Four down, with one left to go. This stretch may not have started in the fashion anyone had hoped but following last night’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights, all is well in the world of the Edmonton Oilers. Now it’s a matter of whether or not they can finally start taking care of business on home-ice.
Heading into this four game trip, the writing was on the wall for Jay Woodcroft’s squad. They needed to take a minimum of six points from those games and they managed to do exactly that. Yes, playing a pair of poor teams and an injury riddled Golden Knights side helped but that is of little to no consequence.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl did what they always do. Jack Campbell delivered his best run of games since joining the club. Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais showed they can play at this level. Klim Kostin continues to do what no one in the right mind could have foreseen coming.
To say the hard-working Russian has been a pleasant surprise could be the understatement of the season. Nine goals in 29 games is as out of left-field as it gets. Let’s not forget, prior to being called up to Edmonton, he scored a total of 39 goals in 253 career games between the AHL and NHL since 2017-18.
Be it real or a guy being on heater is of zero importance in the here and now. This lineup was in desperate need of someone to step-up with secondary scoring and Kostin has been the one to do it. In the process, it has helped the collective find their confidence, when their backs were up against the wall.
After dropping the first game on this trip to Los Angeles Kings in the fashion they did, the Oilers could no longer wait to figure stuff out. Stomping on the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks was expected but beating Vegas was no guarantee and to their credit, the passed this test with flying colours.
By no means was Edmonton perfect. However, for a team playing their third game in four nights, they delivered an all-around solid performance and for a chance, won without any help from their league-leading power play. A rarity to be sure and something that was long overdue.
Remember, this is a group who exactly one week earlier found a way to steal a point from the Colorado Avalanche despite being badly out played at even strength. Thanks to the aforementioned power play and goaltender Stuart Skinner, they squeaked out a point they had not business grabbing.
In order for the Oilers to pull-off what they have in each of the last three seasons and be much better second half team, winning the 5-vs-5 battle is a must. The win against the Golden Knights was a big step in the right direction and with a pair of tough home games this week; it’s a trend that has to continue.
With the red-hot Seattle Kraken set to pay Rogers Place a visit on Tuesday night and the always tough Tampa Bay Lightning in town on Thursday, these next two games are as crucial as the last three. In order for these last three wins to matter, the Oilers have to come away with a minimum of three of points.
Further building on their performance against Vegas would be ideal but if it takes Campbell or Skinner stealing a game, McDavid doing McDavid things to help get them over the hump or someone else carrying the load, so be it. These games are about nothing more than banking points they have to have.
There are signs to suggest this ship is headed in the right direction but we have seen the same show on a couple of other occasions this season, only to watch this group head back in the opposite direction. At this point in their season, a repeat performance cannot happen and especially not in their own barn.
At the best of times, a six-game home stand can be a tad lengthy. Having one to start a season can be even tougher to deal with and that was the spot Edmonton found itself to begin their 2022-23 campaign. To make matters worse, the teams they played were playing well and the Oilers were not.
All that aside, Woodcroft and company still managed to go 3-3 to start the year. Not great but far from disastrous. Yet, they currently sit with a 10-11-2 record on home-ice and have gone 1-4-2 in their last seven, most of which came against less than stellar competition. Not great, not matter we look at it.
If a team wants to make a push up the standings, winning in your own building is a must and the Oilers have to correct this problem and in a hurry. They are a top four team in the Western Conference on the road and are middling at best at home. Hence, why they are where they are in the standings.
Nine of Edmonton’s final 18 home games are against non-playoff teams but the other nine they will face the Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Kings, New York Rangers, Toronto Maples Leafs, Golden Knights, Winnipeg Jets and the upcoming games this week with the Kraken and Bolts.
Not the easiest of the schedules but not exactly a murders row. Again, taking care of business on home-ice is a necessity for almost every playoff team and the Oilers are no different. This has to be the next progression in their game, as without it, they will not gain the traction they need to save their season.