When the Oilers exploded for five goals in the third period and beat the Nashville Predators on Monday night, I said it was a statement to the rest of the Western Conference. The Oilers showed just how electric they can be and how hard it is to stop them once they get going.
The team followed it up with a massive overtime win over the Dallas Stars and that game showed that even when they aren’t playing their best hockey at even strength, they can beat you with nothing more than goaltending and special teams.
I can honestly say that this is the most confident I’ve felt about the Oilers in the last decade. This is without a doubt the most talented Oilers team that I’ve ever watched. This seems to be a group that has completely bought into each other and what Dave Tippett is preaching. The results speak for themselves. They will do whatever it takes to win and they have the ability to win games in different ways.
With that being said, they are far from a perfect team. They struggle to outscore and out chance the opposition at even strength, ranking in the bottom third of the league in Goals For%, Shots For%, Corsi For%, and Scoring Chances For%. Despite that, I still view the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers as a team that is more than capable of going on a deep playoff run. I don’t think that the Conference Finals is an unrealistic goal for this group.
Their numbers at even strength are not great but over the last few months, I’ve noticed that the Oilers bottom six has done a much better job of playing ‘zero hockey’, meaning they might not generate very much offence, but they do a great job of making sure that the other team doesn’t get any ‘Grade A’ chances.
Take a look at the 5v5 numbers for the Oilers forward lines in their last two games:
Monday vs Nashville:
Tuesday vs Dallas:
It’s reasonable to expect that their bottom six is only going to get better as well considering the additions that Ken Holland made at the deadline and the fact that they’re now close to 100% healthy.
Considering just how dangerous the Oilers top six can be, the Oilers really don’t need the rest of their forward group to do anything other than just break even every game. The lines that have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can handle all of the scoring.
Their powerplay is another reason why their sub-par numbers at even strength don’t concern me very much. They’re running at close to 30% on the season and if they keep up their current pace, they’ll have one of the best powerplay percentages since the league started keeping track of the stat in the 1977-78 season. Here are the top five all-time powerplay percentages:
1 – Montreal Canadiens (77/78): 31.9%
2 – New York Islanders (77/78): 31.4%
3 – New York Islanders (78/79): 31.1%
4 – Edmonton Oilers (19/20): 29.9%
t-5 – New York Islanders (80/81): 29.3%
T-5 – Edmonton Oilers (82/33): 29.3%
The Oilers powerplay hasn’t just been good, it’s been historically great.
Some people will say that the Oilers won’t be able to rely solely on their powerplay in the playoffs because referees tend to put their whistles in their pockets during the postseason. I don’t think the Oilers need to be worried about that.
So far this season, the Oilers are averaging 2.94 powerplays per game. Over the last three playoffs, only one of the 12 teams who have made it to the Conference Finals in that span have averaged less than 2.94 powerplays per game. There are still powerplays in the playoffs and the Oilers will still get plenty of chances to burn their opposition during a best-of-seven series.
On the back end, getting Oscar Klefbom back will be huge for this group as well and that’s something that makes this recent string of wins even more impressive. They’ve been beating good teams without their best defenseman. The return of Klefbom will also make life much easier on their goaltending, which has been tremendous as of late.
Both of their goalies have each delivered incredible performances over the last seven days. Considering Mike Smith’s track record in the playoffs, and his play last season when he was with the Calgary Flames, I believe he’s capable of going on a hot streak once again this spring. Over the last two seasons, we’ve all seen Mikko Koskinen go on 10-12 game runs where he puts up crazy good numbers as well. The Oilers have goaltenders capable of winning playoff series for them.
These last three wins should have the Oilers feeling great and it should have their fan base beyond excited for what this team could be capable of doing this spring. Buckle up Edmonton, it’s time for a playoff run.