It has been a tough start to March for the Edmonton Oilers, with two straight losses against the Toronto Maple Leafs (three if you count the loss on Feb.27). But February was a good month for the Oilers with nine wins and only three losses. Between Feb. 17 and Feb. 25, the team won five straight games against the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks.
Many players did well during the month. But these three stood out a little extra, and all contributed significantly to the Oilers doing so well in the games in February.
Third Star: Mike Smith
Many were skeptical when the Oilers chose to sign a new one-year contract with Smith last fall. But the veteran goaltender has so far exceeded expectations. After being injured throughout January, the 38-year-old came in and made a fantastic effort during the games he played in February.
The Oilers’ goaltender opened with a 6-0-0 record before losing to Toronto in February’s final game. He also accounted for two shutouts against the Montreal Canadiens and the Canucks.
“Shutouts are hard to get, especially now with how many power plays there are, but it’s not just a credit to the goalie, it’s a credit to the team in front of him and what they do,” Smith said after his second shutout in the game against the Canucks.
The accomplishment meant that Smith joined Curtis Joseph as the only goaltenders with at least three shutouts with five different teams.
At the end of February, Smith had a .938 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 1.87. Not a bad result for a 38-year-old veteran goalie. The fact that his statistics deteriorated slightly at the beginning of March is not primarily his fault but rather due to the fact that the defense was not very good. Unfortunately, the team in front of him has not performed very well in recent games, which makes it harder for a goaltender to keep a clean sheet.
Second Star: Leon Draisaitl
Although the German center seems to have been bothered by an injury at the end of the month, he has continued to produce points at a fast pace. 13 points in 12 games are not quite as good as in January. Still, Draisaitl continued to produce an average of over one point per game in February and was a major contributor to the Oilers’ strong results in the second month of 2021.
In the win against the Jets on Feb.17, the German scored two of the team’s three goals, and he also accounted for three assists in the Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Canucks on Feb.23.
Draisaitl also had a plus/minus rating of plus-3 in February. Over the season, the Oilers’ center leads the entire team as a plus-13.
First Star: Connor McDavid
With the world’s two best scorers and perhaps also the world’s two best players on the same team, it’s hard to pick others as first and second stars. Connor McDavid continued to deliver for the Oilers in February, scoring six goals and 12 assists in the 12 games the Oilers played.
He played especially well in the 7-1 win against the Flames when the Oilers center scored a natural hat trick and had five points. In the game, the 24-year-old scored an incredible no-look goal when he took the puck from defenseman Noah Hanifin at center ice, skated into Calgary’s zone, and shot the puck into the goal without looking at the Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
”There are some nights where the puck just seems to follow him around, and when he has the puck, great things happen. That was the case tonight,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said of McDavid after the game.
Now McDavid has played three games in a row without points. Something very unusual for the world’s best hockey player. But expect him to be his old self again soon. When that happens, the Oilers will also probably start winning games again.
Honorable Mentions: Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse
Two more players are worth mentioning when talking about the Oilers’ best players in February. Were it not for a sensational comeback of a 38-year-old netminder and that the Oilers have the NHL’s two best points producers, then probably Darnell Nurse or Tyson Barrie would have been one of the stars of the month.
After a slow start, Barrie now contributes to the team in a way that was expected of him when he signed for the Oilers. With 18 points, the Oilers defenseman is sixth in scoring among NHL defensemen (tied with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings). Barrie scored 11 of his total of 18 points in February. Five of these points came in the power play.
Nurse has also made a significant contribution to the Oilers’ offense this year and is almost as good as Barrie in terms of points. The Oilers No. 25 has 16 points in 25 games, and in February, the Oilers defenseman scored four goals. He has also contributed to the team in all situations and is third in the entire NHL when it comes to time on ice per game.
In the win against the Senators on Feb.9, all of the Oilers’ goals were scored by defensemen. Thanks to Nurse, Barrie, and Evan Bouchard’s goals, the Oilers managed to win the game 3-2. It was the first time since Nov.28, 2017, against the Arizona Coyotes, that the Oilers won a game in regulation when neither McDavid nor Draisaitl recorded a point.
For March to be as good a month as of February for the Oilers, all these players must start delivering again. Something that was not the case in the three games against Toronto. Because even though it did not start so well, Mars can be a fun month for the Oilers fans if their star duo starts producing points again, Smith continues to convince between the pipes, and the defensemen keep contribute to the offense. Let’s hope for the sake of all Oilers fans that it will be just like that.