Making A Push
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
15 days ago
With four straight wins in the books after a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken Tuesday in a game that saw five different players score even-strength goals, the Edmonton Oilers look poised to make a push in Western Conference standings. We’ll find out more about that when the Tampa Bay Lightning come calling tonight.
There’s been plenty to like since the Oilers started this roll with a 6-2 win over Anaheim before taking two points against San Jose, Las Vegas and Seattle to move within five points of the Golden Knights atop the Pacific Division. For starters, the Oilers have allowed just eight goals in these four wins. A balanced attack is something the Oilers have lacked at times. They got that against Seattle.
Individually speaking, goaltender Jack Campbell seemed to find his form on the road trip and he was sharp against Seattle Tuesday despite the 3-2 goal he allowed to Vince Dunn with that whoopee cushion catching glove of his. If Campbell is finally right after a difficult start to his season, he and Stuart Skinner are capable of giving the Oilers good enough goaltending to contend – especially with the defensive game improving.
Then, there’s the return of Evander Kane after 31 games out with a wrist injury and subsequent surgery. He was all kinds of impressive in his return against Seattle. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are doing what they do atop the scoring race, but they’ve got some help. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on pace for a career season in points with 21-32-53. Same for Zach Hyman, now with 21-29-50.
IN IT TOGETHER
The Oilers look to be on top of their game and they’ll have to be against the Lightning, who spanked the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 last night on the strength of a Steven Stamkos hat-trick – he now has 502 career goals – and arrive on a five-game winning streak. They won’t beat the Bolts with their B-game.
“Certainly, we’ve said for a long time now that we’re looking for consistency, and we’ve laid down a few good games in a row here,” McDavid, on an eight-game points streak, said after practice on Wednesday. “A really good test (tonight) and another chance for us to continue to build our game and grow our game.
“You need everybody to win games in this league. You need contributions, whether offensively, defensively, whatever it is. You need contributions up and down your line-up. You win in this league because you have 20 guys on the ice pulling on the same rope. We’ve definitely had that the last couple games.”
“Everybody is on the same page right now,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I think starts for us recently have been a high point of our game. We kind of build off that. Everybody is contributing. Everybody is working to get to the net. D-men are getting pucks to the net.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Why the Oilers are putting together wins now when it matters isn’t rocket surgery. While there remains work to do and consistency is always a challenge, this team looks more cohesive with the kind of in-it-together approach we saw last spring in the stretch and into the post-season. They’ll need more of the same tonight.
“In the end, I think we have a lot of really good players,” said coach Jay Woodcroft. “As much as I like the offensive success – we talk about scoring five goals (Tuesday) and the team’s record when we score five goals – that’s nice, but in the end we put a real emphasis on how we’re defending.
“We’re seeing some results here post-Christmas and it’s a credit to our players and their work ethic and execution.”