With six wins in eight meetings this season, the Edmonton Oilers are intent on more than just a firmer hold of second place in the North Division when the puck drops to begin Wednesday’s road clash with the Winnipeg Jets.
Not only can the Oilers put an emphatic finish on their regular-season series with the third-place Jets, but they likely will face each other in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, so the clash is an opportunity to put a pre-emptive stamp on the Jets before the second season.
“It’s good for our confidence, but the playoffs is a different animal,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “We’re obviously jostling for position and kind of leaning that way that we might play them, so we want to finish ahead of them and have home-ice advantage.”
The Oilers (28-16-2, 58 points) used Monday’s 6-1 win over the Jets to vault into second place. Edmonton is on a 10-3-2 roll while the Jets (27-18-3, 57 points) are on a season-worst four-game losing skid.
McDavid has had a huge hand in his team’s dominance of the Jets. In the eight meetings, the league’s top point scorer has racked up seven goals and 19 points. McDavid, who has 81 points and an outside chance to reach 100 in the 56-game season, is riding a four-game point streak in which he’s amassed 12 points.
McDavid’s dominance has all but made him a lock for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s top player.
“I’m sure there are some players that have played very well, but from my vantage point I get to watch him every night, and I know what he does for our team,” coach Dave Tippett said. “It would be hard to imagine a player had more of an impact on their team than Connor has on ours.”
The vibes aren’t so positive for Winnipeg right now. Having been outscored 18-5 in those losses, all of them on home ice, the Jets are struggling in almost every area of the game.
“It’s not even about the four-game losing streak, it’s just the way we’ve been playing for 10, 15, 20 games,” center Paul Stastny said. “Sometimes we got away from it and then when you get away from it, you think you’re playing well when you’re not. … Some people don’t notice that, but when you’re around a lot of teams or have been around the game like I have, I can tell when we’re playing good and when we’re not.”
Among the issues has been the play of star goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. He has started but not finished two of the last three games, including Monday’s shellacking.
“I didn’t want Connor skating off the ice in that game because he’s made a bunch of saves,” coach Paul Maurice said. “I didn’t have him (responsible) for any of them. I didn’t want him coming off the ice during the period and making the skate so, after two, he had had enough work.”
To a man, the Jets aren’t about to blame Hellebuyck, and for good reason. Their problems are deep and involve everyone.
“We feel like we’ve got a good hockey team and that we’re not playing up to our potential,” forward Andrew Copp said. “So, there’s no way around it. There’s no easy fix. You’ve just got to go straight through the adversity and straight through the wall and just dig in and work through it.”
–Field Level Media