51
Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers finally waking up?

The Edmonton Oilers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but it doesn’t feel like they are gaining much momentum because those seven games occurred over 25 days, and an ugly loss to the Buffalo Sabres left a bad taste in the mouths of the players and the fans.

Are the Oilers finally turning the corner?

After watching the Oilers dismantle a tired Tampa Bay team, led by Connor McDavid’s career-high four goals, Oilersnation is buzzing.

As it should be. There hasn’t been much for fans to cheer about. McDavid was on another level last night.

“It helps when you score the first time you touch the puck,” he said. “I felt good before the game, but I got energized from that goal and I think our entire team did. We played fast and we need to do that more regularly. We have a lot of speed, but we haven’t shown it regularly,” said the NHL’s fastest skater.

McDavid was flying, but he was also shooting. He matched his career high with nine shots on net, scoring four times. McDavid knows he looks to pass too much, he’s talked about it many times. A few weeks ago he talked about what he wants to improve in his game. “I need to finish off more chances. I’m creating a lot, but I need to finish them by either shooting or making the right pass,” he explained.

He led the charge last night, but it wasn’t just McDavid.

The Oilers were flying from the opening faceoff. They drew an early penalty, and then actually scored on the powerplay with precise and quick puck movement.

“It’s like you were on the ice yesterday at practice,” Ryan Strome said to me after I asked him about the Oilers powerplay finally moving the puck quicker. “I got yelled about exactly that (moving puck to slowly) during Monday’s practice. Just move it quickly, don’t over handle it, or overthink. Having Connor and Leon on the power play, sometimes you want to defer to them too much. We have a lot of skill and we need to use it better on the power play,” said Strome after last night’s victory.

Strome is playing his best hockey of the season lately. He has five points in three games, and he’s moving his feet. He is carrying the puck into the zone and backing off defenders. Earlier in the season I didn’t think he could excel as a centre, but he’s proving me wrong. He has looked much better and he’s elevated his game since Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went down.

Now he needs to continue to play well. The Oilers can’t get comfortable. They’ve done that far too often this season.

Even during this recent streak, they laid an egg versus the 30th place Buffalo Sabres, but winning five of seven is a good start. Now the Oilers need to keep it up.

FINISH STRONG

Nov 28, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates his overtime goal with teammates against the Arizona Coyotes. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

After 52 games last season the Lighting were 22-24-6 (50 points), then they finished the season 20-6-4 and finished with 94 points, missing the dance by one point. I suspect much of the Oilers current roster will return next season. This group needs to play for each other and finish strong.

The Oilers have a massive hill to climb, and the playoffs seem unlikely, but they can’t waste these final 31 games. Edmonton has amassed 11 points in their past seven games. Only Winnipeg has picked up more points, going 5-0-2, within the Western Conference.

The Oilers’ ascent up the standings will be very slow. Compare their past seven games with the six teams they are chasing for the final two playoff spots (third in the Pacific and the wild card).

Minnesota gained nine points, Los Angeles eight, Anaheim and Colorado seven, while Chicago and Calgary produced six points.

The Oilers need to pick up at least 10 points in every seven game stretch, and probably eleven in a few of them, to slowly close the gap on the teams they are chasing.

SEVEN GAME STRETCHES

Starting today I’m going to monitor how they fare versus those six teams over a seven-game stretch. This upcoming seven-game stretch will be the most difficult for the Oilers. They play six road games and one home game. They are in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Anaheim and San Jose on Friday and Saturday, home to Florida next Monday, back on the road to Vegas next Thursday and then Arizona and Colorado on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

A positive seven-game stretch would see them gain at least two-four points on LA, Minnesota, Anaheim, Colorado, Chicago, and Calgary. You could argue LA, Anaheim and Calgary are the teams to focus on, because if they somehow manage to catch all three then they would be in, but with Minny and LA tied in points today, I think it makes more sense to include the second wild card spot as well.

The Oilers need to go 5-1-1 or 4-1-2 over the next seven games. It won’t be easy, but that is their reality.

QUICK HITS

1. Connor McDavid became the sixth Oilers player to score four goals in a game since Wayne Gretzky scored five goals on December 6th, 1987 versus Minnesota.

Glenn Anderson did it twice. March 4th, 1988 versus Philly and November 19th, 1988 versus Toronto.
Mark Messier also did it twice. February 21st, 1989 versus Hartford and March 3rd, 1990 versus Philly.
Vincent Damphousse scored four versus Winnipeg on December 14th, 1991.
Alex Selivanov potted four in Chicago on November 14th, 1999.
Sam Gagner had four goals versus Chicago on February 2nd, 2012.
McDavid scores his four versus Tampa on February 5th, 2018.

Selivanov was the only one to do it on the road, while Gagner had the most points, eight, Gretzky had six and McDavid, Selivanov and Anderson (PHI) each had five points.

Gretzky had 13 shots on goal when he scored five goals. Anderson had 12 in both of his games, while Damphousse fired ten shots. McDavid tied his career-high with nine last night. Selivanov scored his four goals on five shots. Gagner and Messier (HAR) were the only two to score all four goals at even strength.

2. Streaks can change quickly. McDavid has six goals in his last two games. He had one goal in his previous 13 games. His five-point performance saw him jump from 13th in league scoring up to a tie for third with Nathan MacKinnon and Jakub Voracek, with 61 points. McDavid is now five points back of Nikita Kucherov in the race for the Art Ross. McDavid is looking to become the first player since Jaromir Jagr (1998-2001) to win the scoring race in consecutive seasons. And trust me, he wants to win it.

3. The Oilers scored two powerplay goals last night on four chances. They had two powerplay goals in their previous fifteen home games and were 4.9% (2 of 41). They had only scored three PP goals over their previous 19 games (3 of 50 for 6%). It was only one game, but last night the powerplay actually looked good. They created many good chances. I will need to see a solid 10-game stretch before I’m prepared to call their PP good, but at least they showed a pulse with the man advantage. Having Strome on the left boards has helped, no question, but the players had more much more movement yesterday. They weren’t standing still as much as we’ve seen for most of the year. And the early PP goal was a huge boost. All the players admitted it. Even Steven Stamkos said he felt the early PP goal really gave Edmonton a boost. Now let’s see if they PP can maintain some success.

4. Prior to last night, McDavid was on pace to score 28 goals. Now he is on pace for 33. He was on pace for 92 points before the game and now he’s on pace for 98. I’m always cautious of prorating projections because they can change quickly, especially for elite players like McDavid who are capable of a breakout game at any point.

5. McDavid now has nine multi-goal games. As a rookie, he scored two goals three times versus Calgary, Toronto and Buffalo. Last year he opened the season with two goals against Calgary and then scored a hat-trick in Dallas on November 19th. He had a hat-trick on opening night this year vs. Calgary, then a pair versus Vegas in November, two on Colorado last Thursday and four last night. Prior to his last two games, six goals, the most goals he’d scored in consecutive games was three.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • OilersBro

    I don’t mind the new PP1 lineup. Cagguila plays big in front of the net and battles to cause chaos and having him on instead of Lucic means that every player is quick, can handle the puck, and passes well.

    It seemed like 29-97-91-18-77 got into the zone easily last game and made the defense shift out of position on several occasions. The only problem is that it leaves the 2nd line PP barren for speed with Nuge out.

  • I hope this isn’t like late December/early January, get out of the hole only to end up even deeper down. I think if special teams plays half as good as they did last night for the rest of the reason we won’t atleast be bottom feeders

  • freelancer

    For the Oilers to even consider having a chance to make the post season they need to win their next 3 games in regulation. Basically they can’t afford to win any Pacific division games in OT.

      • 99CupsofCoffey

        He’s a freak of nature. Watching him on the PP with the puck on his stick, his head is always up, eyes never down, and he’s clicking that puck back and forth back and forth back and forth all the time. he never just holds it on one side of his stick.

    • TKB2677

      I feel your pain. My oldest son had been asking me to go to an Oilers game for 2 years so I told him he had to wait until he was at least 7 and he had to be able to have the ability to stay for an entire hockey game. I would take him to junior hockey games and he would always get too bored so we would leave in the 3rd period. He spent his entire 6 yr old year making sure to stay to the very end of any games he went too. He said he was “training” himself for the Oilers. He turned 7 in Dec 2017 so I bought tickets for the New Years eve game this season to take him to his first ever game. We are from out of town so we got a hotel room.The Jets whipped the Oilers 5-0 so my son didn’t even get to see a single goal in his first ever game.

      Talk about a let down.

      • Prairiechicken

        We are lucky enough to share season tickets with another couple. My daughter goes to about half the games with me (so 1/4 of the oilers home games). Prior to last night, the Oilers had been outscored 15-0 in the 3 prior games she had been to!!!!
        But somehow she remained a fan, giving me a hard time whenever ever cursed an Oiler (it happens often, and mainly towards Luc) throughout those games.

      • CRONENBERG

        Exactly! That’s what I always say, those games that the players don’t show up for, that’s going to be some one in the audiences first game ever. That’s going to be the one game that a family could afford to go to. That’s why after the Buffalo loss it was so damn frustrating to hear McLellan say to the press “Did we lose 5-0 or have we won 3 of the last 4?” If you’re going to pay to go to a game, you have to be prepared for the possibility the team will lose, but you shouldn’t have to be prepared for them to not show up.

      • Derian Hatcher

        Was at the same game against the Jets. My wife spent a ton for tix as a Christmas gift for the family She was so disappointed noting “they don’t even look like they’re trying”. I kept a positive spin cause she was so excited to give that gift. Inside I was seething at the pathetic effort of the millionaires. I told her to watch Laine, Wheeler, Lowry and how good the jets are. The seats we were in were a once in a lifetime experience. I really felt for my wife. She was so disappointed in the evening. The players and /or the owner owe my wife $938, and all the other fans as well

        The sad part, there I was last night cheering at the TV with Connor literally bringing me off the couch giving us all hope that maybe, just maybe if they keep playing like they can….sigh, This team has got me by the balls, leading me around like the some pathetic high school kid Maybe they,ll go 3 for 3 this road trip and then…..

      • Spydyr

        Walter Gretzky had great advise for Wayne and I am paraphrasing here “every game you play there will be someone watching you play live for the first time make sure you show them your best.”

  • crabman

    at 1st I thought it was a bit of a cherry pick looking only at the last 7 game stretch considering if you looked at the last 10 as most people do it doesn’t look as good with a 5-4-1 record considering they still have an 11 point hole to dig themselves out of. But if That’s how you will be breaking down the rest of the season into 7 game segments it works and gives a little hope considering how well they have played over the past 7. At this point I don’t think they have a chance to get back into the playoffs but if they play well and get close, like Tampa last year, by playing well down the stretch and fixing the problems from the start of the year I’ll be happy at this point.
    I loved the intermission interview with Strome when he talked about just making a decision and moving the puck quickly. That is why they looked fast last night. the puck was moved quickly. no one in the league can skate as fast as a puck an be passed. so teams that move the puck well and make good decisions are the fast teams. I still think there are holes on the team and the entire team needs to work on consistency to he a good team next year but games like last night give me a little comfort moving forward.

  • Ty Guy

    We suck. We’re AWESOME!! We’re brutal. We’re okay. We blew it. We’re back on track! We need a rebuild 4.2. We have a chance….i cant handle this rollercoaster….

  • JudgeDredd

    I figured they had no chance last night and jokingly said I was gonna cheer for Tampa…… Boy was I wrong. I think i might “cheer” for the other team the rest of the season and see how that goes

  • Prairiechicken

    Gregor: This Saturday will mark 4 weeks since Nuge’s injury. Any news on how he’s progressing? I think it was originally suggested to be 4-6 weeks, but that diagnosis came out about a week into the injury.
    Getting him back would be like a pretty sweet deadline acquisition.

  • Spoils

    NO. there are structural problems with this team. For example, we cannot expect McDavid to get 2pts every game.

    let’s be sellers this year and optimize for the future. let’s not be a team that makes a series of short playoff runs. let’s fire chiarelli?

    “2020”/future Oilers
    ?????- McDavid-Draisaitl
    Lucic – RNH – Puljujarvi
    ??? – Strome – Yamamoto
    Sleppy/Cagiula – Khaira – Kassian

    ???-Larsson
    Klefbom-Sekera
    Nurse-???
    Bear/Jones/Davidson/Benning/Mantha

    do we sell Maroon because he will return more now than ever?
    do we trade Strome now because we don’t want to match his contract?
    do we trade our #1 pick because it has more value today than it will have if we finish the year playing well (narrowly missing the playoffs)?
    do we include Bear/Mantha/Jones in packages that include a player coming back next year.

    I’d like to see a package go out like Maroon and our top pick for say Thomas Chabot from the Sens? Or Joel Eriksson Ek from Minnesota?

    Get us a sooner-to-be but REAL actual top pairing D or a real actual natural goal scorer.

    • jultz=2cups!😂😂

      Wow. Did you seriously ask “do we trade our #1 pick because it has more value today” ??? Wtf?? What team outside of the playoffs have ever traded their first rounder?? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Especially now in the lottery era. Wow just wow. I bet oilersnation gives your comment lots of cheers tho 😂😂

  • TKB2677

    I typically try to be a positive person but I don’t see how the Oilers make the playoffs. With the point system in the NHL, the league has designed it so you can’t make up ground. No other league gives you points for losing except the NHL. I know the NHL wants parity and in theory with the loser point, it gives you parity. But it also hurts teams who go through a funk or have a bad stretch of injuries because you literally can’t have them anymore. I think it takes away player movement in the league because most teams are right there. It also awards mediocre teams and encourages them to play for OT rather than go for the win. Take the Flames. They lost 6 games in a row but didn’t lose a ton of ground because 4 of them were OT losses so they got a point.

      • TKB2677

        Yup. No league should be rewarding a team for losing. In pro sports, a loss is a loss. If you want to award teams for losing, the go to the 3 point system. 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an OT/shoot out win, 1 pt for an OT/shoot out loss. Why should the losing team be rewarded half the points the winning team gets in an OT win. They lost the game.

        Last season, Oilers had 1 more win that the Ducks, yet the Ducks had 13 points from losing in OT. The Ducks finished 2 points ahead of the Oilers having a worse record. How is that fair.

  • Heschultzhescores

    We need Drai to win a few games single handedly as well. Last time he did that was last year’s playoffs. Im not saying he’s not performing, but there is another level or two up for him. See McDavid’s game last night for reference.

  • The Whispererer

    I’m old enough to remember when each team received 1 point for a tie after 60 minutes of a regular season game and it was finished. Then, some people in their ultimate wisdom ( most likely those who were accustomed to getting participation awards in grade school sports ) decided that a tie was an unacceptable result. It was determined that the game must be played until a winner emerged; the team that won in a 5 minute sudden-death overtime or in a skills competition called a shootout would be awarded a second point. I might be alone in this, but it is my opinion that this 2nd point is the true “Bettman” point. The “loser” point is actually a point that was hard-earned by playing a 60 minute game to a tie.
    Maybe the solution is to continue as is for entertainment purposes because everyone loves a winner, but the Bettman/winner’s point is not counted in the standings; it would only come in to play at the end of the season if needed as a tiebreaker for playoff qualification/seeding. Does this make any sense ?

  • Serious Gord

    They have to go 24-7 to make the playoffs. It isn’t just awakening – more importantly they have to put in a consistently high effort for the rest of the season.

  • Gravis82

    What is the cause of the change?

    Lines 2 and 3 need to be out-shooting, out-scoring, out-posessioning and out-chancing the opposition for use to be considered a cup contender, or at the very least breaking even. If that is happening, then color me excited.
    If not, wake me when that happens.

  • GK1980

    The oilers still need to show more secondary scoring and a tighter D in my opinion. Special teams of course need to improve. So no, they have not turned a corner yet. Not one to sustain long term success anyways.

  • RJ

    I’ve seen them get up for an elite opppnent before, and play well and win. Then people would get excited, one guy loved to write “#OilerDomination”. And for the next three or four games they’d come out flat and lose.

    I don’t expect them to win every game going forward, but it’s competing the way they did against TB that fans are asking for. If they can compete that way every night, then they have woken up. Otherwise it’s just more of the same.