The Edmonton Oilers face off against the Calgary Flames tomorrow night hoping for their 7th win in 10 games. Their current 6-win-in-9-game stretch kicked off in Calgary vs. the Flames a couple of weeks ago in a game that saw the Oilers erase a 2-0 deficit with 4 goals in the final frame. While the last couple of weeks have featured lopsided losses to Chicago and Phoenix and a tough loss to stomach in Columbus, putting together a 10-game segment of .700 hockey would be pretty significant. Given the hole that has been dug, the team would basically have to win 7 out of 10 games in each of the five remaining 10 game segments to be in the playoff conversation at all.
Now, the “p” word is obviously getting way ahead of ourselves, even though we’d all be lying if we said we didn’t keep at least a faint glimmer of hope for it. But, to me, the 7 out of 10 would be a really big building block for the group. We’ve seen flashes here and there in past seasons, a 5-game winning streak last year being the best example, of what this team might be able to accomplish when they come together. What we haven’t seen is much sustained success or consistency, and you can count me as hopeful that this stretch is the beginning of a bit of a sustained run for the team, regardless of whether the “p” word comes into the equation.
The sustained success is really the new normal for any team that wants to make the playoffs, especially in the Western Conference. Hot and cold and hot and cold and hot and cold just won’t cut it any more. If you have a lull for more than a handful of games, you’re set way back these days. I mean, the way the West is dominating the East, we could be looking at a 100-point playoff cut line. There’s not much room for error when it takes 95-100 points to be in the playoff conversation!
The last 10-game stretch that saw the Oilers earn 7 victories was October 18 to November 8 of 2011 when they posted a 7-2-1 mark. In other words, this type of hot stretch has been rare in Oil Country of late! This group can’t go back and replay the first 20 games of the year, so pushing forward with the best record possible is the only realistic goal. With a home ice win vs. Calgary in the Battle of Alberta, the Oilers would take a nice step towards making sustained success a bit more normal around here.
- Was great to see Martin Marincin play his first NHL game last night. He was drafted in the 2nd round back in 2010 with the pick that was acquired when 1st round bust Riley Nash was dispatched to Carolina. Later that summer the inaugural Young Stars tournament was held in Penticton and Marincin attended, not being able to speak a word of English. This was news to some of the Oilers coaches, including assistant coach Steve Smith.
A couple of days into the camp, Smith was running a drill that Marincin didn’t get the hang of. Smith skated over to explain it again face to face, to which Marincin simply smiled and replied “my name Martin”. It’s one of my favourite “safe for work” stories from my 7 years covering the team.
- One more from that year in Penticton, just because. The Oilers web team informed me at a post-game meal that weekend that young phenom Taylor Hall had signed up for a Twitter account and was going to start using it. Having already acquired a few followers on Twitter, we decided together that it would be a good idea for me to send a tweet out announcing his arrival on social media.
Well, his followers grew and grew for about an hour and then the account disappeared. Suddenly, I was being called a liar because it appeared as though I was directing people on a wild goose chase! The next morning at the rink, Hall came over to me and dryly thanked me for the middle of the night wake-up call. Turns out he had his phone set to alert him every time he got a new follower. After literally thousands of beeps in the span of an hour, and finding no way to make it stop, Hall had deleted the account to get some rest. He would later join Twitter…and do just fine without my help.
- Patrick Bordeleau has a lot of respect around the league as a really, really tough guy and a very serviceable player. Dallas Eakins, who coached against him in the minors, said he had never seen Bordeleau lose a fight. Well, he lost to Luke Gazdic last night, and it wasn’t close. There wasn’t much running around by Colorado after that.
- 8 goals last night and nary a point to be had for Nail Yakupov, who now has 6 consecutive games without one. He played the bulk of his minutes last night on what would have probably been considered the top line, and it just wasn’t clicking. It’s been a roller coaster season, but all signs point to the coach sticking with him when you see him playing alongside Hall and Gagner after a stretch of games without a point.
- The Oilers are the best 4-on-4 team in the NHL. The way they dominate, it’s almost as good as a power play.
- I wrote extensively about David Perron in this space a couple of weeks ago, but I just can’t say it enough: he’s a skill player that makes himself very hard to play against. It’s not a toughness thing, necessarily, it’s just a gamesmanship thing. I think it’s an excellent example for his teammates. Oh, and he leads the team in goals, so there’s also that.
- Devan Dubnyk was sneaky sharp last night. Colorado was in that game a lot longer than an 8-2 score indicates.