The 74–point Edmonton Oilers are not the 108–point Winnipeg Jets, of that you can be sure. But on Monday the Oilers waltzed into the Xcel Energy Center to take on a Minnesota Wild team that awaits the Jets in Round 1 of the upcoming playoffs.
Like the guy who leaves his putt eight feet short of the cup however, the Oilers didn’t show Winnipeg much in this one. All we know for sure is that the Wild’s defensive game was too much for a flagging Oilers team to handle, as Minnesota managed even to hold Connor McDavid pointless in a ho-hum 3-0 win.
Here are some takeaways from Edmonton-Minny, with plane tickets booked for Game 1 in Winnipeg next week:
• This was a solid display of team defence by a team missing two top defencemen in Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. The Wild announced on Monday that Suter (broken ankle) is done for the season, while head coach Bruce Boudreau is advertising Spurgeon (torn hamstring) as a playoff performer. No offence Bruce, but we’ll believe that one when we see it.
While the Oilers didn’t manage to test Devan Dubyk an inordinate amount, the Jets will come at Minnesota in waves. Without Suter and possibly Spurgeon — who will be coming off a pulled hammy and almost a month on the shelf — the oddsmakers will shift their lines. We’ll surely be bullish on the Jets.
• Mikko Koivu is 35, and doesn’t score the way he used to. But he is still a horse who plays the kind of game a young, skilled player must learn to deal with if he’s going to succeed at playoff hockey.
Zach Parise, who scored two goals Monday, is having his leanest year since coming to Minny in 2012, taking just nine assists into his 40th game Monday. But you can bet that he’ll dig in come playoff time and present the younger, faster Jets with some veteran opposition.
We don’t suspect a banged-up Wild team can stick with Winnipeg, but you never know. The first round is where you find all the upsets, so why not in this first-ever meeting between two cities that are as familiar with each other — in a cross-border kind of way — as Toronto and Buffalo or Boston and Montreal?
• A couple of Oilers thoughts:
Anton Slepyshev — He doesn’t do much other than score. He isn’t physical, doesn’t check particularly well, and isn’t a great passer. The problem? He’s played 48 games and has six goals.
With the Oilers trailing 1-0 early, Mike Cammalleri set Slepyshev up in front of a wide open net, which Slepyshev proceeded to miss. This was NHL game No. 100 for Slepyshev. We’re highly skeptical that there is a great deal of player here, but he turns 24 only next month. There’s time to prove us wrong.
Milan Lucic — They should send poor Lucic home for the season. At this point we’ve moved past bad luck and have settled on a player who doesn’t have any belief left. Lucic, only last season a 50-point player, has become the boneyard where plays go to die. He has the confidence of the Washington Generals.
Lucic can’t finish a thing at this point, and has a long summer ahead. On the agenda, somehow chisel 10 pounds off his massive frame, and find a skills coach who can solve the great mystery that is the whereabouts of Lucic’s hands.
Special teams — The Oilers have the highest-scoring player in the NHL and the worst power play in the NHL, all at the same time. And by the way — their penalty kill ranks 27th.
It says here that the coaching staff is the least of this club’s problems right now, but tell me how you defend a staff whose special teams are this pathetic?
End of the road — Only two home games remain on the Oilers schedule, and McDavid’s quest for a second scoring title and the Sedins’ farewell game are all that remain as far as storylines. Quite a nosedive from a year ago, isn’t it?