There is currently a three way tie atop the National Hockey League standings and it’s highly unlikely that at this time last year you could have predicted which teams would be involved. After all games are final on Monday the three teams tied for the best record in the National Hockey League with 15 points each are the Buffalo Sabres, the Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are coming off of a strange 1-0 shootout loss to Winnipeg which dropped their record to 7-1-1 on the season.
The Minnesota Wild were expected to have a rough season and so far they’re delivering. Minnesota is 2-6-0 after 8 games and their four points ties them with the New York Rangers for the second worst record in the league just one point ahead of Ottawa. The Wild are coming into this game off of a 4-3 home win over Montreal. This is significant as prior to this victory their only win of the season was over the aforementioned Ottawa Senators. To be fair, the Wild have had a nasty schedule so far this season with six of their first 8 games on the road against Nashville, Colorado, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal along with the win over Ottawa.
Minnesota ranks #29 in the NHL in scoring offense with 2.25 goals per game and are tied for last place in scoring defense giving up 4.00 goals per game. Their -1.75 per game differential is by far the worst in the league with Ottawa having the second worst differential at -1.38. They’ve also got the #21 ranked power play (16.7%) and the #20 penalty kill (75.9%). These stats make it difficult to think that the Wild can matchup up well against the Oilers. Edmonton has the #9 scoring offense in hockey (3.33) and the #5 scoring defense allowing just 2.22 goals per game. The Oilers have the #1 power play hitting at a 38.5% clip along with the #3 penalty kill (90.3%).
Both teams will go with their starters for this game (or at least that’s what is projected) with Mike Smith starting for Edmonton and Devan Dubnyk for Minnesota. As if the James Neal for Milan Lucic swindle wasn’t enough abuse of the Calgary Flames the Oilers picked up Smith after the Flames released him. He’s on a 1 year deal but so far has been excellent. He’s 3-1-1 with a 1.98 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. Mikko Koskinen is also playing well with a 4-0-0 record and a 2.11 goals against average. Dubnyk has struggled this year with a 1-5-0 record and a 4.18 goals against average. If his form doesn’t improve he may start to lose playing time to Alex Stalock who has been decent in limited action.
The Oilers have had the edge in head to head play in recent years including taking 2 of 3 from Minnesota last year. Edmonton has won 4 of 6 head to head including 2 of the last 3 in Minnesota. Can’t pass up the better team at an underdog price.