The wins continue to pile up and with every passing day, a division championship is starting to look more and more realistic for the Edmonton Oil Kings. If you wanted to send a statement to the WHL, an 11-1 victory is a good way to do so. Their blowout victory over the Swift Current Broncos on Tuesday was not only fun to watch but it showed the level this team is on right now. I know the Broncos aren’t a good team this year but anytime you can put up 11, which they haven’t done since the 2013-14 season, it shows you’re firing on all cylinders.
The only problem right now remains the pesky Lethbridge Hurricanes, who continue to win at nearly the same rate.
As it sits right now, Edmonton is two points up on the Hurricanes. The fact these two teams don’t play again between now and the end of the regular season is probably an advantage for the Oil Kings. As it sits right now, they have more wins than the Hurricanes, who make up for that with a pair of losses in extra time. Edmonton also won the season series between these two teams, winning four of their six matchups. The tiebreakers all favour the Oil Kings.
A big reason why they’ve been this successful has been their ability to win within their own division. Their two wins over Red Deer this weekend improved their record against Central Division opponents to 21-2-1-4 this season. They’ve been straight up dominant and they’ll have an opportunity to continue that trend over their final seven games of the regular season. Six of their final seven opponents will come from within their own division.
Three of their games will also be against the Calgary Hitmen and if the team can grab just one point in that span, they will clinch the season series against the Hitmen. That would mean the Oil Kings have won the season series against every single division opponent. Andrew Peard, the teams’ play-by-play voice, was quick to point out that would be the first time the team has accomplished that feat since 2013/14, the year they won both the WHL championship and the Memorial Cup. That’s some pretty elite company.
Those final three games against the Hitmen will also determine if the team will have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. I always stress how important this is in junior hockey for two reasons. First, it gives players a chance to be around familiar surroundings and sleep in their own beds. Something that holds more value than in pro hockey. They’re still just teenagers. Secondly, in a league where all travel is done by bus, any time you can avoid a long bus trip, you should jump all over it.
Although Head Coach Brad Lauer has told me on multiple occasions that he’s very confident in his teams’ ability to win on the road, they’ve been nearly unstoppable at home. Their 0.700 win percentage at home is tops in their division and third in their conference. They aren’t a bad team on the road, in fa,ct they’re far from it as they’re 0.581 road winning percentage is second in their division, but there’s no doubt they would rather be on home ice.
As the team heads down the stretch, here are some other notes on the team:
- The combination of Vlad Alistrov-Scott Atkinson-Andrei Pavlenko has been great over this last stretch of hockey. In their last four games, they’ve combined for 18 points. That production from the team’s fourth line is very welcome and takes a bunch of pressure off of Trey Fix-Wolansky. If they can keep that up into the playoffs, it will give this team a very good chance of going on a deep run.
- I’m consistently impressed with Andrew Fyten. He wins faceoffs, kills penalties, and takes tough matchups at 5v5. He has championship experience (went to the Memorial Cup with Swift Current last year) and I expect him to become even more impactful as the team gets closer to the playoffs.
- Their powerplay is just 2/13 against Medicine Hat and in the two games against Red Deer. That’s not good enough. They did get hot and go three for five against Swift Current. The process looks good during most games but they will need to find consistent results come playoff time.
- Their penalty kill has been fantastic killing all 13 opposition powerplays they’ve faced over the last three games. They currently sit eighth in the WHL with a 79.3% PK%.
- Goaltending has morphed into a real strength for this club as well. Todd Scott was red hot back in January, winning the WHL’s Goaltender of The Month Award. Just as he cooled off, Dylan Myskiw took over. He recorded his first career WHL shutout last week against the Medicine Hat Tigers and has boasted a save percentage of 0.963 over the last four games. He’s 4-0-0-0 and has only allowed four goals, an incredible run that has gotten him named WHL Goalie of The Week. The fact that both of these goalies have had up and down seasons worries me, but if Myskiw can keep up his current play into the postseason, this team could actually be a threat to go deep in the playoffs.
Next up for the team is a pair of home games this weekend. Friday night they will host the Medicine Hat Tigers and on Saturday they will play a Brandon team that plays the night before in Calgary. It’s another prime opportunity for this team to grab four points and potentially clinch a playoff spot.