Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers might be the biggest story in hockey this season, but not for a good reason. The Oilers have been one of the worst teams in the league and haven’t been able to figure much out. Despite 28 points this season, McDavid’s still a -4 on the ice and the team’s 8-12-1 with a -7 point differential.
Plenty of that can be attributed to the fact that they struggled early in the season, and McDavid did as well. If McDavid isn’t at his best, the Oilers aren’t going to be the team that they were expecting to be coming into the season.
The big problem for Edmonton was Stuart Skinner. As of November 7, he posted a save percentage of .856, arguably making him the worst goalie in hockey at that point in the season. Not that the numbers have gotten significantly better, but Skinner has allowed two or fewer goals in two of his last three starts. That’s a promising indicator that Edmonton could be just fine.
McDavid is now top 15 in the category with nine points in two games. He was tied for 59th on Thanksgiving. Simply put, when McDavid plays his best hockey, so do the Oilers.
Head coach Kris Knoblauch feels the same way, seeing his team play with confidence now.
“You can see the confidence in some of our players, and McDavid’s probably leading that with his point production and making plays.” Knoblauch said.
While that can become a concern at times because one player can’t win every game, the Oilers have now won three games in a row and have done so against two very good hockey teams because of the way he’s played. The Oilers have beaten the Washington Capitals, Vegas Golden Knights, and a below-average Anaheim Ducks team.
The wins against the Golden Knights and Capitals are the ones to keep an eye on for Edmonton.
Despite having just 17 points on the season, they’re only a -7. For comparison, the St. Louis Blues, who have 23 points, are a -4.
Their schedule is a key aspect to watch with Edmonton during the remainder of the season. They have played the six toughest schedules in the NHL this season. However, they now have the privilege of playing the sixth easiest remaining schedule.
For a team that’s hit its stride throughout the past few games, this is the perfect scenario for them. The early questions were certainly warranted for the Oilers, but this is one of the best teams in hockey. They know that, too.
“What’s special about this group is we’re a resilient group,” defenceman Darnell Nurse said. “But we’ve got to continue to play at the standard that we know we can play at — and it’s got to be every night.”
They’ll prove that throughout the remaining 60-plus games.