Anyone who looked at the Edmonton Oilers schedule heading into the current NHL campaign knew exactly where things stood. In order for this group to have any hope of staying in contention for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, they were going to have to find a way to survive the opening three months of the season. Typically, that would be far easier said than done.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 12, 2015
To their credit, Todd McLellan’s crew are on the verge of accomplishing just that and almost no one saw it coming. Despite having to battle through a number of injuries to key personnel, most notably Connor McDavid, and their aforementioned brutal schedule, this team managed to stay afloat through the first 30 games on the year.While much of that can be attributed to a rather underwhelming performance from the rest of the Pacific Division, it does not tell the whole story.
Taylor Hall Continues to Drive the Bus
Taylor Hall has carried this team on his back over the first two-plus months of the season and willed them into a handful of victories they likely had no business earning. Add to that the surprising showings from Leon Draisaitl and Anders Nilsson, the improved play of the backend, most notably from the quartet of Brandon Davidson, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Andrej Sekera, and this year’s edition of the Oilers seem to be an altogether different beast.
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Yes, they may be sitting in a tie with the Calgary Flames for 13th in the Conference but should Edmonton find a way to extend their current win streak to seven straight with a win over the Boston Bruins on Monday night, this group will find itself in a playoff spot come tomorrow morning. While we are still talking about a rather small sample size, this is the same group that Mike Brophy referred to as an “atrocity” in the Hockey News all of ten days ago.
For the first time since March of 1987, the Oilers won five consecutive games on the same homestand and in the process became a team that finally appears capable of dictating terms in their own rink. Simply ask anyone who has watched this team play over the last number of years and they will all tell you Edmonton has lacked both an identity and the ability to take games over at Rexall Place. While this group struggled out of the gate, they have now gone 7-1-1 in their last nine at home and appeared to be finally turning that corner.
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The next step is for this bunch would be to do the same on the road and with games against the Bruins, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche over the next six days they will get the opportunity to do exactly that. Having said that, the fact the Edmonton Oilers are currently on a five-game win streak makes the chances of them taking three of the next four highly unlikely but going .500 is not out of the question and in my mind, that would be a massive step in the right direction and send another very clear message to not only the rest of the Pacific Division but also the entire NHL.
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.