Ducks Gameday—Eight games to go, unfortunately

Edmonton Oilers (bubble) at Anaheim Ducks (bubble)
Unbelievably, SBN has no Oilers blog. That seems ironic because when I started blogging, the hockey blogosphere was 92% Oilers-based. Go see Tyler, I guess.

This is why the NHL needs to switch to a 74-game season.  Immediately.

Mar26standings_medium
Numbers lifted straight from the pages of TSN.ca

Why can't the league just call off the rest of the regular season and skip right now to this blog's wet dream holy vision noble purpose of a postseason Battle of California? Why offer these teams the opportunity to blow it, like they did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that?

The Ducks sit with a truly thin margin on the five-team bubble, which at least offers the assurance that if everyone ended with the same last-eight record, they'd hold 7th.  In order to get passed, Anaheim needs to be outperformed.  A quick look at the bubble's final-eight game schedules after the break.

Here's a table that shows the final eight games for the five teams in question:

Final8gms_medium
Let the handicapping begin!

At the bottom, I've identified how many Home or Road games remain, how many Back to Back games remain (note: tonight's EDM-ANA game counts as a B2B for the Oilers), and how many games remain against the top 6 above-the-bubble clubs, the mid 5 bubble teams, and the bottom 4 under-the-bubble squads.

A few quick notes:

  • The Blues are the only team of the five that won't be playing any other bubble teams for the rest of the season -- at least for them, there is no specific game that they are terrified to lose.
  • The Oilers play their last game outside of Alberta tonight -- they'll end with six straight home games then a quick jaunt to Calgary.
  • Nashville, St. Louis, and Minnesota all have schedules dominated by top-six opponents, which could be a boon or a bust -- top six teams still have reasons to win, but it's not life-or-death.
  • The Ducks seem pretty good by all these metrics, which makes me even more nervous.  If they can find a way to beat the Sharks twice, it should go a long way to securing that first round BoC.

Feel free to leave any more observations, predictions, or random thoughts in the comments.

*  *  *

Lastly, I wanted to throw a quick table to show some numbers for Nickelodeon's impressive first nine games in Anaheim, and I'm even going to compare it to some lofty results -- Pahlsson's 2007 cup run.  Now Nokelainen isn't quite at the level of minutes-played or level of competition that Pahlsson had in the cup run, but it's similar.  Largely ignore the power play line -- mostly what matters is the even-strength and shorthanded comparisons. 

Newsammy_medium
click to enlarge

Pahlsson still holds the edge in points-per-hour and goal-differential-per-hour, but Nokelainen is not that far off in either manpower situation.  It's still early, of course, and Nokester is still getting acclimated, but so far it's been promising -- he's outscoring some tough-ish opposition and in more than 108 even-strength minutes, Nokelainen has only been on the ice for one goal against.  Nice work, kid.

Prediction: As noted, Anaheim holds its fate in its own hands, which hasn't boded well all season.  I'm ready for the letdown.  Oilers 4, Ducks 2 (wink).  Goals by the Finns -- Nokelainen and Selanne.

Go Ducks.

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