Above the surface, three consecutive wins is good news for the Edmonton Oilers as they try to keep pace and stay in the NHL playoff picture. Under the water, the Oilers are probably frantically paddling their feet like a duck, hoping that their ability to “get it done” or “pick up a win” is enough.
The Oilers are not playing their best hockey and that should be both good news and bad news for fans who are hoping this team has enough star power and depth to make a run. The bad news is, the Oilers’ goaltending and defense haven’t been up to snuff. The good news is that the Oilers are winning despite that and if they turn things around, the team could be in good shape.
Oilers Winning Despite Bad Defense and Goaltending
Goaltender Mike Smith allowed five goals on 36 shots in a Friday night overtime win against the St. Louis Blues. He made a key save in overtime, but his .861 save percentage could have been the reason the Oilers lost that game. On the season, Smith is 8-9-2 with a 3.49 GAA and .894. It’s not good enough.
Meanwhile, Mikko Koskinen’s two most recent games were strong, but he averaged a 0.796 save percentage in his four starts before that. He still looks inconsistent, even if he’s the more consistent of the two starters. All in all, the Oilers are outscoring their goaltender’s lack of ability to make saves during this 9-21 stretch. That’s not ideal.
As concerning might be the fact the Oilers have given up sizeable leads in recent games they’ve ended up winning. Edmonton pulled out a shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings but had to do so after allowing an injury-depleted roster to get back in the game. The Oilers did something similar against the St. Louis Blues after chasing Jordan Binnington from the net, only to let the Blues come storming back before the Oilers won in overtime. Keep in mind, that the Blues were without their leading scorer in Jordan Kyrou. Edmonton is not shutting it down when they have the lead and that is worrisome.
Teams In the Pacific Aren’t Going Away
The Vegas Golden Knights have won four games in a row. This is a team the Oilers do not want to see get hot. The Kings have held tightly to the second-place spot in the Pacific and are winning games too (9-4-3 in their last 16 games). The way the Oilers have played exponentially better at home than on the road, second place in the Pacific is important and the Oilers can’t just string together enough wins to get in, they have to pass the Kings to give themselves the best chance of an extended playoff run.
The Oilers need to start things off with a big win over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday and pick up another win in San Jose on April 5. Doing so would make their game against the Kings on April 7 a massive matchup, which if they win, could allow the Oilers to breathe just a little easier. That said, they can’t breathe too easy as their next four opponents would be Colorado, Minnesota, Nashville, and Vegas, all on the road.
This Is The Time to Get It Together, Not Just Get It Done
Finding ways to win games is important. The Oilers need to be better than that if they’re going to secure a spot in the postseason, something they essentially can do here over the next two weeks. The goaltending has to improve, the defense needs to limit chances against and the forwards need to back-check and do more than score.
The next two weeks will tell the story of just how good this team is, or how badly they’re going to get destroyed if they barely squeak into the 2022 NHL playoffs. It’s time to buy into playing strong, two-way hockey and treating the rest of the remaining games like they’re playoff battles.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”