The Edmonton Oilers were able to make it six straight on Wednesday, as they defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a 3-1 final. At times, they lacked jump in this one, though that can largely be chalked up to the fact that they were on the second half of a back-to-back. While it wasn’t the prettiest of games, it was yet another two points for a team that has lost just once in their past 12 games.
With the win, the Oilers are now just one point back of the Vegas Golden Knights for first in the Pacific Division. It also gives them a great opportunity to have home ice in the opening round regardless of the first seed, as they now sit three points ahead of the third-place Los Angeles Kings. With that said, here are the three main takeaways from Wednesday’s outing.
Goaltending Surge Continues
Though the Oilers had the third-longest shutout streak in franchise history end on Tuesday versus the Kings, they were able to continue their strong goaltending and defensive play a night later versus the Ducks. For the second straight time, Jack Campbell lived up to his $5 million cap hit, as he kicked aside 27 of the 28 shots he faced.
After a stretch in which he had allowed four or more goals in seven straight starts, Campbell has now given up just one goal on the last 63 shots he has faced. His overall numbers of a 3.41 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .888 save percentage (SV%) are still far from ideal, but they do look significantly better than they did a few weeks ago. Though Stuart Skinner will be the man in net for Game 1 of the opening round, having Campbell play like this may help give Jay Woodcroft more confidence to throw him in at any point if needed.
100 for The Nuge
After so many years of being in the shadow of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is finally getting the credit he deserves. The dependable two-way centerman has always been a fan favorite in Edmonton, but has long been underrated around the league. This season has changed that, however, as he is having a career year offensively, and was able to hit a huge milestone in this one.
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With an assist on Zach Hyman’s empty-net goal, Nugent-Hopkins was able to hit the 100-point mark for the first time in his career. It has been an incredible season for the 29-year-old, as his previous career high was 69 set back in 2018-19. Regression may be in store for 2023-24, but those who have watched him closely over the years will tell you he has always had the skill to produce at a high level.
New Season Additions with an Impact
Despite some criticism during his tenure, Ken Holland has done an all-around solid job of rounding out this roster to help support his big guns in McDavid and Draisaitl. That was on display in this one, as two depth pieces in Klim Kostin and Nick Bjugstad both got on the board to help the Oilers secure their victory.
For those who may not remember, Holland was able to acquire Kostin from the St. Louis Blues in early October in exchange for defenseman Dmitri Samorukov. The trade has been a massive win for the Oilers so far, as Kostin has had himself an impressive season with 11 goals and 21 points in 54 games, while Samorukov has remained in the American Hockey League.
Bjugstad, meanwhile, was brought in days ahead of the trade deadline along with prospect Cam Dineen in exchange for Michael Kesselring and a 2023 third-round pick. Though this move didn’t have nearly the same hype as the Mattias Ekholm acquisition, Bjugstad has proven to be a solid Oiler with four goals and six points in 16 games. Perhaps even more important is that he has won nearly 52 percent of his faceoffs since the trade. Both he and Kostin have the potential to provide big impacts once the playoffs roll around.
Looking Ahead for the Oilers
After having completed this back-to-back set, the Oilers will now have the next two nights off before taking on the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday afternoon. Then they will once again have two more days off before taking on arguably the biggest threat in the Western Conference in the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday before their season finale on Thursday against the Sharks. These will all be huge games as they look to clinch the Pacific Division title.