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Edmonton Oilers fans can now parade around Ice District chanting “We’re No. 11.”
This week, a dozen nhl.com writers voted to include Edmonton in their ‘Super 16’ power rankings for the first time this season.
The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers are 1-2-3-4-5.
The Winnipeg Jets moved up four spots to No. 8.
Edmonton made it up to the dizzying heights of No. 11.
The NHL website voters had them 10th, 11th, 13th, 10th, 14th, 12th, 14th, 8th, 12th, 13th, 9th, and 8th. One, Mike Morreale, refused to concede them worthy of a top-16 spot whatsoever. So it’ll be interesting to track that fractured feature in the coming weeks.
The Oilers, with a sweep of a two-game series in Vancouver, have won 11 of their past 13 games, including eight of their past nine and five in a row.
On Thursday, with a 3-0 win over the Canucks, they made it six wins in a row on the road for the first time since 1986-87, the year they won the third of their five Stanley Cups.
Mike Smith is on a self-described “heater” in goal with a 6-0 record and his second shutout in a week. He also supplied the quote of-the-week post-game Thursday.
“We’re learning to win in different ways,” he said. “It’s getting us important points right now. I don’t want that to slide away because of goaltending. It’s a mission I’m on right now.”
There are those, of course, who will remember other recent “heaters” the Oilers have managed to get themselves on, the most recent of which was just prior to the “pause” last March. Despite a lot of talk about the opportunity involved, they went quietly into the August night with only one win to show from their best-of-five Stanley Cup qualifying series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
But this is 11 of 13, eight of nine and five in a row. And though, heading into Friday, they’ve played more games than any other team except Vancouver and Ottawa, the Oilers are third in the NHL overall point standings, four points back of a Toronto team that plays the first of a three-game series against them in Rogers Place on Saturday on Hockey Night In Canada.
The Oilers have scored more goals (79) than any other team in the NHL and Connor McDavid (40) and Leon Draisaitl (34) are 1-2 in points production.
This definitely looks and feels different than just about any other ray of light that appeared during the decade of darkness.
But they’re No. 11.
Four of the seven Canadian Division teams will proceed to the playoffs within the division. And with Calgary losing 6-1 in an embarrassing exhibition in Ottawa on Thursday and the Oilers sweeping the Canucks, there’s some serious separation between Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton and the free-falling Flames and Canucks.
With the Oilers, there are fans that want these next three games against the Leafs to be viewed as for first place, although mathematically the winning percentages (Toronto .762, Winnipeg .658 and Edmonton .636) would suggest that would be an illusion.
But it does present something of a fork in the road for the Oilers.
It took a while but Edmonton head coach Dave Tippett, who views the coronavirus pandemic compact schedule as perfect preparation to learn how to become a playoff team, watched his team embrace the two-gamers the way you needed to play to win both ends of a series.
The Oilers split the opener against Vancouver, were swept in a pair by Montreal and split two-game series both home and away against Winnipeg and Toronto. But in their past four doubleheaders, two against Ottawa, one versus Calgary and now one against Vancouver, they’ve managed to take both ends of the college hockey style doubleheaders.
But now it’s baseball season. The Oilers have a baseball style three-game Saturday-Monday-Wednesday series against Toronto, separated by a single game here against the Flames and followed by another three-game series in Rogers Place versus Ottawa. In the hole is a three-game trip to Montreal.
“It’s our first time playing three games in a row, so we have to prepare for that.” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“It’ll be a little different aspect playing a team three times in a row. We’ve played two-game series to now and usually the team that loses the first game comes out flying in the second game.”
It’ll be interesting to see where Edmonton sits in the nhl.com ‘Super 16’ power rankings should the Oilers win two of three games of each of those series.
You have to wonder what it might take for the Oilers to make it into the top five of the league’s power rankings?
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021