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Oilers Hitting Their Stride

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
Maybe it was fitting, or just a coincidence, that the Edmonton Oilers found their game on Remembrance Day. Of course, Remembrance Day is much more impactful than a hockey game, but that night was the beginning of Edmonton remembering what they are capable of as a hockey team.
They are 7-3 since that victory in Seattle, and after a mature 3-1 victory in Winnipeg last night they will enjoy two days off while savouring their current four-game winning streak.
The Oilers’ offence is back. They are tied with Colorado for most goals scored averaging 4.20 goals/game.
They’ve tightened up defensively. They are 11th in goals against averaging 2.90/game.
Stuart Skinner is 7-2 with a .905Sv% and 2.52 GAA. He is 4-0 with a .931Sv% and 1.72 GAA during the four-game winning streak.
Fourteen different players have scored a goal and every regular skater in the lineup, except Brett Kulak, has a point.
Their superstars have started producing at their normal rate, and the depth scoring has also woken up.
Edmonton has played with more consistency, maturity and resiliency. They’ve continued to start well, but in the four games they allowed the first goal, then won three of them. They’ve reduced the glaring errors.
Paul Coffey’s message to his blueliners has really connected with them. They are much more poised with the puck, and the glaring errors, or high-risk plays are almost non-existent.
Mattias Ekholm spoke glowingly about Coffey.
“What I really enjoy about him is he wants us to make plays,” said Ekholm. “He wants us up in the rush, closing gaps, he wants us to give our forwards clear passes and not just flip it out when we’re tired, even then he wants us to make plays and I really think that’s the way to go. Sometimes that (making plays) gets lost.”
Ekholm also has enjoyed Coffey’s upbeat approach to the game.
“You have to look at the bad things you do and what you can correct, but he seems to be looking at the pump-your-tires situation. He encourages more than looking at the bad part. He’s been very direct, more positive than negative,” said Ekholm.
Evan Bouchard mentioned last week that Coffey wants him focusing more on skating quicker and moving pucks quicker more than just “playing hard.”
Vincent Desharnais said Coffey’s message to him has been very simple. “He’s always saying, ‘Move your feet, move your feet.’ He says if you can do that and you get an extra half a second, that’s all you need to make a play.”
And the past three weeks have been some of the best hockey we’ve seen from Darnell Nurse. He has five points in 10 games, is +6 at 5×5 and +8 overall and he’s made many excellent defensive plays.

AVOID DECEMBER SWOON…

The month of December in 2018, 2019 and 2021 was not kind to the Oilers. They went a combined 14-22-3 and were outscored 141-110.
Last December they were better — not great, but better, going 7-6-2.
They can’t afford a rough December. They will be fresh when they return to action against Carolina on December 6th for the first of a six-game homestand that sees them play every second day v. Carolina, Minnesota, New Jersey, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Florida.
They lost in Carolina, Florida and Tampa before their four-game winning streak. New Jersey has Jack Hughes back, while Minnesota is 2-0 with their new head coach. Chicago is the only really weak opponent, but the Oilers a good team. They are playing up to their potential right now and need to continue that in December.

GOALIES FINDING THEIR WAY…

Nov 30, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets forward Gabriel Vilardi (13) and Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner (74) look for the puck during the second period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Skinner has a .931Sv% and 1.72 GAA in his last four starts. He made numerous solid stops last night. He stoned the Jets’ best goal scorer, Kyle Connor, multiple times. Skinner kept the game 1-0 until the Oilers finally beat Connor Hellebuyck twice in the final seven minutes. Skinner went save-for-save with Hellebuyck and he should feel much better about his game heading into this five-day break.
Jack Campbell has a .944sv% and 2.00 GAA in his last three starts in Bakersfield. He’s stopped 102 of 108 shots. The AHL isn’t the NHL, but Campbell has to start somewhere to find consistency. Last season, after a slow start, he was excellent for the Oilers in January, and helped keep them in the playoff hunt until they caught fire in the final two months. Trading Campbell is not an option right now. The cost to move him is way too high, so the Oilers will look to give him another shot. He will play another game this weekend in Bakersfield, and I could see him recalled next weekend before the New Jersey or Chicago games.
They aren’t looking for him to be the saviour, nor Skinner for that matter. Rather, they just need their goalies to provide consistent, solid goaltending. I understand if people are skeptical Campbell can do it. His tenure in Edmonton has been a rollercoaster with more downs than ups, but he has shown stretches where he can be a reliable goalie. I expect he will get another chance to prove himself later this month.

FAVOURABLE SCHEDULE…

The Oilers only play 12 games in December. They start with a five-day break, have two days between games to fly out East to face the Islanders on the 19th, then they have a five-day break for Xmas, with games on the 22nd and then on the 28th.
Eight wins this month is very realistic, and probably necessary considering their place in the standings.
They are five points out of the second wild card spot, with three teams ahead of them. And they likely will be further back when they return to action next Wednesday. Arizona (STL, WSH), Calgary (VAN, MIN), Minnesota (CHI, @ CGY) and Seattle (@OTT, @MTL) play twice while Nashville plays three times (NYR, @BUF, @CHI).
Edmonton will have games in hand, but those are only helpful if you win. Edmonton has earned two days off, and then will have three days of practice for head coach Kris Knoblauch to make a few more small tweaks.
They should feel good about their game, and I expect them to continue their strong play.

MONTH OF GIVING…

Our 13th annual Month of Giving begins today. What started as a whim, has grown into something wonderful. We’ve raised over $1.24m in the first 12 years. Thank you all who helped make it possible. You can see all the packages we have up for bid for next week here.

DAY One: Pyramid of Giving
We will build a pyramid of giving to help the Holiday Hamper. It is a simple donation.
We will have 15 people donate $100.
Ten people donate $200.
Four people donate $500
Two people, or companies, will donate $1000.
And we will raise $7,500 for the Holiday Hamper. (Tax receipt included).

It goes from 2-6 p.m. on Sports 1440. You can text the show between 2-6 p.m. at 833.401.1440 and include your name and donation amount. Chris and his from Holiday Hamper will call you to get your information.
Thanks in advance.

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