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The Day After 58.0: Oilers leapfrog Golden Knights for second place in Pacific Division with win over Kraken

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Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers maintained their dominant ways over the Seattle Kraken with a matinee 2-1 win Saturday afternoon.
It came off the back of a huge performance from Stuart Skinner, who continues to regain his form post-All-Star Break, turning aside 24 of 25 shots faced, including multiple flurries from a high-volume Kraken club.
But talking about just that would be burying the lede further than it has, because the Edmonton Oilers are waking up this morning in sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division for the first time all year — and it’s well deserved.
When the Oilers were 3-9-1 on November 13th, firing Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson bringing in Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey parachuting down from the owners box, they were a staggering 16 points back of the Golden Knights. On December 20th, a day before they would beat the New Jersey Devils and embark on a 16-game winning streak, they were 20 points back of the Golden Knights.
But slowly and surely, they’ve clawed their way back into the fight for home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and the Buffalo Sabres gave the Oilers a hand Saturday night, taking down Vegas 7-2.

THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY


Nobody in their right mind would’ve been able to sit there at either of those aforementioned points of the season and been able to say the Oilers are where they are today. Since the coaching change, there’s been no better team in the NHL than Edmonton, going 33-11-1 for a .744 points percentage, well up on any of the other five best teams over that time in the Jets (.722), Panthers (.713), Maple Leafs (.667) or the Hurricanes (.652).
The Oilers have done so determinedly, too. Only one of those 67 points has come in the form of an overtime loss, the fewest mark in the NHL, while their 31 regulation wins are tied for most in the league with the Jets.
Edmonton’s reached this point by, as they say, “playing the game the right way.” At 5v5 under Knoblauch, the Oilers’ 2.19 goals against per hour rate is fourth best in the league, while their 2.36 expected goals against per hour is seventh. Arguably the strongest commitment to sound defensive hockey has paid off dividends.
But so has their ability to continue to pile up the goals and dominate the pace of play, especially at 5v5, where their 2.95 goals for per hour are tied for league tops with the Colorado Avalanche, while their 3.22 expected goals for per hour is tops and a good clip above the New Jersey Devils’ 2.96, which rank second.
Edmonton’s power play has remained lethal, scoring at a 11.98 goals per hour clip well up on the second placed Leafs (11.02) and the third-placed Panthers (10.74). Their 11.11 expected goals per hour are also best in the league. Scoring on 28.6 percent of their attempts under Knoblauch is the second-best rate over that time next to Florida.
Their penalty kill — beyond a rough patch or two — has remained potent, too, with the Oilers giving up 6.25 goals against per hour, the sixth-best rate in the league, and 6.88 expected goals against per hour, the fourth-best rate.
And for the Oilers, there’s a realistic path to winning the division. Nine points back of the Canucks, Edmonton has a massive six games in hand, and a .638 points percentage on teh season to the Vancouver’s .669. That’s not an insignificant mountain to climb.
Vancouver’s next five take them through Anaheim, Los Angeles, Vegas, Winnipeg and Colorado, a gauntlet that starts easy and gets tougher and tougher as it goes.
Edmonton, meanwhile, returns home for a game tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins, before a four-game road trip takes them through Boston, Columbus, Buffalo and Pittsburgh —a very getable stretch of games.

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@thenationnetwork.com.

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