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The Oilers are Staying Alive

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
3 months ago
This season is going to be an absolute roller coaster.
Nation Citizens were feeling good after the Oilers rattled off a three-game winning streak earlier this month. It felt like the team had found their game, and although the upcoming road trip looked daunting, there were plenty of reasons to believe that the Oilers could scoop up a few victories and keep the good times rolling.
That obviously didn’t happen.
The Oilers blew early leads to both Tampa Bay and Florida and failed to register a point in the first three games of their Eastern road trip. Things once again looked bleak.
Yes, they had to play tough opponents during that stretch, but the Oilers themselves are supposed to be an elite team. Losing three in a row just can’t happen, and when you consider the fashion in which they lost those games, it was even more frustrating.
But, the Oilers bounced back and ended the road trip with a very impressive 5-0 victory over the Washington Capitals. It was a win that checked a lot of boxes for the Oilers
Solid play from Stuart Skinner? Check.
An awakening from the top power play unit? Check.
Sound defensive play? Check.
Skinner stopped every shot he faced, the team only allowed 19 shots at 5v5, and the powerplay went three for four. That win, perhaps more than any other this season, gave me reason to believe that the Oilers can figure things out and once again be an elite team.
The win over Anaheim, while dominant, wasn’t quite as impressive in a weird way. The Oilers should be rolling over teams like the Ducks, who came into that game on a five-game losing streak.
It was run-and-gun hockey and the Oilers rarely have problems keeping up in games like that, especially when there’s a sizeable skill gap, like there was in that matchup against Anaheim.
I’ve been saying for a this entire month that I will not declare that the Oilers are back until they’ve won at least five games in a row. I need to see a prolonged heater from this group for me to really believe that they are capable of getting back into the playoff picture and re-establishing themselves as a legit Cup contender.
Two wins is a nice start, but I still need to see more.
If you were looking for reasons to believe that this team is going to be just fine, Connor McDavid’s red-hot run is a great place to start. Heading into play on Friday, McDavid was tied for 59th in league scoring. By the time that the final buzzer sounded on Sunday night, he had moved into a tie for 13th.
If there were any doubts about whether or not the Oilers Captain would find his groove this season, McDavid has erased them by collecting nine points in two games.
Stuart Skinner is potentially another reason. After allowing just two goals in his last two starts, he’s now had a .900 or better save percentage in five of his last seven game. There have been some real stinkers mixed in there, and he gave up a really soft goal in the first period against Anaheim, but right now, I’m more confident in Skinner than I have been at any other point this season.
The biggest reason why you should believe that the Oilers will still be a playoff team actually doesn’t have anything to do with the team themselves though.
They still have a very clear path back to a playoff spot because the Western Conference has been bad this season.
The Seattle Kraken currently hold onto the final playoff spot in the West and they’re on pace for just 78 points this season. The Oilers are just six points back of them and they have two games in hand. If they win their games in hand, they’ll be just two points back of Seattle.
Now, the problem is that they need to jump four other teams as well, but when you look at who’s standing between the Oilers and the seven seed in the West, there aren’t a lot of teams that should strike fear into you.
The Anaheim Ducks are not a playoff team and while their hot start to the season was fun, they’ve now lost six in a row and they don’t have a roster good enough to turn things around.
The Calgary Flames are interesting. On paper, they’ll likely be good enough to stay in the mix but if they’re on the bubble ahead of the trade deadline, will Craig Conroy hold onto his pending free agents Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, and Elias Lindholm? Or will he prioritize the future?
The Arizona Coyotes are another team that’s been a fun story to track and I like what they have going on in the desert, but the Oilers are only five points back of them and they aren’t a true contender.
The Predators have been inconsistent to start the year and I don’t think that will change. I didn’t have them as a playoff team to start the year and they haven’t done enough to change my mind.
I still believe that the Seattle Kraken will be able to score enough goals to stay competitive all year and their goaltending likely won’t hold up. Similar to Nashville, I didn’t have them as a playoff team to start and I’m not going to change my mind now.
The St. Louis Blues have one eye on the future as GM Doug Armstrong told Frank Seravalli that he’s aware that they’re in a bit of a rebuilding state. They could sell off some assets ahead of the deadline and fall off in the standings.
The path to a wild card spot is clear for the Oilers. There aren’t any world-beaters ahead of them and this team is more than capable of going on an extended hot streak, like they did at the end of last season.
Let’s see if this most recent two-game run can be a catalyst for a season-changing month of December.

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