Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The Day After 35.0: Win over Senators put Edmonton Oilers in playoff spot
By Zach Laing1 month ago
It’s been a hot minute, but the Edmonton Oilers are officially back in the playoff picture.
After a dismal start to the season that left some concerned over the team being at risk of missing post-season play entirely, it’s been a more than impressive run from the boys in blue.
As our own Bruce Curlock wrote in his recent Oilers in Seven series, a big part of it has been their 5-on-5 play. It was once again on full display Saturday night, downing the Ottawa Senators 3-1, thanks to a hat trick for Zach Hyman, who is making a strong case to be named to the NHL’s All-Star game.
But above all else, the two points in the standings put the Oilers in the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference — the first time all year they were in such a place.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
For the Oilers, it’s been a record-setting run. Under Knoblauch, the Oilers improved to 17-6 with last night’s win, marking the second time under his tutelage the club has strung together a seven-game winning streak. This makes him the first head coach in NHL history to have two seven-game winning streaks in their first 25 games.
“It definitely happened a lot quicker than we assumed,” said Knoblauch of his team getting to a playoff spot. “When we played that game in Washington, we talked about goal setting and what we need to do to get into it. We just wanted to slug it out where we needed to go 5-3 for our eight-game segments.”
Well, slug it out they have, and there’s only one team punching above them in the league since Knoblauch took over and coached his first game on November 13th — the Winnipeg Jets, the only team with a points percentage above the Oilers’ .739. And whatever statistic you look at, be it goals, expected goals, or scoring chances, the Oilers have been right near the top of the league.
It’s a good sign for this club, and a scary thought for those around the NHL, especially those in the Pacific Division.
The Edmonton Oilers’ first 23 games (Nov. 1 through Jan. 7) under Kris Knoblauch, compared to other Pacific Division teams. Stats 5v5 via Natural Stat Trick.
Here, for example, is a look at how the Oilers have fared under Knoblauch, in comparison to other Pacific Division teams. The Oilers have three more wins than the Vancouver Canucks over this stretch in terms of raw wins, but Edmonton’s play has been so sharp that they’ve been able to snag wins in each of the three games that required extra time over this stretch.
While the Oilers are getting solid goaltending, they’re also scoring goals. The same can’t be said for a team like the LA Kings, who, while their goaltending has been better than the Oilers’, can’t score near the same rate with a shooting percentage 2.7 percent below the Oilers’. While the Canucks have been better in both categories, they’re finding ways to lose games in both regulation and overtime with a crash-to-earth coming their way.
Seattle and Calgary don’t appear to be much in the way of threats, at least at this point in time, and the Vegas Golden Knights’ fall from grace has been significant. The Oilers watched from afar as they went 11-0-1 to start the year, and now, Vegas is skidding going 3-7 in their last 10, allowing the Oilers to work to close the gap.
The Oilers have been afforded a light January schedule, and are set to embark on a three-game road trip next week. It will take them to Chicago Tuesday to visit the Bedard-less Blackhawks, to Detroit Thursday, and then Montreal on Saturday night. The Oilers will play on each of those days of the week in the following two weeks, taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Seattle Kraken, Columbus Blue Jackets, Blackhawks again, and the Nashville Predators.
And then, just like that, All-Star weekend arrives.
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 email@example.com.
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