The Edmonton Oilers are preparing for two important games in mid-November against the Winnipeg Jets. On Tuesday, Nov. 16 and Thursday, Nov. 18, the Oilers and Jets will play a home and home two-game “Statement Series.” Players and coaches might downplay this upcoming two-game stint, but you have to believe the Oilers have had these two dates circled on their calendars for a while.
The Jets, led by Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Connor Hellebuyck, disposed of the Oilers in four straight games last playoff season. The games were close, with three going into overtime, but Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Mike Smith and crew came up short in what was an excellent, albeit short series. The Jets went on to get swept by the Montreal Canadiens in a series many will remember for the violent hit Scheifele laid on the Canadiens’ Jake Evans.
The hit, which was selfish and unnecessary, led to Scheifele getting suspended for four games, which included the remainder of the playoffs and one game in the 2021-22 regular season. The Oilers licked their wounds in the offseason, and seemed to have come back focused with a chip on their shoulders. McDavid seems especially driven to lead the Oilers far into the postseason.
McDavid even talked about improving his game early on in the season, well before former NHL coach and current ESPN analyst John Tortorella threw in his two cents about McDavid needing to change his game recently.
What to Expect in the Oilers/Jets Home and Home Series
It’s too bad these two teams couldn’t be in the same division and play more often because these home and home games could prove to be spirited. The Oilers have been on top or near the top of the Pacific Division since the start of the season, while the Jets are playing better as of late as they close in on the Central Division lead.
The two games will prove to be a litmus test for many of the Oilers newcomers, including Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele, as well as the defence pairing of Cody Ceci and Duncan Keith. While the forwards and defensive pairings for both teams seem to be close in terms of skill, the Jets truly have the advantage between the pipes. Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie provide a solid two-goalie tandem compared to the Oilers’ Miko Koskinen and Stuart Skinner. It’s too bad injured goalie Mike Smith wasn’t available for the Oilers, as he was strong in the four-game playoff series last May, but again he wasn’t good enough to beat Hellebuyck last spring. Goaltending could be the difference in this two-game series, and the advantage lies with the Jets.
The City of Winnipeg Has Been in Winning Mode Lately
If you’re a fan of the CFL, you know that this year Winnipeg is truly in a class by themselves at the top of the league, while Edmonton has been down and out since Labour Day. If you’re an Oilers fan and enjoy history, you remember all the times the Oilers would mow down the Jets on their way to Stanley Cup victories. If you’re a Jets fan and go even further back, you fondly remember the WHA Jets led by Kent Nilsson winning the final Avco Cup over the Oilers and Wayne Gretzky back in 1979.
History Aside, These Two Games Could Be Must-see TV
The Oilers and their fans didn’t take last season’s playoff sweep very well, and there’s a good chance the team wants to make a statement against their western Canadian rivals. Meanwhile, the Jets find themselves in a place similar to the Oilers, where they have to win now. Much is expected of Jets coach Paul Maurice and veterans like Scheifele and Hellebuyck, and you can bet they want to repeat their recent playoff success over the Oilers.
These two teams seem evenly matched as they prepare for their mid-November showdown. The two-game series might appear to be more important to the Oilers, as they desire some sort of retribution from last season’s playoffs. However, you can’t deny that the Jets would take great pleasure in beating the Oilers. When it comes to predictions, you have to admit the Jets’ goaltending could make the difference, but stranger things have happened. However, no matter what the results are, there’s no denying that a good rivalry definitely makes NHL hockey in November even more interesting.
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.