The Edmonton Oilers are going to the Stanley Cup Playoff dance with the goalie who got them here: 9 Things

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The Oilers are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Unlike 2016, most Edmonton fans won’t just be content that the club has returned to the post-season. After the early exit from the bubble in 2020, just as many followers are nervous about what may lie ahead this Spring.

Many post-season prognostications are ahead, in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Connor McDavid set a new NHL record on Saturday. His 105 points came on 57.38% of the Oilers’ 183 goals in 2020-21. The old mark was held by Mario Lemieux who hit 57.35% in the 1988-89 season. More on #97 in a bit…

8. Do not discount the possibility that the Oilers and D Adam Larsson have all but agreed to a new contract. It’s equally possible that both sides have agreed to put off the formalities of a deal until after the post-season so that 100% of the focus right now can be on the ice where a pro like Larsson would think it should be.

7. Gaetan Haas had a good opportunity to work off the rust on Saturday. But I have every reason to believe that come Wednesday he will be the understudy to young Ryan McLeod at 3C. McLeod in between Alex Chiasson and James Neal brings more size and better faceoff numbers (both even more valuable in the playoffs) than Haas.

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6. Evan Bouchard will likely need an injury on the RHS to end up back in the lineup during the playoffs. But if he does need to draw in at least Bouchard has played a couple games more recently and will have worked out a few bugs. Reasonable criticism is fair. But I suspect anyone who dumped all over him for his miscue on the 3rd goal Saturday were the same crowd who helped run Jeff Petry out of town. This just in: Rookies make mistakes.

5. Zack Kassian skated with the Taxi Squad this week. He is close to returning and will no doubt be in the coach’s ear to play Wednesday. Kassian’s type is valuable. But I’d be surprised if all of Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson and Josh Archibald are not in the initial starting lineup. If Devin Shore (who I expect to start Game 1 at 4LW) falters and Kassian is ready, I could see Archibald swinging over to the starboard side.

4. Slater Koekkoek looked pretty good in 17:18 of work on Saturday. It’s good for him to have a game before the playoffs hit. Koekkoek stands to be valuable depth on the left-hand side. Although with Kris Russell not yet ready to return I expect Caleb Jones will play Game 1. Otherwise, as with McLeod’s apprenticeship at 3C, we would not have seen a steady diet of Jones down the stretch. I absolutely think that Russell will draw back in when he’s healthy. But the injury is taking longer to heal than they had anticipated.

3. I have predicted the Oilers to best the Jets in 6. I respect Winnipeg a lot and I think they will be all that Dave Tippett’s crew can handle. But we have not seen them be able to consistently stop Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. And unless the Jets best players can be more effective than Edmonton’s best players, I just can’t see Winnipeg being successful over a 7-game series. Some commentators think Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck gives the Jets the edge. Maybe. But he hasn’t had a Vezina-quality season so far this year.

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2. Cam Moon wrapped up a successful 1st season as the Edmonton Oilers radio play by play man on Saturday. Its easy to cheer for Cam. He was a goaltender for the Prince Albert Raiders when I did my first WHL broadcast. Given Jack Michaels impactful transition to television, I expect we’ll hear less of Jack on the radio in the years to come. Too bad for us! But the good news for radio fans is that Moon and Bob Stauffer formed a strong duo while Jack was over on TV. Their chemistry matters. And so does Cam’s ability to verbally rise to the occasion at key junctures. But hosts with unique yet complimentary styles are also essential. Listeners need to instantly distinguish one Host from the other and to know what they can consistently expect from each of them. Audiences get that from Cam & Bob. If the Oilers didn’t already have a multi-year contract with Cam Moon, they should now. You might look long and hard before you find as good of a fit that close to Jack & Bob again. Meanwhile, the venerable pair will call all Oilers games on radio in the playoffs.

1.The Oilers playoff hopes depend heavily on goaltending. That should not come as a news flash. The success of most clubs will rest on their puck stoppers. Mikko Koskinen has not been consistent. And in fact he has struggled significantly his last 3 games. In 2 of those 3 Koskinen played quite well for extended stretches. But he has the nasty habit of letting one (or more) squeak by him that just shouldn’t. This whole situation in net will have some fans wishing that Dave Tippett had given 3rd stringer Alex Stalock a game or 2. But let’s be brutally honest: If things don’t go well for Mike Smith over the next 10 days, neither Mikko Koskinen nor Alex Stalock (who hasn’t played a single NHL game since August) is likely to bail him out by then.

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As for those nervous about how Mikko Koskinen may perform in one of those back-to-backs scheduled for Round 1 on May 23rd and 24th? Did you really think it was ever in the coach’s plan to do that? Between how Mike Smith’s minutes have been well-managed down the stretch and the 3 days the Oilers have off before the Jets series starts, Smith won’t need nor want the rest.

Nope, the Oilers have decided. Mike Smith is their man. They’ll sink or swim with him. And given the sparkling regular season Smith just posted, I doubt there’s any fear that they’ll have to toss him a line anytime soon.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

Recently, at The Cult…

McCURDY: The Oilers drop a 4-1 decision to Vancouver in their regular season finale

STAPLES: A Stanley Cup is Connor McDavid’s next order of business

LEAVINS: The Oilers tune up for the playoffs with an OT win over MTL

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