The Edmonton Oilers are hot right now. The club has won six of its last seven games and just completed a four-game road trip with a 3-1-0 record. Edmonton dropped the first game of the trip 6-4 to the Calgary Flames, but scored 3-1 and 3-2 victories in Ottawa before blanking the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 on Thursday night.
Edmonton is now 9-7-0 and tied for second place in the North Division with the Canadiens. It’s not perfect, but things appear to be coming together for Edmonton.
The most encouraging part of their 3-1-0 trip? It wasn’t just Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl going supernova.
Both Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen were calm, composed and strong in the goal for all three wins. Just as importantly, depth players began stepping up and filling the net. Jujhar Khaira, whose time in Edmonton looked done last week, has four points (2 g, 2 a) in four games since being recalled from the taxi squad. His line with Josh Archibald and, on Thursday, Tyler Ennis, has been strong at five-on-five.
“Everybody wants to chip in,” Khaira said postgame on Thursday. “Guys who are on the third and fourth line are not going in thinking they’re not going to score. They’re trying to produce as well and take some pressure off the top guys that produce day in and day out. When we chip in, it’s big for the team.”
In their last two victories, the McDavid/Draisaitl duo has combined for just a single assist. Most years, that would mean the Oilers are 0-2-0 and maybe, if lucky, have scored two or three goals. Edmonton has six goals and two wins in those games. Not bad.
“There’s a lot of people contributing right now and we’re finding ways to win games,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said in Montreal. “We’re hanging around and scoring enough to win, and the thing that I like about it is we haven’t given up a lot of goals on the trip after the Calgary game. That’s what our mindset is and it’s leading us to success.”
The defense has given up ample shots, 42 on Tuesday night and 38 on Thursday. The other side of that, however, is that most of those shots are coming from the perimeter. Montreal never really threatened to score on Thursday night.
Not only that, but Edmonton’s goaltenders have been outstanding since Mike Smith returned. Smith stopped all 38 shots on Thursday, and 27 of 28 on Monday night. The only shot that beat him? An own goal from Adam Larsson.
“I’ve been really focused on what I can control and a lot of hard work went into my off-season,” Smith said Thursday. He has made 65 saves on 66 shots in his two starts this season, and is 2-0-0. “The first two games have went really well for me. I felt like I was prepared for these games, and when you feel like you’re prepared usually things go your way, so it feels good.”
The Oilers will be hoping that things continue to go well for them. Their next four games are against the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames, two teams they will directly compete against for playoff positioning this season.