If you’re an Edmonton Oilers fan, it’s understandable if you’re still riding a high right now.
In what was the highest scoring game of the season so far, we saw Edmonton’s offence on full display in an 8-5 win over the Ottawa Senators Sunday night. As fun as it was to see Leon Draisaitl put up six assists, Connor McDavid put up five points and Stuart Skinner get his first NHL win, Edmonton is 5-6-0 and still on the outside of the North Division playoff picture.
There are two issues that stand out when you take a closer look at the situation the Oilers are in: they’re not ending games cleanly and they’re getting burned by splitting multi-game sets.
The Oilers’ win on Sunday marked the first time this season they’ve won two straight games. Edmonton has split two-game sets with Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto (twice), and dropped both games at home to Montreal.
But if they want to have a chance at hanging around in the playoff race, taking both — or all three of a three-game set — is a must going forward for the Oilers. We’re dealing with a 56-game season, which means Edmonton will already hit the quarter mark next Monday when they take on the Senators.
The closest the Oilers have come to winning a series was against Winnipeg.
After a dramatic 4-3 win in the first leg, the second game was dramatic for all the wrong reasons for Edmonton. The Oilers had a 3-2 lead going into the third, but it evaporated before seven minutes had passed as the Jets stormed back to win 6-4.
Edmonton has a massive opportunity on Tuesday to undo the struggles of the first couple weeks of the season when they wrap up their series against the Senators. You can say “But it’s only Ottawa,” but the Oilers desperately needed secondary scoring and for the power play to step up, and they got both on Sunday. They’ll need to keep that momentum going.
James Neal and Tyson Barrie had multi-point nights against the Sens while Dominik Kahun continued to impress by scoring eight seconds into the first period, setting a new franchise record for the fastest goal to start a game.
With his goal just 8 seconds in, Dominik Kahun has set the record for the fastest goal to start a game in #Oilers history, breaking the previous mark set by...
WAYNE GRETZKY. 🤯#LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/wqD18WlOeL
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 1, 2021
The power play going 4-for-5 also pushed the Oilers to seventh in the league with the man advantage — and second in the North — at 28.6 percent. It was a welcomed turnaround, as the Oilers have now scored a power-play goal in four straight games after going 3-for-26 in the first seven games of the season.
While the offence was fun to watch on Sunday, we have to address the fact that Ottawa did make a game of things. It was clear that Skinner still needs more AHL seasoning, but he could have also used some more help in front of him.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Ottawa had 16 high-danger chances with 13 of them coming at 5-on-5, while the Oilers had eight with only one of them coming at 5-on-5. You’d have to assume if it were anyone else but a one-win Senators side, giving up that many high-danger chances would have come back to bite the Oilers.
You can clearly see at times where the Oilers blueline misses Oscar Klefbom, who is out for the season due to shoulder problems that have been lingering for a while. The pairing of Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear deserves praise for handling the load in his absence. Together, they have a Corsi For percentage of 54.94% at 5-on-5 and Nurse currently sits third among NHL defencemen in points with eight.
There may only be a one-point gap right now between fourth (Winnipeg currently holds the final playoff spot) and fifth in the division, but stringing together wins — especially the so-called “gimmes” — is the only way the Oilers will get back into back into a spot of looking like a real playoff contender.
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