Don’t look now,but the Edmonton Oilers are finally starting to turn the corner on their young season and after missing the playoffs the last decade, they are just one point out of a playoff spot heading into tonight’s match-up with the Boston Bruins hoping to extend their five game winning streak.
During their five-game streak (all of which were won at home,the first 5-0 homestand for the Oilers since 1987), they’ve beaten quality opponents like the Dallas Stars and the New York Rangers. While they still have their woes on the road, they have looked like the league’s kost improved team in recent weeks and they’re without possibly their best player in Connor McDavid who is still recovering from a broken clavicle.
Leon Draisaitl has been incredible since his call-up from Bakersfield, notching nine goals and 26 points in the 20 games he’s been in. He had four assists in the game against the Rangers and fans have just as much reason to be excited for him as they are with McDavid. Taylor Hall is having an outstanding season, leading Edmonton with 14 goals and 34 assists in 30 games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins,Jordan Eberle,and Teddy Purcell are also having high offensive output and let’s not forget Lauri Korpikoski’s hat trick Friday night. That was something to behold.
The goaltending has also been superb with Anders Nilsson taking a firm hold of the starter’s job. Nilsson has a .917 save percentage,which is far better than the .888 percentage the team had as a whole minding the net the season prior. It’s clear that the coaching staff saw something in this guy heading into camp and that’s why they believe in him to continue starting for the team with the way they’re winning now.
I think the difference overall has been the coaching. Todd McLellan’s impact is finally beginning to show that the Oilers are turning the corner here. In the beginning of the season the team was losing these one-goal games and with that the team is now winning those games. They’re showing how good they are offensively and even showing that they won’t back down from a fight like we saw against San Jose. McLellan’s presence has shown me and Oilers fans everywhere that this is not the same Oilers team that has underachieved and underwhelmed over and over and over. These players have the right coaching to guide them to new heights and uncharted territory.
Yes,they can be much better on defense,but I think that’s going to improve with time and with the guys who are currently in place learning the pro game.
Could this team reach the playoffs? It’s hard to say. Yes,they’re only a point out of the standings for the wild card,but it’s December and a lot can happen between now and playoff time. Trades are made,players get hurt,coaches get fired and a lot of teams who appear to be out of it could suddenly be back in it. Only time will tell if Edmonton remains in the playoff mix or watches the games from home for a tenth straight year. Right now,things are looking very good for them and if you ask me,I think they’ll get especially better when No. 97 skates back onto the ice.