EDMONTON — X.
It has been inevitable for a while now, so it’s straightforward for hockey followers in different markets to see the Edmonton Oilers clinch a playoff spot and easily shrug their shoulders.
However for lengthy struggling Oilers followers, whose group has made the playoffs precisely 5 instances now on this twenty first century — and simply twice prior to now 14 seasons — it’s time to cease, possibly crack a beer, and revel in an extended sluggish pull.
With a 5-3 win in opposition to the Vancouver Canucks Monday night time, the Oilers clinched solely their second playoff look since Connor McDavid joined the group six seasons in the past. Though they have been a playoff lock when the pause hit final March, a loss within the Qualifying Spherical doesn’t qualify as a playoff look.
That loss to Chicago counted for just one factor: a tough, embarrassing lesson that this Oilers group took to coronary heart.
“Everybody left the bubble in a foul temper. Nobody felt nice about the place we have been at, or how that sequence went,” stated McDavid, contemporary off of lighting the Canucks up with two objectives and 4 factors. “It was a very good second to step again and be taught from it. Study what it takes to win.”
The very first thing they determined was, it might’t be all about offence anymore.
And the primary guys to make that call? The gamers that needed to do it earlier than anybody else would.
The 2 prime scorers. The Hart Trophy guys.
“Prior to now we tried to return again from (a deficit) by dishonest on offence, and it was led by Connor and myself,” stated Leon Draisaitl, early within the 2020-21 season. “Him and I, we discovered that, in the event you keep affected person — in the event you proceed to play good defence — you’re going to get your possibilities.”
It’s been a theme that has allowed the Oilers to climb as much as ninth within the NHL in each objectives in opposition to per recreation (2.68) and objectives for (3.26). Take these numbers, mix them with a goaltending tandem that has a save proportion of .914 — ranked fourth within the league — and you’ve got the components for a reasonably respectable recipe.
“That’s the recipe for a playoff group,” stated McDavid. “We’ve discovered methods to maintain pucks out of our internet, and offensively we’ve been fairly good.”
This was a group that obtained off to a 3-6 begin. Since then they’ve gone 28-11-2.
Tyson Barrie, the UFA signing who’s tied for third in factors by a defenceman with 43, seemed again to an early season assembly on Monday that stopped the skid.
“There have been some new faces in right here, myself included, and we have been attempting to determine the place guys slot in,” Barrie stated. “After the (3-6 begin) we had somewhat assembly and simply realized, with the shortened season we could possibly be out of it actually rapidly if we didn’t flip it round.
“I don’t assume there’s a straightforward reply for it, however we did a reasonably good job of digging out from that.”
Since Recreation 10, Edmonton had the three-game dropping streak to Toronto in February, and back-to-back losses in March that have been sandwiched between seven wins. These are their solely dropping streaks. That’s it.
“The cool factor is,” Barrie stated, “we’re successful high-scoring video games, we’re successful low-scoring video games. We’re discovering methods to carry a one-goal lead within the third interval, which isn’t straightforward. However that’s an indication of a mature and accountable group.
“Our means to restrict the dropping streaks, the poor play, has been wonderful.”
Ask the Winnipeg Jets how wonderful that’s. They’ve dropped seven straight.
So, what’s occurred right here?
They’ve stopped importing leaders, for one.
After all McDavid and Draisaitl — the NHL’s two main scorers with 91 and 73 factors — are fabulous. However they now lead by instance. The pair that led the NHL in scoring final season however mixed to go minus-13, now lead the league in factors as soon as once more.
However this time they’re plus-58 mixed.
“The management group with McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, Larsson and Nuge, they actually drive that room,” stated head coach Dave Tippett. “Smitty getting wholesome and coming in to have a heck of a yr for us … the added depth has helped. Tyson Barrie has performed very nicely for us. There are lots of components.”
Together with his thirteenth snipe of the yr Monday, Jesse Puljujarvi provides pause to look again on the 2016 draft class. He now has extra objectives this season than Patrik Laine (12), Matthew Tkachuk (10) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (9), all drafted within the Prime 6 the yr Puljujarvi went fourth general.
In the meantime McDavid grew to become the primary participant to file 30 objectives and 90 factors inside the first 50 video games of a season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96.
Now, all that’s left for these Oilers within the common season is to tug him to 100.
“I don’t know if we now have to attempt to get him there. He’ll simply get there himself,” laughed Barrie. “This man — he’s confirmed very troublesome to maintain off the rating sheet this yr.
“He performs the proper means each night time.”
And as such, McDavid has led his group to the NHL playoffs. They’re a no-doubt divisional contender, and a group to be reckoned with.
“It’s step one. We’ve given ourselves an opportunity at it now,” stated Barrie. “Now we’ve obtained a shot to win the Stanley Cup. That’s what the aim is originally of the yr.”