite having strong statistics since his return (2.00 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and two shutouts), his record is only 6-5-1 in 14 games.
Though those numbers point to a lack of offense as the primary reason, Quick believes the team’s inability to execute at key moments is a significant factor.
“From the defensive end, you wonder why other teams can win games 2-1, 1-0 and we can’t,” Quick said. “It’s just not on goal scoring, it’s on everybody.”