With a much-needed win tonight at home against the Nashville Predators, the Edmonton Oilers move into a three-way tie for 10th place in the Western Conference with Nashville and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The win puts them at 28 points—two points back of the San Jose Sharks, who have played one less game.
Despite being out-shot 31-21 by the Predators, the Oilers were able to muster up two goals in the third to close the game out. The third-period result was the exact opposite of what happened in their previous game against the Detroit Red Wings, in which the team blew the 2-0 lead they had going into final frame, eventually losing in overtime.
The Oilers improve to 3-0-1 in their last four games. Two of those three wins came at the end of the much publicized nine-game road trip, during which they went 3-4-2. They will need to continue winning games against teams like Nashville, who are in the thick of a very tight playoff race in the Western Conference, if they want to see the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Jonathan Willis of Oilers Nation published a chart projecting the final standings in the West. It suggested that a club would need 54 points to beat out San Jose for the eighth seed.
Jason Gregor talked last Tuesday about what kind of record the Oilers will need to hit that magic number. Accounting for a win that night in Colorado, he stated that, “Outside of the daunting task of needing to go 14-7-1, 13-6-3 or 12-5-5 in their final 22 games, [the Oilers] playoff push could be derailed by too many 3-point games.”
With a 1-0-1 record since the win against Colorado, those records can be adjusted to 13-7-0, 12-6-2 or 11-5-4. They are impressive totals and any one of those outcomes would glow in comparison to the Oilers' first 28 games, but they are not completely out of the question for a team that appears to finally be finding their game.
The Oilers are in a four-way tie for the second worst goal differential in the West, currently sitting at minus-12. It is a number that they will certainly be looking to improve on with the help of the surging Magnus Paajarvi, who has four points in his last four games. He's currently tied for goals with Taylor Hall and rookie sniper Nail Yakupov.
Edmonton will also look to players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle to bounce back after slow first halves, and to captain Shawn Horcoff to continue motivating his teammates. His veteran presence and leadership have been duly noted, with the team going 3-0-1 since his return to the lineup on March 10.
Wednesday’s game against San Jose is one Edmonton will need to win in order to inch back into the playoff fold. The same goes for their game next Monday, when they meet the Predators again in Nashville. The Oilers will play 12 of their final 20 games at Rexall Place.
It goes without saying that the team will be looking for a win every night from now until the end of April. With only eight points separating fourth place from 14th, winning in regulation will be imperative against other middle-of-the-pack Western Conference teams.