Oilers’ Depth Played Major Role in Last 3 Games Despite Injuries

In the last three games, the Edmonton Oilers have played very well and dominated each contest. These games include a loss to the New York Islanders and two comeback wins against the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers. The Oilers have also played some of their best hockey of the season at a critical time when their forward group has been ravaged by injuries.

Evander Kane has already been out for a number of games, and Kailer Yamamoto has missed over a week. On top of that, two big contributors against the Rangers then missed the Oilers’ game against the Panthers. Ryan McLeod landed on the injured reserve alongside, while Warren Foegele hopefully just missed one game.

Ryan McLeod Edmonton Oilers
Ryan McLeod, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Among the list of players who have been called up to Edmonton are Mattias Janmark, Klim Kostin, Brad Malone, James Hamblin, and Tyler Benson. Not only have they been called upon, but they’ve been tasked with elevated roles in the absence of certain players. Janmark has almost exclusively played in the top-six since he was recalled, Jesse Puljujarvi is back on line one or two, and Foegele stepped up in a major way on the second line when he was healthy. Here’s a look at the Oilers’ last three games.

Oilers Battled & Earned 4 Points

Edmonton’s one loss in the last three games was not due to a lack of effort. They threw everything they had at Ilya Sorokin but got shut out with 49 shots on net. That’s the way it goes sometimes, and Sorokin has Vezina-calibre numbers this season, so it’s understandable the Oilers got ‘goalied’ (from, “Islanders blank Oilers to earn feel-good win at quarter mark,” New York Post, Nov. 23, 2022) Despite the outcome, it was a turning point after losing to the New Jersey Devils and set the team up for success in the following games.

After the onslaught of shots and offensive zone chances against New York, it gave the team confidence they could dominate play for extended periods of time, not only from the top two lines but also from the bottom-six – who had good scoring chances and cycled the puck well. That brings us to the amazing comeback win against the Rangers.

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Against the Rangers, the Oilers dominated play and came away with nine more shots. Other than a couple of defensive breakdowns, they locked things down defensively and focused solely on controlling the play and getting chances. Once they finally broke through, the goals flooded in.

The forward depth is what led the Oilers to victory that night. From the start of the game, the third line of Foegele, McLeod, and Kostin looked very good and was getting chances. Who would have thought that they would lead the comeback in the third period? McLeod recorded three consecutive assists, Foegele added one, and Dylan Holloway scored his first career goal, playing on the fourth line. The game-winner by Leon Draisaitl marked the first time the Oilers have come back from a three-goal third-period deficit to win in regulation since 1990, per the Oilers’ broadcast.

The Oilers’ resilience and depth finally shined through after a rough start. It was the first time in 10 games that the bottom-six scored a five-on-five goal, with three.

How the Oilers’ Depth is Stepping Up Besides Scoring

The team’s forward depth has produced three goals in the past three games, all against the Rangers. That shouldn’t be taken for granted. The bottom-six is expected to bring more than just scoring. The most effective third and fourth lines not only provide offense but also bring energy and wear opponents down. If the Oilers’ bottom-six isn’t scoring, which they have barely done this season, they must bring the other elements.

James Hamblin Bakersfield Condors
James Hamblin, Bakersfield Condors (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

With four NHL regulars out of the lineup, the energy was definitely brought. As always, the Oilers’ big guns scored goals, but the newer additions got their chances and wore the Panthers down. Edmonton dominated a team that usually dominates their opponents in shots and offensive chances, outshooting the Panthers 40 to 28. Hamblin and Holloway were noticeably forechecking hard and spending time in the Panthers’ end with control of the puck. Players who earn their shots don’t want to waste them, and that’s what some players are probably feeling right now. Even if they don’t produce often, there’s pressure on them to give everything they have on every shift because they don’t know when the next one may come.

The Oilers are now past the gruelling schedule that opened their season. Their opponents will get a bit easier from here on out, but they must continue to get help from the bottom-six. They are trending in the right direction and it appears as though the team is coming together after a couple of great wins.

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