The Edmonton Oilers are heading into the post season firing on all cylinders! They won all six games of this Oil Check with 25 goals for and only six goals against. They finish the season second in the Pacific Division and will face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round with home ice advantage. Personally I’m glad they finished second even though winning the division for the first time in decades would have been awesome; however, the prospect of facing Connor Hellybuyck and the Winnipeg Jets in the first round is not.
The Oilers have had success and match up better against the Kings, it would be disastrous if the Jets pulled out another first round knockout of the Oilers this year. Especially when we consider all the milestones and records this roster pulled off this season.
Accolades all around for the team
It was April Fools’ Day but no joke as this Oil Check started with some recognition for the team as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were named the first and second stars for March. Stuart Skinner was also named Rookie of the Month for March as well.
The Oilers responded with an excellent effort versus the Ducks. Once again Oilers fans did not jinx it and Jack Campbell earned his first shutout as an Oiler. It was the second time in franchise history the team had consecutive shutouts with two different goalies. The first time was Jussi Markkanen and Tommy Salo on Dec 7 and 8, 2002.
Draisaitl would cap the night with his eighth career hat trick, which just so happened to be short-handed, and completed his third 50-goal season. It would have been easy to forgive the team for a sluggish performance as it was their fourth game in six days but to win the game 6–0 in convincing fashion was impressive.
It was also the sixth time in franchise history that the team has multiple players with 50 goals. The last time this occurred in the NHL was with the 1995–96 Pittsburgh Penguins: Mario Lemieux 69 and Jaromir Jagr with 62. This victory also secured a playoff spot.
A season’s end full of milestones
The Oilers started a four-game road trip against the Kings and won a tight game rather convincingly 3–1.
The Oilers shutout streak was ended at 178:58 with the third longest in franchise history. This win not only further confirmed the Oilers as a legit threat in the West but also the first back-to-back 100-point season for the franchise since 1985–86 to 1986–87.
The Oilers power play also matched an NHL record from the 1933–34 season by having four players with 15 power play goals in a season; 89 years since a team has done that.
The Oilers would follow up this game the next night with a solid win versus the Ducks. The big news was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins registering his 100th point for the first time. The Oilers would also now have three players with 100 points for first time since the 1995–96 Penguins: Mario Lemieux 161, Jaromir Jagr 149, Ron Francis 119, and worth noting was Peter Nedved with 99.
A big milestone for McDavid was accomplished the following game against the Sharks. He would record an assist and score his 63rd goal for his 150th point of the season—one of six all time to do it.
Veteran defenceman Jason Demers was called up and played his 700th game in San Jose. It was yet another classy move by the organization to give a veteran one last game before he likely retires at the end of the season. Demers noted that he was disappointed when during the 2020–21 season, Arizona benched him in favour of playing prospects even though he was sitting at 699 NHL games played. It took him two full seasons to work his way back into the league to achieve the milestone. The players care about these career achievements and take note when coaches or franchises don’t provide the opportunity.
Is Nurse no longer the top d-man?
This was also the game I realized that Darnell Nurse is no longer the Oilers’ top defenceman. Mattias Ekholm has taken that mantle even though Nurse plays more minutes. Ekholm and Evan Bouchard start with McDavid on the first line while Nurse and Cody Ceci have been slotted with Draisaitl’s line.
According to naturalstattrick.com, Nurse plays the most minutes but has had a worse CF% and xGF% on 5v5 and all situations than Ekholm and Bouchard. They also have better stats than Nurse over the season and in the past six games. The Ekholm–Bouchard pairing is better suited to play with McDavid and the first line.
The last road game of the season would see the Oilers win their franchise record 28th road win in Colorado. Nugent-Hopkins would log his 800th NHL game. Connor McDavid becomes the first NHL’er with three 15-game point streaks in a season.
The Oilers would finish the season at home with yet another convincing win versus the Sharks. There were more NHL and franchise records set after this game including the best power play in NHL history!
Draisaitl would tie Dale Andreychuk for second all time with 32 power play goals. The Oilers also had the franchise record of 89 power play goals in one season. Skinner beats Grant Fuhr’s franchise record of rookie wins with 29. Both Zach Hyman and Derrick Ryan play their 500th game.
Moreover, The Oilers win 50 games for the first time since 1986–87 and finish the season matching a franchise record of nine wins in a row.
Connor McDavid had 64 goals and a total of 153 points. He wins the Art Ross, the Rocket Richard, and should win the Hart and Ted Lindsay.
It’s honestly overwhelming how many records and milestones the Oilers achieved this season. The history books are being dusted off, revisited and the names and teams they have been chasing is truly remarkable.
Playoffs are next
The Oilers are playing the best hockey I’ve seen them play in a long time. In the last six games they posted the following:
|4.17||1.00||31.3 (5th)||94.1 (5th)|
Since the acquisition of Ekholm the Oilers have been steadily improving, ending the season on an absolute hot streak. This Oiler team has so much going right for them, at the right moment, that it feels like they are a team of destiny. The records and stats speak for themselves, this is the best Oilers team in long time and they have an excellent opportunity to make more history going forward into the playoffs.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire