The Edmonton Oilers are playing very hot over the last two games, with their offense exploding and getting great goaltending from Devan Dubnyk (rendering my previous article largely moot). With a huge victory over the Calgary Flames, the Oilers are now tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets in ninth place in the Western Conference and one point behind St. Louis for the final playoff spot, but can they really make the playoffs?
Edmonton has won four in a row and they are hot at exactly the right time. Their schedule down the stretch is a pretty tough one with nine of the final 13 games against playoff teams. Their upcoming four game road trip is going to be absolutely crucial for their Stanley Cup hopes with games against Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. Calgary is a shell of its former self after dealing Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester, so that should be a fairly easy game for the Oilers.
Don’t expect the Oilers to explode offensively like they did against the Canucks when they face them again on Thursday. Edmonton faced Cory Schneider on a very bad night for him and you better believe that Vancouver isn’t going to let that happen again. The Kings and Ducks will both be tough road matchups for the Oilers, so those aren’t gimmes either.
The team in front of Edmonton, the St. Louis Blues, are only one point ahead, but the Blues have a much better shot at making the playoffs. The Blues just acquired the aforementioned Bouwmeester and the schedule favors the Blues. Five of the final six games of the season for the Blues are against the bottom dwellers of the Western Conference and should be loaded with easy wins.
With the recent hot play of the Oilers, don’t expect them to be sellers at the trade deadline nor do I expect them to be buyers, either. They have a good young nucleus around them and it would be very dangerous to mortgage the future just for this season. The Oilers just signed Ladislav Smid to a new contract extension, so, that should give you some indication that the Oilers probably aren’t prepared to sell after all.
Edmonton’s goaltending has been absolutely great as of late. Dubnyk has only given up one goal in his last two games and Nikolai Khabibulin recorded a shutout victory over the Blues last Tuesday.
The offense hasn’t been too shabby either during the win streak. Taylor Hall set a new Oiler record with fastest hat trick breaking the legendary Wayne Gretzky mark and have gotten out to fast starts during the win streak.
However, one glaring stat they absolutely need to fix with the schedule coming up. The Oilers have been outshot in three of the four games during the win streak, the one game that they did outshoot their opponent was only by one shot. In last Tuesday’s victory against the Blues, Edmonton was outshot 43-19. Yet, they still were able to record a 3-0 victory due in large part to stout goaltending by Khabibulin.
The defense has been pretty bad at times this season, but now more than ever they need to step it up. Both the Kings and Ducks rank in the top ten in goals per game, so, you know if given the chance to shoot the puck 40+ times, they’ll put a few of them in the net.
The Oilers are playing well at the right time, but this week well really tell us if they are contenders or pretenders. If they keep this play up, the Stanley Cup playoffs will be played at Rexall Place this season, but this week is crucial.
Anything is possible in Edmonton.
Mark Wallace Graham has been a writer for TheHockeyWriters.com since March 2013. Growing up in New England, Boston Bruins hockey was in my blood. Follow me on Twitter, @MarkWGraham