Fans who were worried about the Edmonton Oilers before Christmas likely aren’t going to feel better after the team’s first game back from the holiday break on Tuesday (Dec. 27).
While the Oilers got past the Calgary Flames 2-1 at Scotiabank Saddledome, they were not the better team on this night. They were more than doubled on the shot clock (47 to 22) and Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner got some big help from the post to preserve the victory in the dying seconds. Connor McDavid, who is pretty much a lock to score every game now, broke a 1-1 deadlock with a third-period power-play goal for the Oilers, and that was the difference.
The Oilers couldn’t generate a lot offensively, and their blueliners once again had their share of WTH moments. Basically, any of the deficiencies that were cause for concern when the Oilers won just once in four games prior to the Christmas break are still cause for concern.
But a win is a win, and this was a big one, as it moves the Oilers past Calgary into a Western Conference playoff spot. The Oilers will gladly pocket the two points and move on to the next one.
Meanwhile, Tuesday’s game did produce a lot of fun trivia for the Oilers. Here are five fast facts from their victory in Calgary.
McDavid on Pace for 70 Goals
McDavid’s goal was his 31st of the season in 36 games, which projects to 70.6 goals in 82 games. If the Oilers’ captain can maintain this pace (and avoid any setback that might keep him out of action) for the rest of the season, he would record just the 15th 70-goal campaign in NHL history and become only the ninth different player to achieve that feat.
Related: Oilers’ McDavid on Pace for NHL’s Most Points in Over 25 Years
The NHL has not had a 70-goal scorer in three decades, with the most recent being Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne each lighting the lamp 76 times in 1992-93. There have been five 70-goal seasons in Oilers history, four by Wayne Gretzky and one from Jari Kurri.
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Further, McDavid has now scored 14 times with the man advantage, which is already a personal best, and puts him on an 82-game pace for more than 30 power-play goals this season. That would smash the Oilers’ franchise record of 24, set just last season by Leon Draisaitl, and make McDavid just the fifth player in NHL history with at least 30 power-play goals in one season, joining an exclusive club that presently consists of Dave Andreychuk, Tim Kerr, Mario Lemieux, and Joe Nieuwendyk.
Oilers Get Rare Low-Scoring Win
Before Tuesday, the Oilers this season were 0-10-0 when scoring two goals or less, and a woeful 3-14-2 when scoring fewer than four times. The last time Edmonton had a regular season win in regulation when scoring just twice was more than 14 months ago, Oct. 30, 2021, 2-1 over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. They also had a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series in May.
Skinner was a big reason the Oilers were able to prevail with limited offensive output. The 24-year-old goalie made 46 saves, one short of his career high, and stopped all 24 shots he faced in the third period. He has now started 34 games in his young NHL career and has given up one goal or less in four of those games.
Barrie Joins the Century Club
Tyson Barrie scored career goal No. 100 on Tuesday, tying the score at 1-1 early in the second period when he beat Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom for his fifth goal this season.
The 31-year-old Barrie becomes the 112th defenceman in NHL history to reach the century mark for goals scored. He is the fourth rearguard to score his 100th goal while wearing an Oilers uniform. The others: Paul Coffey (Feb. 27, 1984), Reijo Ruotsalainen (March 6, 1987), and Chris Pronger (Jan. 25, 2006).
Edmonton Snaps Out of Festive Funk
Before Tuesday, the Oilers had lost four straight and six of the last 11 times in their first game after Christmas (excluding the 2012-13 and 2020-21 seasons, both of which did not start until January). In their return game following the holiday break, the Oilers have won just four times since 2004-05.
Season Series Over with Flames
The NHL’s new schedule format this season meant that the Oilers would face the Flames just three times in 2022-23, and an idiosyncrasy of said schedule has seen all three games between the provincial rivals take place before New Year’s. This is the earliest the Oilers and Flames’ regular season match-ups have concluded.
The Flames and Oilers each posted a win in the other’s rink in October, setting up Tuesday’s game as the rubber match for the 2022-23 regular season Battle of Alberta. With the victory, Edmonton has now won four, split two, and lost just one of the last seven season series against the Flames. Calgary has won it just twice since McDavid entered the league in 2015-16.
It could be the 2023 Preseason before these teams see each other again. Both squads need to step up their play if they’re going to secure a postseason berth, and at least create the potential to meet in the playoffs for a second consecutive spring, after Edmonton knocked off Calgary 4-1 in the 2022 Western Conference Semi-Finals.
The Oilers now have 40 points, tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the Western Conference’s two wild-card playoff berths. The Flames are right behind with 39 points and can leapfrog back over Edmonton by winning their game against the Seattle Kraken tonight (Dec. 28). Edmonton’s next game will also come against the Kraken, in Seattle on Friday (Dec. 30), when the Oilers will again look to shore things up as the midpoint of the season nears.