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The Day After 18.0: ‘Paralyzed’ Oilers see postseason chances dip below 45 percent

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Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
3 months ago
It’s American Thanksgiving, and the Oilers are staring down the barrel of what would need to be the most improbable of comebacks to make it into the playoffs.
Eighteen games into the season in which the Oilers had “Cup or bust” aspirations, it’s hard to believe that’s the conversation we must have, but here we are.
The Oilers were pegged with expectations of being one of the best teams in the league. Moneypuck gave them an 87.1 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 7.9 percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup, naming them Stanley Cup favourites. That site now gives them a 41.5 percent chance of making the playoffs.
HockeyViz, meanwhile, projected them with an 86.5 percent chance of making the postseason while projecting them as the best team in the Pacific Division, with 99.6 points, and the second-best team in the Western Conference. Now? A 44.5 percent chance.
The mountain to climb is significant, and getting run out of the rink in Wednesday night’s 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes illustrates that only further.
“I just see a lot of guys who are working hard, do care, and are so worried about making mistakes,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, adding, “ultimately, it’s paralyzing us and holding us back.”

THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY


A lazy start for the Oilers in Carolina didn’t hurt them, at least immediately, but when it bit, it bit hard. When the Hurricanes decided to turn their game on, scoring twice in 35 seconds to take the lead, they never looked back from the mark 9:17 of the opening frame. Then, a quick wraparound and a shot from the faceoff circle was all it took for Carolina to extend it to four with six minutes left in the first. Say what you will about any team; a 4-0 deficit is akin to saying no to extra cheese on a late-night Donair.
The Oilers plotted through the second, but in the third, “with nothing to lose,” as Knoblauch noted after the game, they “just went out there, and played a really simple game.”
It resulted in them looking like they should, managing to score and cut a 5-2 lead to 5-3.
“We were fast, and very direct, and we were able to dictate a lot of the play,” Knoblauch said. “We just have to have more of that.”
But where does that come from?
How does something this team has shown in nothing but a few, scant bursts able to make this happen?
“Good question, good question,” said Evander Kane. “I think we just have to focus on the next game.
“It’s been redundant, it’s been the same kind of message after a lot of games this season, too many games this season. Move on, and get ready for the next one.”
If redundancy is all he hears, then redundancy is all Oilers fans will get.
The Oilers season is on the mat. The referee is counting to ten; right now, he’s at eight. Nine days before Christmas, he’ll be at ten. If the Oilers want to kick up their leg and stay in the fight, it will be easier said than done.
Here’s a look at their next sixteen games, the last of which comes on New Year’s Eve:
  • @ Washington
  • vs. Anaheim
  • vs. Vegas
  • @ Winnipeg
  • vs. Carolina
  • vs. Minnesota
  • vs. New Jersey
  • vs. Chicago
  • vs. Tampa Bay
  • vs. Florida
  • @ Islanders
  • @ New Jersey
  • @ Rangers
  • @ Sharks
  • @ Kings
  • @ Ducks
The Oilers must secure at least 85 points in their final 64 games to get to the playoffs, a .664 points percentage. That means the Oilers need to post a record of at least 10-5-1 through the remainder of the calendar year to remain in the hunt.
The odds are not in their favour.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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