It’s easy to dismiss the 7-3-1 record the Edmonton Oilers have strung together in their last 11 games because there’s no question this has been a soft stretch in the schedule – assuming you can say there’s such a thing as soft when you’re talking about a team sitting 14th in the Western Conference.
While I’m not of the mind to shrug off this stretch completely, even with the last win coming by way of a 5-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in a game that turned into a nail-biter when it shouldn’t have, I’m not putting too much stock in what we’ve seen, either.
With 50 games to play and an 11-18-3 record, this tidy little roll the Oilers have put together is destined to have the brakes slammed on in a hurry the rest of this month, starting Thursday when the Boston Bruins comes calling at Rexall Place. Up next, it’s Boston, Vancouver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
Impressive record or not these last 11 games, I’ve seen way too many lapses in execution and intensity and far too many recurring and glaring mistakes in the defensive zone – mistakes recent opponents haven’t always made them pay for – to believe the Oilers have turned any kind of corner.
How many wins do you see in these next four games? I see none.
WHILE I’M AT IT
Soft schedule or not, the Oilers have at least made up a little ground in trying to extract themselves from the Western Conference basement – unless you read the game preview of the Boston-Edmonton tilt by NHL.com staff writer Davis Harper.
Harper writes: "Big story: The top seed in the Eastern Conference will square off against the 15th seed in the West. The Oilers, 2-1-1 on a five-game homestand, will look to end it on a high note . . ."
So, 15th in a 14-team conference? That’s really lousy. Freudian slip, of course. Been there. Done that.
FUN WITH NUMBERS
If I asked you to list the goaltenders with the best career save percentages as members of the Oilers (minimum 75 games), where would you put Devan Dubnyk? Without looking it up, would you guess Dubnyk is in the top five? Top 10?
How about first overall? With 164 games as an Oiler in the books, Dubnyk sits first overall with a .910 save percentage after Tuesday’s win over the Hurricanes. Dwayne Roloson is next at .909, followed by Tommy Salo at .906, Nikolai Khabibulin at .903 and Curtis Joseph at .902.
How about the guys who backstopped all the Stanley Cups? Different era, of course — the Oilers scored at a ridiculous pace. Grant Fuhr is eighth at .853, Andy Moog is ninth at .842 and Bill Ranford is seventh at .887.
ONE WHO GOT AWAY
After spending the 2004-05 NHL lockout season covering the Edmonton Road Runners of the AHL, I came away impressed as can be with head coach Geoff Ward, who fronted a staff that included Joe Paterson and Kelly Buchberger. Edmonton’s one-year entry in the AHL was a bad team, but it was obvious to me, for what that’s worth, Ward was as sharp cookie.
Ward, who worked in Hamilton with Claude Julien, took over as bench boss in Steeltown for two seasons after the Montreal Canadiens hired Julien. He moved west when the Road Runners were hatched, then served as Edmonton’s development coach in 2005-06.
Ward left the Oilers and joined Julien in Boston in August of 2007 and he’s been there ever since. Pretty good run for a very good man.
AND . . .
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.