Oilers & Jets Are Most Underrated Rivalry in the NHL

The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets have played no other team more than each other in 2021, and the players are now accustomed to each other. That said, nobody is friends on the ice, and every game is a close matchup that breathes with intensity and physicality.

These teams have played each other 15 times since January 2021, and the way the divisions aligned, new and old rivalries got turned up. Teams that normally see each other a couple of times a season faced off nine or 10 times in the North Division, including the Oilers and Jets.

In the last year, this rivalry really heated up during both the regular season and playoffs. The increased number of games between these two teams and the mini series-type matchups helped keep their memories fresh.

As far as rivalries go in the NHL, the Battle of Alberta, any original six matchups, Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, and Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers top the list. Yes, I missed some, but you can let me know below. However, the rivalry between the Oilers and Jets has been overlooked because it has been a one-sided affair at different points in the season. It features some of the most talented players in the world and is always a treat.

Oilers Took the Early Advantage

Last season’s matchup got off to an even start, which most expected. The teams split the first four games, two in Winnipeg then two in Edmonton. Three of the four games were decided by one goal. The closer they played and the closer the games allowed the intensity to ramp up.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers, Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Four of the first five games were decided by one goal, with the Oilers winning that last four by a wide margin. The Oilers also won six games in a row vs. the Jets during the regular season to wrap up the season series with a 7-2 record, outscoring the Jets 34-22. That was before their matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

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As the saying goes, offence wins games, but defence wins championships. The Jets didn’t win a championship, but they were better equipped for the playoffs after the Oilers dominated the regular season to finish second in the North Division with 72 points.

Jets’ Depth & Style of Play Better Suited for Playoffs

If we thought the battle between the Oilers and Jets couldn’t get better, we then got an extremely close playoff series that favoured the Jets despite that the Oilers led for over 60 minutes in the series while the Jets held the lead for less than 20 minutes.

The final three games were decided in overtime, capped off by a heartbreaking and shocking third overtime finish in Game 4 for the sweep. Once the playoffs started, the Jets turned everything around and wiped the six consecutive losses to the Oilers from their mind.

Edmonton Oilers Winnipeg Jets Game Four 2021
Kyle Connor, Mason Appleton, Mark Scheifele, and Neal Pionk: Winnipeg Jets, 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Jets’ experience, depth, goaltending, and fewer penalty calls on either side shut down the Oilers completely. However, general manager Ken Holland has assembled a deeper team in Edmonton this season, and the tables have evened out if not shifted in the Oilers’ favour for the playoffs. For both teams, their Stanley Cup window is open, and they need to take advantage to bring the Cup back to Canada after too long.

Stuart Skinner Alters the Course of the Rivalry

The newest player to be tossed into this rivalry was the Oilers’ most valuable player in the most recent matchup, a 2-1 shootout victory. Goaltender Stuart Skinner appeared in the first matchup of the season against the Jets, replacing Mikko Koskinen for the third period and shutting the door. Skinner made some key stops to give the Oilers some life as they attempted to climb out of a 4-0 hole heading into the final frame. 

He played so well that Dave Tippett called on him again in the next game and gave Skinner the start at home when he played the best game of his career. He stopped 46 of 47 shots, including 10 while the Oilers were shorthanded, in a winning effort. He was the first star of the game, and he was exactly what the Oilers needed to solve a Jets team that had won five straight contests.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tippett expressed his thoughts about Skinner after the game and said, “He looks like an NHL goaltender and plays like an NHL goaltender”. Skinner could be a key piece for the Oilers in the future, and with the same core bound to stick around in both Edmonton and Winnipeg, the rivalry will heat up even more heading into the playoffs. Eventually, they will have to go through each other again.

Something is brewing between Jesse Puljujarvi and Connor Hellebuyck, as Puljujarvi hasn’t been able to beat the former Vezina Trophy-winner this season. He’s had ample opportunity, but Hellebuyck has had his number every time. 

The Oilers and Jets play one more time during the regular season, on Jan. 16 in Winnipeg. We shall see who takes the season series and if they will again battle in the postseason, this time possibly deeper than the first round.

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