To suggest the Edmonton Oilers organization and fan base were looking forward to life following the NHL All-Star break would have been quite the understatement. After all, it is not every day that a player the caliber of Connor McDavid is dropped into a lineup in the middle of a season. With that said, the Oilers could not have asked for a better schedule to start the unofficial second half of their 2015-16 campaign.
— Edmonton Sun (@Edmontonsun) February 5, 2016
That is right folks, as difficult as Edmonton’s schedule had been over the past four months, one would have been hard-pressed to find a more comfortable three-game stretch than what Todd McLellan’s crew has been handed to kick off the month of February. Three games in five nights with a home date against the last place Columbus Blue Jackets followed by road games in Ottawa against the slumping Senators and the free-falling Montreal Canadiens.
McDavid Sparks Oilers Offence
Following a pair of blowout wins in which the Oilers have scored a combined total of 12 goals while going an obscene five-for-six on the man advantage and giving up a grand total of three goals against over the two nights, things are going according to plan. Not surprisingly, McDavid has led the offensive explosion with a goal and four assists while linemate Jordan Eberle has also caught fire with three goals and a pair of helpers during the same time frame.
And just like that, all is good in Oilers Nation.
With a date against the Habs set for Saturday afternoon during Hockey Day in Canada, one can’t help but wonder what sort of damage the surging Oilers could inflict on Michel Therrien’s squad that continues to tumble down the Eastern Conference standings at an alarming rate. If Edmonton can make it a perfect three-for-three since the break, it would certainly go a long in helping fans concentrate on what could possibly be a heck of a season in 2016-17.
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With upcoming games with the New York Islanders and the surprising New Jersey Devils set for Super Bowl Sunday and Tuesday night, it would be in the Oilers best interest to continue to take advantage of this soft portion in their schedule in Montreal. After closing out their four-game road swing against Corey Schneider and company in New Jersey, Edmonton will be headed back to Rexall Place for an extended six-home stand in which they should be able to more than hold their own.
Extended Home Stand On the Horizon
With games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and Senators over a two-week stretch, the opportunity to put together a solid month of February is quite real but by no means an automatic. Edmonton then follows that up with seven of nine on the road but it is essentially a nine-game road trip, thanks to a pair of one-game pit stops on home-ice.
[Related Article: Connor McDavid Will Win the Calder Trophy]
While it may be far from an ideal set-up, this team will hit the NHL Trade Deadline three games into said stretch, after a back-to-back in California against the Los Angeles Kings and Ducks and a visit from the Islanders and John Tavares on February 28 at Rexall Place. By that time, it should be pretty clear in what direction the Oilers are headed and whether or not the month of March will even matter but it will certainly be nowhere near as friendly a schedule.
— B.L.H. (Edmonton Oilers Enthusiast) (@BeerLeagueHeroe) February 5, 2016
With Cam Talbot currently playing as well any goalie in the league and Connor McDavid’s return sparking what had essentially become a two-man attack upfront with Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl, there is absolutely no reason for the Edmonton Oilers to not put together a solid February. While the chances of them realistically climbing back into the Western Conference playoff picture remain almost non-existent, all that really matters is that they start winning some hockey games and the opportunity to do exactly that is there for the taking.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.