What a difference a game makes.
Connor McDavid returns to the Oilers lineup, scores a marvellous goals and adds a couple assists, and suddenly things in Edmonton seem very different. "How many games can they win on this road trip? The Habs are a tire fire right now, they should be able to get a couple points of of that one for sure. Three out of four doesn't seem impossible on this trip. Then home to the Leafs and Jets, and all of a sudden this team is on a nice little roll. Maybe the playoffs aren't out of reach after all."
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow it down for just touch. Maybe even put your foot on the breaks for a couple seconds here. They beat the Columbus Blue Jackets the other night; one of, if not the very worst, teams in the NHL. Taking that win, that wonderful, glorious, unbelievably enjoyable win, and spinning it into 32 game stretch drive that's just win after win after win, culminating in the team's first playoff birth in a decade is just a wee premature right now.
This is a team that's still got some significant players out with injury - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom come to mind right away - and the defence is an absolute mess. Those are realities and Connor McDavid doesn't change either of those things. The Oilers have played 51 games this season and have 45 points. They sit 29th in the NHL. They average 0.88 points per games, good for, you guessed it, 29th in the NHL. So how about we all go back to one game at a time, looking for some signs of life as we start to think about next season, like we always do at this time of the year. Trust me, it's better than getting your hopes up.
Does McDavid's return help the Oilers' power play? Sure it does. This season, with the man advantage, the Oilers are 21st overall in shots for per 60 and 17th in goals for per 60. A player as skilled as McDavid is bound to push both those numbers north. Another power play goal here and there, and suddenly those one goal losses end up with a single point, or maybe even end as a shootout win. That'd be nice to see. Would help make up for a few of the points left on the table earlier in the season too, and would make the standings look a little more friendly.
Obviously, that's a big picture thing, if we're going to take this one game at a time we need to think about tonight's opponent as well, the Ottawa Senators. The Sens have lost two straight and six of thei last ten to fall to 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 23-22-6 record and a -17 goal differential. Wait a minute, that's only six goals worse than the Oilers. And the Sens aren't exactly a great possession team either with a Corsi For % of 46.9, better than only Vancouver and Colorado this season.
Maybe this is a game the Oilers should win. And then that game against Montreal is next on the schedule, and they've been Oilers bad in recent months. Could be a nice little three game winning streak right there. Throw in that improved power play and few more Bettman points and we're going to really have something here. Screw this one game at a time nonsense, let's get excited. McDavid is back. This team is unstoppable now.