The Edmonton Oilers managed to split a two-game series with the Winnipeg Jets to kick off this week. After losing 6-5 on Monday night to the Jets, the Oilers battled back and claimed a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night on home ice. Tonight, the Oilers will open a back-to-back, home-and-home set against their rivals, the Calgary Flames.
The Flames have played two less games than the Oilers, but sit three points behind them. You don’t need an accountant to crunch the numbers here to stress the importance of these two games. A sweep by the Oilers creates a real cushion for the team, while getting swept could be fatal.
These games are huge, there’s no doubt about that.
“Right now, we just like to take it game by game,” Coach Dave Tippett said on Thursday. “I like these sets of games where you go and play a team twice. If you can get an advantage and win games, the old saying that we talk about every day is, ‘Every game is a four-point game.’ Whether it’s Winnipeg or Calgary or Vancouver or the teams in our division, every game is a big, big game. There’s a bit of ‘oomph’ because of the Alberta rivalry but every game has the same significance to us.”
Right now, races are clearly developing in the North Division. The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to be the cream of the crop and should be able to waltz to the postseason. The Ottawa Senators, meanwhile, have clearly established themselves as the seventh team in the division.
After that? The Montreal Canadiens have an edge in second place, then the Oilers, Flames, Jets and Vancouver Canucks are all battling it out for the final two playoff spots.
That makes these games even more important, whether the Oilers want to admit that or not.
“These games are huge. Every game we play is huge,” Yamamoto said after practice. “That’s the mindset we got to have. I’m really looking forward to these games and I know they’re going to be fun.”
Not only will the be fun to watch and play in, but they will be vitally important as the playoff race in the North Division begins to shake out.