Boston Bruins vs. Edmonton Oilers: Debating large questions

NHL followers have had this Thursday, March 9, circled on their calendars for fairly a while.

Tonight’s recreation that includes the Boston Bruins in opposition to the Edmonton Oilers (7:30 ET, solely on ESPN+ and Hulu) isn’t just a rematch of the 1990 Stanley Cup Final — though maybe it is a preview of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final.

History is being made on each side. The Bruins are on tempo for 65 wins and 136 factors this season, each of which might be NHL information (the present marks are 62 and 132, respectively). They had been the quickest group in NHL historical past to succeed in 100 factors. Goaltender Linus Ullmark may threaten the NHL file for wins and is properly forward within the Vezina Trophy race.

On the opposite aspect, Connor McDavid leads the league with 54 objectives and 124 factors — he is 10 factors away from the league’s No. 2 in objectives (Boston’s David Pastrnak), and 28 factors away from No. 2 in factors (Edmonton teammate Leon Draisaitl). Pacewise, he is on a path to 68 objectives and 156 factors. The 124 factors is already forward of McDavid’s league-leading level complete from 2021-22, and if he stays on his present tempo, it will be the best mark since Mario Lemieux’s 161 in 1995-96.

If you were not offered on tuning in already, we have gathered our hockey reporters right here to debate the large questions heading into this matchup:

The Bruins will end the season with _____ wins and _____ factors.

Ryan S. Clark: Let’s go together with 65 wins and 136 factors. They have received 79% of their video games this season and … that is past ridiculous whenever you say it out loud. The figures I quoted are what would occur if the Bruins hold going at their present tempo.

It’s to not say these numbers cannot change. They definitely can. But at this level, it is arduous to argue in opposition to a group that made additions on the commerce deadline to change into much more indomitable.

Victoria Matiash: The Bruins will lose two of their last 20 in regulation and two in additional time. That works out to 49 plus 16 — carry the 1… — 65 wins and 137 factors. Patrice Bergeron & Co. do not solely care to interrupt the file, they need it shattered. Plus, this crew intends to trip into the playoffs as scorching as potential.

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Kristen Shilton: Boston will find yourself with 64 wins and 134 factors. Once the Bruins break the NHL file for many regular-season victories — which appears like a foregone conclusion at this level — it solely is smart that they’ll relaxation a few of their veterans. That’s in preparation for what they hope — and all of us assume — will likely be a protracted spring forward.

For nearly as good as these Bruins have been the previous a number of months, the true Boston behemoth should earnestly emerge in April.

Greg Wyshynski: The Bruins will end with 63 wins to interrupt the NHL file for many within the common season and 132 factors to tie the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens for probably the most in NHL historical past in a single season. (Montreal wins the tiebreaker, having accomplished it in 80 video games.)

Besides being a steamroller, Boston has a fairly manageable schedule the remainder of the way in which, with an equal variety of playoff contenders and lottery groups. They’ll make historical past, then give their veteran gamers a much-deserved breather earlier than the postseason grind.

Connor McDavid and David Pastrnak are tops within the league in purpose scoring proper now. Who’ll win the Rocket Richard at season’s finish?

Clark: It’s probably going to be McDavid or Pastrnak. Although, if we have now to choose somebody outdoors these two, perhaps Tage Thompson is the reply.

As of Thursday, Thompson is just two objectives behind Pastrnak. Remember, Thompson scored 13 objectives within the month of December. He has proven that he can piece collectively these notable scoring streaks. Now he is making an attempt to do it whereas the Sabres are preventing for a playoff spot. He looks as if the strongest non-McDavid/non-Pastrnak candidate.

Matiash: McDavid wins the Rocket with 70, scowling all the way in which. Mikko Rantanen finishes second with 55, shaming many people for not showering him with sufficient comparative consideration this season.

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Shilton: It’s arduous to wager in opposition to a participant in McDavid who has scored a number of objectives in 12 of 65 video games this season (to this point). McDavid can flip the change like nobody else in hockey.

It would take a really uncharacteristic dry spell or main damage to carry McDavid off profitable the Rocket. In truth, I would not be shocked to see McDavid end the season with 70 objectives.

Wyshynski: McDavid virtually set an NHL file for consecutive multiple-goal video games, and I do not see this scoring bender ending any time quickly.

I’ll say Connor will find yourself with a complete of 69 objectives as he completes the most effective point-scoring season in NHL historical past by anybody not named Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux.

Will this be our 2023 Stanley Cup Final matchup? If not, who ya acquired?

Clark: Not proper now. Boston seems to be prefer it has every thing wanted to succeed in the Cup Final this season. But it isn’t usually that the Presidents’ Trophy winner additionally brings residence the Stanley Cup. Nevertheless, this model of the Bruins seems to be prefer it would possibly merely be completely different.

Edmonton is a tough one. It’s a group that has struggled to search out consistency. But that might additionally play to the Oilers’ benefit, given the West has been so tight this yr that no clear-cut favourite has but to interrupt away.

Matiash: Why not? After having misplaced all of eight video games in regulation since October, now the Bruins are anticipated to drop half that complete in a given stretch of two weeks or much less? That math would not make sense. Plus, the membership is even higher in present type with Dmitry Orlov and Tyler Bertuzzi aboard. Never even thoughts that ahead Taylor Hall could possibly be good to rejoin forces up entrance as soon as we get to the knockout stage.

Out west, the most effective participant on this planet’s membership lastly acquired a much-needed defensive zone dominator in Mattias Ekholm. That helps. Quite a bit. From a decent contending crowd additionally together with the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche — who failed to seize a greater choice to function a second-line middle — Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild, the Oilers sport nearly as good an opportunity as any of reaching the last word spherical.

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Shilton: Oof. If solely! Imagine, to start with, three rounds of watching Connor McDavid within the playoffs. That’s good theater. However, Edmonton’s postseason monitor file makes it powerful to anoint it a real Cup Final contender simply but. We all know the sport modifications come playoff time. Can the Oilers deliver these defensive parts wanted to go all the way in which?

On the opposite aspect, the Bruins have proven their capabilities throughout the board all season. Other than the entire “Presidents’ Trophy winners never get anywhere” narrative, there’s zero flaw in arguing that Boston is a Cup Final favourite. The Western Conference has extra darkish horses than the East. Thus, it is tougher to foretell who will come out on prime.

Wyshynski: We’ve acquired one group from my preseason Stanley Cup Final, and that is the Oilers. My preseason decide was the Oilers in opposition to the Carolina Hurricanes, as we celebration prefer it’s 2006. I’ll follow that so long as I can, within the hopes that I’ll appear like a genius if it hits.

But if you happen to’re on the lookout for a spicy take right here on the Bruins, right here it’s: I’m taking the sphere in opposition to Boston within the Eastern Conference playoffs. The subsequent three finest groups in all the NHL after the Bruins are the Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who’re in search of a fourth straight journey to the Stanley Cup Final, and the New York Rangers are each in or close to the highest 10. There’s an opportunity the Bruins may face Sidney Crosby within the first spherical of the playoffs — and anybody who noticed the Pittsburgh Penguins’ sequence in opposition to the Rangers final season is aware of how he can assert his will on a sequence.

Maybe there is a cause all the East made commerce deadline strikes. Maybe these groups do not see the Boston juggernaut as unstoppable.