Often times, when a team is mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture, they tend to loosen up, stop worrying about making mistakes and start having more fun, and it tends to result in more wins, many of which are unlikely. The Edmonton Oilers had officially been eliminated from the playoffs for a month or so, but realistically they haven’t had a chance for a postseason berth since early December. However lately they have been playing with renewed energy and drive, and have earned wins against some very formidable opponents.
First, it was the 2008 Stanley Cup Champions, and last season’s Western Conference winning Detroit Red Wings. Then it was the defending president’s trophy winning San Jose Sharks. This time it was the Northwest Division leading Vancouver Canucks, starring Olympic gold medal winning goaltender Roberto Luongo. The Oilers were led by defencemen Tom Gilbert who had a goal and an assist in the win. Once again, the Oilers jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the struggling Luongo, and held off a late Vancouver attack to seal the victory. But this version of the Oilers is probably more of a mirage than a reality. It’s fascinating how many teams who don’t have a hope at the playoffs tend to win their way out of a high draft pick, thus missing the postseason and losing out on a lottery pick. But Edmonton fans can probably breathe a sigh of relief.
The Oil currently sit with 55 points, good for the 30th spot in the league. Their closest competitor are the Toronto Maple Leafs who have 64 points, and both clubs have played 73 games. It’s mathematically possible that the Oilers could surpass the Leafs, but they’d have to win at least five of their last nine games, and the Leafs would have to lose all of theirs. If the Leafs win just two more games, then the Oiler would have to win seven of their last nine. In other words, Oiler fans sit back and relax, and enjoy the fact that they are able to watch their team win a few games. It’s no doubt frustrating to see teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild stubbornly keep winning when the odds of them actually making the playoffs are slim to none. But hockey players are prideful creatures, and none will ever admit to tanking a season just to get a draft pick. In the case of Edmonton, they have been trying hard, but just don’t have what it takes to win. Well at least not when it counts.