In a year in which the Edmonton Oilers were looked upon as being a team with nothing more than a “decent shot” of ending their decade-long absence from the NHL Playoffs, they are on the verge of potentially doing much more. With ten games remaining on their schedule, this club has not only earned its way back into the post-season but also given itself a legitimate shot at taking a run at the Pacific Division crown.
With the San Jose Sharks in the midst of a four-game skid and the Oilers heading in the opposite direction on a four-game run of their own, Todd McLellan’s crew has managed to cut the gap between the two sides to just four points. And what makes matters even more interesting, is Edmonton’s upcoming schedule will give them a chance to put all kinds of pressure on the 2016 Stanley Cup Finalists over the next four days.
Soft Spot on the Schedule
Following tonight’s crucial head-to-head match-up with the Anaheim Ducks, the Oilers have the good fortune of playing a home-and-home with the Colorado Avalanche. As things currently sit, Connor McDavid and company have a game in hand on San Jose and the Sharks do not play again until Friday in Dallas. With that being the case, should Edmonton happen to get by the Ducks this evening and also take care of the Avs on Thursday, they will find themselves in a tie for top spot in the division.
Hard to imagine but shockingly enough, it is by no means some farfetched notion. If we are talking in the here and now, one could easily make the argument it is the likeliest of scenarios to play out in the coming days. After years of being the “whipping boys” for nearly every team in the conference, the Oilers have posted a stellar 25-9-6 mark against the West in 2016-17. Add to that a record of 14-4-3 against divisional rivals and it becomes far more palatable to think San Jose could start to feel the heat.
One would think the Sharks would have little trouble in disposing of the Stars but they will have their hands full on Saturday, as the pay a visit to Nashville and take on the Predators in the second half of a back-to-back. If the Oilers manage to return home and hold up their end of the bargain against the Avalanche at Rogers Place, chances are fans could be in for a real treat over the final two weeks of the season.
Oilers Far Better Than Expected
How crazy would it have sounded for anyone to suggest the Oilers would be battling for first place in their division at the 75-game mark? Frankly, it still sounds rather absurd and yet that is the challenge that sits in front of them. With netminder Cam Talbot coming off back-to-back shutouts and McDavid well aware of where he currently sits in the league scoring race and how a healthy point streak could help kill two birds with one stone, something tells me these next few games could go well.
Edmonton is 14-4-3 vs. Pacific including 7-2-1 vs. SJ, ANA and CGY. Avoiding WC spot is crucial for them over final 10 games. #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) March 21, 2017
By no means is that to suggest, it should be smooth sealing from here on out. If anything, we should expect to see all three of the Ducks, Calgary Flames and Sharks push the envelope over the final couple of weeks of the season. All four clubs have somewhat similar schedules to close out their respective campaigns but it is the Edmonton Oilers who have the so-called “free play” of sorts on their dance card and they would be wise to make the most of it.
In the end, where the Edmonton Oilers ultimately end up finishing in the Pacific Division is of little consequence. The goal was to make it back to the post-season and with that all but guaranteed, there is nothing wrong with going out and trying to hit it out of the park. And if this group can get through the next few games with favourable results, they will give themselves a heck of a chance of doing just that.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.