Yes, if you take a glance at the National Hockey League standings, you will see that the Edmonton Oilers are, yet again, among the basement dwellers. As a loyal everyday follower, I have been more discouraged and frustrated by this season than any other in the past decade. Many of the team’s ongoing problems have not been eradicated in the defensive zone, resulting in unnecessary Oilers losses that easily could have been wins. This has led to widespread speculation of a huge trade set to take place in “Oil Country,” which will most likely include part of the core of the franchise.
Having said this, there are plenty of encouraging signs this season. For one thing, this particular Oilers’ team seems to be sticking around in games a lot longer than in past seasons. Out of Edmonton’s 15 losses, 6 were decided by one goal (not including overtime).
When the Oilers hosted the red-hot Dallas Stars Friday night, the Edmonton Oilers managed to do something I had not witnessed in a long time…They absolutely stole the game. Goaltender Anders Nilsson was sensational, making 42 saves.
“It was a [heck] of a performance, he stole the game,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said after the game. “He gave us a chance to win, but there were still guys blocking shots and doing some of the things we needed to do to get the victory. There were some pretty admirable performances and some poor ones. It just shows that there is a gap between the two teams, between a first-place team and one that is in the bottom third, that we have to close over time.
To be completely honest, I did not know much about Anders Nilsson heading into the season. However, I can now say with confidence that Nilsson has been one of the few consistent bright spots for the Edmonton Oilers this season, posting a record of 7-7-1 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.51 goals-against average. Nilsson has been full-value and is more than deserving of the starting goalie position he finds himself currently holding in Edmonton.
In overtime, Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (another one of those bright spots) stole the puck in the offensive zone and set up Jordan Eberle, who found space in the slot and fired a shot past Dallas goaltender Antti Niemi to give Edmonton its second straight win and its first victory this season against a Central Division opponent.
I hope Eberle is able to find consistency in his game as a result of these heroics. Eberle has been a step slow since returning from injury, but his consistent production has helped the Edmonton Oilers a lot over the past several seasons, and the team will need his leadership and skill moving forward.
Featured image credit: Andy Devlin-Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club