A look at the Western Conference and Edmonton’s busy second-half schedule
Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis1 year ago
The Oilers rolled into the All-Star break by winning five of six games, which helped soothe some of the anxiety that came with the team’s previous six- and seven-game losing streaks.
Still, Edmonton sits on the outside of a playoff spot looking in at the season’s half-way point of the season with a 23-16-3 record. The first half was a rollercoaster ride and the second half poses more challenges as the Oilers are staring down the barrel of a busy schedule loaded with difficult opponents.
Let’s take a look at what’s happened in the Western Conference and look ahead to what’s next.
1. Colorado Avalanche – 68 points
After a somewhat slow start to the season, the Avs have started to run away with the top record in the Western Conference. They’ve won 15 of 17 games since the calendar flipped to 2022 and they’re eight points ahead of the next team behind them in the standings.
The Oilers haven’t played Colorado yet in 2021-22. They’ll square off three times between mid-March and the end of the season.
2. Nashville Predators – 60 points
In second behind the Avs are the Predators, who are eight points back of Colorado with two more games played. Nashville has been riding the Vezina-caliber play of Juuse Saros while soon-to-be free agent forward Filip Forsberg has 24 goals through 33 games.
The Oilers have won both of their games against the Predators this season. They’ll go for the season sweep on April 14 in Nashville.
3. Minnesota Wild – 59 points
The best bet to catch the Avs in the standings is likely the Wild, who are nine points back of Colorado but have three games in hand. Minnesota is currently on a six-game winning streak and they haven’t lost in regulation since the Winter Classic on January 1.
The Wild beat the Oilers by a score of 4-1 in their only meeting so far this season. Edmonton and Minnesota will play again in February and in April.
4. St. Louis Blues – 57 points (WC1)
Despite sitting in a tie for the fourth-most points in the Western Conference, the Blues are currently a wild-card team. St. Louis got off to a 5-0-0 start this season and they’ve heated up again recently, winning eight of 12 games in January. Key to their success has been goaltender Ville Husso, who has a .941 save percentage in 15 games.
The Blues and Oilers have split their season series so far this season with both teams beating the other at home. The rubber match for the season series will be in Edmonton on April 1.
5. Vegas Golden Knights – 57 points
We finally have our first Pacific Division team. The Golden Knights are tied with the Blues in points but have played two more games, so that puts them in fifth place in the Western Conference for now.
It looked like Vegas had hit their stride back in December when they won five games in a row, but the team has had a ho-hum stretch in January, going 5-4-3. It’ll be interesting to see how the Golden Knights look when they’re finally fully healthy. It’ll be even more interesting to see how they fit everyone under the salary cap.
The Oilers have gone into Vegas twice this season and they’ve won both times. They’ll host the Golden Knights immediately after the All-Star break and again in April.
6. Los Angeles Kings – 55 points
One of the biggest surprises in the league this season has been the play of the L.A. Kings.
After a six-game losing streak early in the season, the Kings bounced back by winning seven in a row and they’ve remained in the mix since. L.A. just wrapped up a road trip in which they went 4-0-2 and they’re tied for second in the Pacific Division with 55 points.
The Oilers and Kings have played once and L.A. won handily by a score of 5-1. They’ll meet three more times this season and those head-to-heads are huge for the Oilers, who are six points back of the Kings with five games in hand.
7. Anaheim Ducks – 55 points
Another huge surprise this season has been the Anaheim Ducks, who are tied with the Kings with 55 points with one more game played.
Just like the Kings, Anaheim had a poor start to the season in which they dropped seven of their first nine games but bounced back with an eight-game winning streak. The Ducks have played well recently as well, as they’re 4-0-2 in their last six games.
Edmonton and Anaheim’s only meeting this season was a 6-5 win back in October. The teams will square off twice more, once in February and once in April. The Oilers are six points back of the Ducks with six games in hand.
8. Calgary Flames – 52 points (WC2)
The Flames’ season has been a rollercoaster ride. They came out of the gates hot, looked like a serious contender in November, and then cooled off in December and early January. As of late, though, Calgary is on another upswing, as they’ve won five of their last six.
It’ll be interesting to see how Calgary approaches the trade deadline as Johnny Gaudreau is on an expiring contract. They might be at risk of losing him for nothing in the offseason but the Flames are a team with playoff aspirations.
The Oilers have won both of their meetings with the Flames thus far in 2021-22 and they’ll play twice more. The two teams have the same amount of wins and losses but the Flames are three points ahead in the standings because more of their losses came in overtime.
Feb 19, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) faces off for the puck during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
9. Edmonton Oilers – 49 points
Now we have the Oilers, who sit in ninth place in the Western Conference at the All-Star break.
The Oilers are three points back of the Flames for the West’s second wild-card spot with the same amount of games played but they control their own destiny with the Kings and Ducks. The Oilers are six points back of L.A. and Anaheim with five and six games in hand. They’re also eight points behind the Golden Knights with four games in hand.
10. Dallas Stars – 48 points
The Dallas Stars are currently well back of a playoff spot in the Central Division but they’re right in the mix for a wild-card spot. Dallas is currently one point behind the Oilers with one more game played. If they aren’t any further ahead in month, they might sell off impending free agents Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg, and Braden Holtby.
Dallas beat the Oilers in their only meeting of the season so far and the two teams will play two more times.
11. San Jose Sharks – 48 points
The Sharks appear to be right in the mix of the wild-card race but that’s probably a little misleading. Though they’re only four points out of a playoff spot, they’ve played four more games than the Flames, the team they’re chasing.
The Oilers haven’t seen the Sharks yet this season. Evander Kane will be set to face his former club four times between February and April.
12. Vancouver Canucks – 46 points
The Canucks seemed to have saved their season when Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench and the team went on a seven-game winning streak. Since then, though, Vancouver has fallen back into mediocrity, dropping nine of 14. The Canucks have their eyes set on the future rather than pushing for a playoff run this year.
Edmonton has already faced the Canucks three times this season and all three have resulted in wins for the Oilers. Their fourth and final meeting of 2021-22 won’t come until the end of the season.
13. Winnipeg Jets – 43 points
The Jets have completely fallen off of a cliff as of late. The team was firmly in the playoff mix coming out of the Christmas break but they’ve dropped eight of their last 10 and are now nine points out with the same amount of games played as the Oilers and Flames.
The Oilers and Jets have split their season series thus far and will play their third and final meeting of 2021-22 in a couple of weeks.
14. Chicago Blackhawks – 39 points
With the Blackhawks, we have the first of the three teams in the Western Conference who are completely out of the race. Chicago started off 1-9-2 and have gone a respectable 15-14-5 since Derek King took over as coach from Jeremy Colliton but that isn’t enough to pull them out of the hole they dug themselves.
The Oilers beat the Hawks back in November and they’ll play twice more. The most interesting thing to pay attention to with this team is what happens with Marc-Andreu Fleury and if Ken Holland is going to get involved.
15. Seattle Kraken – 34 points
Seattle looks a lot more like an expansion team than Vegas did. The Kraken are 15-27-4 on the season, a massive disappointment for a team that appeared ready to at least compete for a playoff spot in their inaugural season.
The Oilers beat Seattle in two of three meetings and they won’t meet again until 2022-23.
16. Arizona Coyotes – 26 points
Finally, we have the Coyotes, who are engaged in a heated tank battle with the Montreal Canadiens. The Oilers have beaten the Coyotes twice this season and they’ll play again in March. The next time we see them they might be playing out of Houston or a 5,000-seat college barn in Tempe. Who knows.
Looking ahead …
The Oilers have a challenging schedule the rest of the way, both in terms of its intensity and the quality of opponents they’ll be facing.
As a result of so many games being postponed due to COVID-19 in December and January in Canada, the Canadian teams are going to have a jam-packed ride the rest of the way. The Oilers will come out of the All-Star break and won’t have more than two days off in between games for the rest of the season.
They’re back at it against the Golden Knights on Tuesday and, starting there, it’s 40 games in 80 nights.
Here’s how those 40 games break down…
- 13 are against high-quality teams (Colorado, Carolina, Florida, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, Nashville. St. Louis, Washington, Boston).
- 17 are four-point games against Pacific Division opponents and teams in the Wild-Card mix (Vegas, Calgary, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas, Winnipeg, Vancouver).
- 10 are against non-playoff teams (Detroit, NY Islanders, Columbus, Chicago, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Buffalo, New Jersey, Seattle, Arizona, Montreal).
The Oilers have quite a few games left against the league’s elite this season, as they play the Avs three more times, the Lightning twice, and both the Panthers, Hurricanes, and Penguins once more each. They don’t have quite as many games left against the league’s basement, so they’ll have to put up a respectable record against the top teams in order to make the playoffs.
Ultimately, though, the key for the Oilers to reach the playoffs is doing well in those 17 games against the teams that they’re directly competing with. Some of them, such as San Jose, are likely going to fall off, but the three games against the Kings and the two against the Flames, Ducks, Golden Knights, and Stars will be massive.
It’s going to be a difficult climb and it’ll be interesting to see if Ken Holland adds any reinforcements. Evander Kane has been good so far and top prospect Dylan Holloway’s arrival seems to be right around the corner, but this team might need an addition on the blueline or in net, or possibly both.
What kind of run will it take for the Oilers in the next month-and-a-bit to get Holland to trade the first-round pick to improve the team?
Recent articles from Cam Lewis