a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Sunday, 25 March 2012

03/25/12 Odds & Ends: Calgary, Standings, Dubnyk

Sunday's win over Columbus brings the Oilers up to 31 wins on the season, and extends a streak over the last 11 games which has seen them go 6-2-3. The implications of this run are many, but are they a harbinger of things to come? Time will tell. For now, however, improved play from the Oilers means the following:

- The Oilers have caught up to the Minnesota Wild in wins on the season and they have 26 Regulation or Overtime Wins (ROW) to the Wild's 23. The Oilers have played one more game than Minny has, but when the Wild were on top of the Conference they had 20 wins to the Oilers' 14, and Edmonton was sitting in 13th place. The Wild are 3-7-0 in their last ten games, and if things continue this way it's a good bet that they'll finish behind the Oilers.

- Speaking of finishing behind the Oilers, the Calgary Flames could still be a candidate for that if it wasn't for the loser point. The Flames have lost five straight after a five game win streak, and now sit with 34 wins on the season - just three more than the Oilers have collected. Even if the Flames finish a few wins ahead of the Oilers, that has to be viewed as an unacceptable result for Flames fans that were guaranteed playoffs before the season. The Oilers will have a tough time catching the Flames in the standings thanks to Calgary having 6 more points from OT/Shootout losses, but the win column is still within striking distance.

The Flames get the Stars, Kings, Avalanche, Ducks and Canucks twice in their final six; and all of those teams save the Ducks should be highly motivated. The Oilers get the Kings and Ducks twice, along with the Stars and Canucks. Not an easy game in the bunch for Edmonton, but the team has been playing much better lately and they might surprise one or two of those teams.

If the Oilers can take a record of 3-2-1 out of those last six games it would give them a record of 9-4-4 in their last 17. That's actually better than the way their started the season, when the went 9-6-2 in their first 17.

- A big reason for the reemergence of the Oilers is the play of Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has won 9 of his last 13 starts and he's owned a 0.933 Sv% over that time. On the whole, his save percentage is sitting at 0.914 on the season. Make no mistake: that's starting goalie territory. Of goalies who have played 40 or more games this season, Dubnyk's save percentage ranks 17th right now. Some notables below him in that category include Antti Niemi, Craig Anderson, Jonas Hiller, Cam Ward, Ilya Bryzgalov and Martin Brodeur. Of course, this doesn't mean that Dubnyk is a lock to be a starting goaltender in the future, but the indications are that he is giving his team as much of a chance to win as these other goalies; many of whom are backstopping far superior groups. At one time I found Dubnyk to be the most disappointing Oiler of 2011-12, and now he's become one of their strengths.

- With two assists on Sunday afternoon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has re-taken the rookie scoring lead in the NHL with 49 points in 56 games. Gabriel Landeskog went on a bit of a tear recently and yet his 48 points have come in 77 games with Colorado. It's been said before and deserves to be said again: if Nugent-Hopkins hadn't been injured there would be no debate about rookie of the year honors. It may not factor into the final decision in Calder voting, but Landeskog was thought to be the most NHL-ready prospect available at the draft, while Nugent-Hopkins wasn't even supposed to make the Oilers in the eyes of many. His performance speaks for itself.

- The Oilers are within 4 or fewer points of the Wild, Islanders, Leafs, Ducks, Hurricanes and Lightning in league standings right now. If a few of those teams fall off and the Oilers continue to roll, they could find themselves on the outside of the NHL Draft Lottery. Time will tell if that's a good thing or bad thing, but it may reduce the conflict about drafting a defenseman this year. Start getting familiar with names like Reinhart, Murray, Dumba, Trouba, Rielly, and Ceci, because they could all be in the conversation from 3-10 overall.

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