Oilers surging under Knoblauch, rising in playoff picture
The streak comes after the team posted eight straight wins before a brief three-game skid, giving the team a 19-3-0 record since Nov. 24. Since replacing head coach Jay Woodcroft with Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers are 21-6-0, rising from the bottom of the NHL standings to into the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
“We’re enjoying it, absolutely,” Knoblauch said of the streak after Tuesday's win, per NHL,com. “We’d be ignorant to say it’s not on our minds, and it’s not something we feel good about. But I think what’s more important is when we look at the standings, we’re in the playoff picture right now, we have a wild-card [spot] and see teams right behind us, and if we take a couple of games off, we’re going to be out of the playoff picture again.
“But then we’re also looking at teams above us, we’re within striking distance and we can pass those guys. The streak is nice, but the standings is more important.”
While it seemed unlikely after 3-9-1 start under Woodcroft, the Oilers could close to second in the Pacific Division in the coming weeks and could even begin to pressure the Vancouver Canucks for first down the road.
The Oilers currently sit in the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 49 points through 40 games. Edmonton has a one game in hand on the Los Angeles Kings, who are third in the Pacific with 50 points, and four games in hand on the second-place Vegas Golden Knights, who have 55 points.
The Canucks, tied for the NHL lead with 62 points, still hold a cushion on the Oilers despite having played four more games.
The Oilers, of course, have to win those games to keep the pressure on the teams ahead of them.
“It feels great, winning always feels great, but we’ve worked extremely hard to put ourselves back into it,” forward Leon Draisaitl added. “By no means are we anywhere where we can let off the gas, that’s something that we need to be aware of. That’s something that we did a great job of that tonight and we’re not even halfway through the season, there’s lots of hockey left to be played.”
The Oilers have yet to allow more than three goals in any game during the win streak. Goaltender Stuart Skinner, who has started in eight of the 11 games, credited the success to depth in the lineup.
“We have four solid lines that have been working,” said Skinner, who is 5-0-0 in January with a sparkling .951 save percentage. “Obviously we have some top dogs, but so much credit should be going to the guys on the third and fourth lines. They keep the puck out of the net, they defend hard, they get the puck in deep and they’re rolling, you can tell that they’re feeling it and that’s massive for any team.”
The Oilers have five games remaining before the All-Star break, a stretch that starts Thursday against the Seattle Kraken.