Game Notes: Minnesota Wild @ Edmonton Oilers — Game 50
Fresh off of a 4-2 win over the Jets in Winnipeg, the Oilers loaded the bus and darted non-stop overnight back home to Edmonton. They’ll now host the Minnesota Wild with an opportunity to extend their winning streak to six.
1. The Oilers are undefeated in the Jay Woodcroft era as the rookie coach owns a 5-0-0 record since taking over for Dave Tippett last week. Only three coaches have had better winning streaks to start off their NHL careers…
Jay Woodcroft becomes 5th head coach in NHL history to start coaching career 5-0.
7-0: Geoff Ward with Calgary in 2019-20.
6-0: Patrick Roy (COL, 2013-14), Mario Tremblay (MTL 1995-96)
5-0: Woodcroft, Marc Crawford (QUE, 1994-95) and Bep Guildolin (BOS, 1972-73). #NHL
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) February 19, 2022
That’s a pretty uninspiring list of coaches, but Woodcroft’s Oilers have generated plenty of authentic optimism during this stretch. The team is outscoring opponents by a whopping 15-to-3 at even-strength and they’re well in the green in terms of shot attempt differential at 228-to-163.
2. The Oilers had one five-game winning streak last season. It came in late February and then the team got swept in a three-game series by the Maple Leafs. In 2019-20, the Oilers came out of the gate with five wins in a row, just as they did this season, but that was their longest streak of the season.
To find the last time the Oilers had a winning streak reach six games, surprisingly enough, you have to go back to the part of the 2015-16 season when Connor McDavid was out with a broken collarbone. They also had one early in the 2010-11 season when H.O.P.E. looked like The Answer and they had one in the spring of 2006 that started with a triple-overtime victory. All that to say winning six in a row hasn’t happened often in the salary cap era for the Oilers.
3. This stretch has featured wins over the Islanders, Sharks, Kings, Ducks, and Jets. There’s no need to complain about a five-game winning streak, but those are far from the league’s elite. Woodcroft’s Oilers will now be tested with a challenging schedule, as the next four teams they’re facing rank in the top seven in the league in terms of points percentage.
4. The Wild own a 30-13-3 record and have the second-best points percentage in the Western Conference, behind only the Colorado Avalanche. Key to Minnesota’s success for perhaps for the first time in franchise history is a very good offence. The Wild rank third in the league in goals scored with 176 and they have games in hand on everyone other than the Islanders.
5. Kirill Kaprizov leads the way with 23 goals and there are five other players on the Wild who are on pace to break the 20-goal plateau this season. Ryan Hartman has 19, which has already tied his career-high, Marcus Foligno has 17, which is already a career-high, Mats Zuccarello has 16, Joel Eriksson Ek has 15, and Kevin Fiala has 14. Rookie Matt Boldy also has seven goals in the first 14 games of his NHL career.
6. Minnesota has also been getting very good goaltending. Cam Talbot has been solid for the Wild, posting a .911 save percentage over 30 games. Kaapo Kahkonen has actually been the better of the two, as he owns a .921 save percentage over 18 appearances. Talbot has done well against his former team in the past. Earlier this season, he stopped 38 of 39 shots for a win over the Oilers. He also got into a fight with Mike Smith back in February of 2020.
7. The Wild will be an interesting team to watch going into the trade deadline. It would make sense for general manager Bill Guerin to go all-in on this season, because next year poses some major challenges. The buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter go from costing the team $2,371,794 a piece against the salary cap to costing $6,371,794 per player. The team is going to have to find a way to shed some salary while also figuring out new contracts for Fiala and Kahkonen.
8. The Kings also won on Saturday so the Oilers are tied for third spot in the Pacific Division with 59 points, though they have a game in hand over Los Angeles. Edmonton is also one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights with a game in hand.