The Edmonton Oilers are officially playoff bound after defeating the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3, at Rogers Place on Friday (April 22). With the victory, the Oilers clinch a playoff spot as one of the top three teams in the Pacific Division. Edmonton is currently second in the division standings and can finish no lower than third.
Evander Kane notched a hat trick for the Oilers, who also got goals from Evan Bouchard, Kris Russell and Kailer Yamamoto. Goaltender Mike Smith made 37 saves to extend his winning streak with the Oilers to nine consecutive starts.
After suffering two razor-thin losses to Colorado in the last few weeks (3-2 in overtime on March 21 and 2-1 in a shootout on April 9), Edmonton was finally able to topple the Western Conference’s first-place team. The red-hot Oilers are now 12-0-1 in their last 13 games at home and 10-1-1 in their last 12 games overall.
With anticipation for the postseason sweeping across Oil Country, here are three takeaways from the Oilers’ victory over Colorado on Friday.
Oilers Heading Back to the Playoffs
This marks Edmonton’s third straight year advancing to the postseason, the longest such streak since the Oilers reached the playoffs five consecutive years from 1997 and 2001.
While the Oilers are becoming regular attendees to the postseason party, they haven’t stayed for long. Edmonton was eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 in the Qualifying Round in 2020 and swept 4-0 by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round last spring.
This will be the first time in Edmonton’s current playoff streak that fans will be able to attend postseason games at Rogers Place. With attendance not permitted because of pandemic restrictions, the Oilers played before empty stands in the 2020 and 2021 postseasons, and the results speak for themselves. Now, with the return of Edmonton’s famously electric playoffs crowds, the Oilers will look to capitalize on that atmosphere, just as they have during their current streak of 13 home games without a regulation loss.
Kane Scoring More Than Any Newcomer in Decades
Kane has firmly entrenched himself to the left of Connor McDavid on Edmonton’s top line. Since signing as a free-agent with the Oilers on Jan. 27, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has provided Edmonton with size, speed, and strength — and scoring. Lots of scoring.
Related: Oilers Signing of Kane Could Be Biggest Midseason Move In Team History
With three goals on Friday, Kane now has 20 goals this season, in only 39 games. That’s the fewest number of games it has taken a player to score his first 20 goals as a member of the Oilers since Jimmy Carson in 1988-89. Carson did it in just 28 games after he came to Edmonton as part of the Wayne Gretzky trade in Aug. 1988.
Yamamoto Delivers on Edmonton’s Top Line
For a stretch of nine games in March, Edmonton’s top line consisted of McDavid centering Kane and Yamamoto. During that span, Yamamoto had seven goals and five assists.
But when Jesse Puljujarvi returned from an injury that kept him out of action for a month, the 23-year-old Finn replaced Yamamoto, who was moved down to Edmonton’s second line after the Oilers lost 9-5 to the Calgary Flames on March 26.
Puljujarvi spent the next 11 games with Kane and McDavid, managing just two goals and two assists. Meanwhile, Yamamoto played with Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman, and saw his offensive production drop off a cliff, as he failed to score and picked up three assists over that same 11-game stretch.
With Puljujarvi sidelined by a non-COVID illness on Friday, Yamamoto drew back on the No. 1 line, and responded with a goal and assist.
Considering the Oilers went 9-1-1 with the trio of Kane, McDavid and Puljujarvi, a line shakeup wouldn’t seem wise. But the individual stats from the last several weeks are also impossible for Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft to ignore. Yamamoto is averaging one point per game more on the top line than Puljujarvi is averaging the top line. Yamamoto is also averaging 1.1 more points per game when he is on the top line compared to when he is on the second line.
Oilers Look to Lock Up Second Spot
Now that they’re in the playoffs, the next item on Edmonton’s to-do list is securing the second seed in the Pacific Division, giving the Oilers that critical home-ice advantage for the opening round of the postseason.
With just over a week remaining in the regular season, Edmonton’s magic number for clinching second is any combination of two points gained by the Oilers or lost by the Los Angeles Kings. Edmonton is four points ahead of the third-place Kings, and the Oilers have four games left, while the Kings play three more times.
Edmonton would clinch second spot if Los Angeles loses in regulation to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday (April 23). Failing that, the Oilers can take care of business themselves on Sunday (April 24) when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.