The Edmonton Oilers got news for the playoffs that they would have another body available in the lineup at forward. That being Josh Archibald, a key depth player for them over the past couple of seasons, as he received a medical exemption to be able to travel and play games in the United States. That bodes well for the Oilers as there is only one other Canadian team left in the Western Conference and they are now down 2-1 in their series with the Dallas Stars. Since being injected into the lineup, he has been an extra spark and possibly a piece they were missing in Game 1.
Road to Recovery to Rejoining the Oilers
Before the Oilers’ season even started, Archibald had the misfortune of a rough summer in which tests found he had COVID-19 antibodies and a heart condition called myocarditis. That means he had COVID sometime during the summer and he had developed an inflammation of the heart muscle that has become more common in athletes. Former goaltender Alex Stalock had developed the same thing during the season too (from “Oilers’ Stalock Nearing Return From Heart Condition”, The Hockey News, 1/14/22).
Archibald was cleared for action on March 11 and got into eight of the final 24 games for the Oilers, mostly in a fourth line role and only four times logging more than 10 minutes of ice time in a game. Some of those missed games down the stretch were due to travel restrictions, but others were due to a very deep Oilers lineup. They also didn’t want to mess around with anything to cause them to lose momentum.
Jay Woodcroft likes the 11 forwards, and seven defencemen combination, so it was even more difficult for Archibald to find time in the Oilers’ lineup. But after needing a switch for Game 2, he has found his way back on the roster and in an elevated role.
Archibald’s Impact in 2 Playoff Games
All of Archibald’s contributions may not show up on the game sheet, but he has been effective and energetic since being inserted into the lineup on the third line. He has played just under 12:30 of ice time in each of the games and has instantly found a place alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Derek Ryan.
Since the third line isn’t that physical, Archibald’s addition was welcomed and he has recorded eight hits so far in the two games. They haven’t been small hits either. His 5-foot-10 frame has been barreling in on defenders and forwards alike, forcing them to either make much quicker decisions or pay the price for handling the puck.
Related: Oilers’ Offence Will Fuel Dominant Playoff Run
A physical brand of hockey is huge in the playoffs, and as a whole, the Oilers are dominating the Kings while still controlling the play and possessing the puck. A play in particular that stood out for me was Archibald’s effort along the boards in the offensive zone that led to a great feed to Nugent-Hopkins in Game 3. That was his only point, but he also has yet to be on the ice for a goal against in two games.
Where Archibald Best Slots in the Oilers’ Lineup
Archibald has always been a more productive player when he plays in the middle six of the lineup, more specifically the third line. For the past two seasons, he has played over 13 minutes a game on average since joining the Oilers. In that time he has scored 19 goals and 34 points in 114 games. He’s not expected to carry the load offensively but is able to chip in when playing with half-decent players.
Archibald’s immediate insertion onto the third line that bumped Warren Foegele down to the fourth has worked out well for both parties. Though Foegele had a resurgence earlier in the season after being placed on a line with Nugent-Hopkins, that spark has gone away. Since the change in gameplay between Archibald and Foegele is much different playing on the fourth line, it is less of a negative impact for Foegele to drop down.
With the physicality and tenacity that Archibald brings not only to the third line but also to the team, it is a must to keep him exactly where he is. The Oilers are fortunate he was medically exempt and has fit seamlessly back into the lineup to help in the last two blowouts over the Kings. He will be of more use in games, than out of them moving forward.