Mark Spector of Sportsnet
How many hurdles stand in the way of a team with playoff aspirations from October to the night it clinches that spot in April?
For this edition of the Edmonton Oilers, the first to accomplish a three-year string of playoff appearances since the 1998-2001 teams, there have been more than most.
A No. 1 goalie who couldn’t find his health until well into the new year. A head coach who never found the solution, so his general manager found it for him, with a deft hire that looks better by the day. A six-game losing streak, followed by a seven-gamer that had these Oilers outside a playoff spot late in January.
“It was a little bit too much of an up-and-down season. I think everyone would agree with that,” admitted Leon Draisaitl, moments after the team had clinched a playoff spot in a dazzling 6-3 game before a sold-out crowd at Rogers Place. “But … good teams go through that, and we knew from the beginning of the season that we had a good team. It was hard for us to stay healthy, that is a big issue. (And) every team goes through that.”
On a night where Evander Kane scored three and added an assist, the Oilers finally walked out of a game with Colorado with two points, after losing in overtime and a shootout earlier this season, two games that were as high-pedigree and wildly entertaining as Friday’s game was.
The win gave them 98 points and an ‘X’ beside their names in the Western Conference standings. But with the Los Angeles Kings an almost certain first round opponent, the moment gave them something else — a feeling that they’re ready for what lies ahead.