Everyone associated with the Edmonton Oilers felt the sting of the club’s playoff disappointment at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks in August. Adam Larsson felt it even more. The club’s top shutdown option was never truly healthy, and missed most of the series with an injury.
After struggling to start the 2020-21 season, Larsson is back to his usual self. He’s dominating on the penalty kill, and is a force in his own zone. He’s playing solid shutdown hockey, and is giving the Oilers good performances most nights. He’s back to the player who was so valuable in the second half of the 2019-20 season before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Not only is Larsson enjoying success, but the team is winning games. The Oilers have won ten of their last twelve, and set second place in the North Division. It’s fun to be an Edmonton Oiler right now.
“The team is having a lot of fun. Obviously, winning comes with that,” Larsson said Wednesday in Vancouver, a day after his point shot hit Tyler Ennis and bounced in for the winning goal. “When we’ve been playing really good lately, it’s a lot of fun at the rink. It’s good times but we still have a lot of work to do. But obviously, we set ourselves up for a good start here.”
The success for this group is long overdue. While, as Larsson admits, there is still work to be done, the Oilers have positioned themselves to control their own playoff destiny. After making the playoffs in Larsson’s first season, 2016-17, the Oilers haven’t officially been back since. This is a group that has been together for awhile that is starving for success of any kind.
“We’re a group of guys that have been together for a long stretch now,” Larsson continued. “Everybody feels really determined. I think with our star players too, we’re always going to have expectations. So far, it was a little bit of a roller-coaster early but now lately, it’s been pretty good.”
The Oilers started the season 3-6-0, but as mentioned have won ten of their last twelve to skyrocket to second place in both the North Division and the NHL. The only team with more points than them? The Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s still early,” Larsson admitted. “We’re focusing on the next game. It’s a tight schedule. As easy as it is to gain momentum in this division, that’s how easy it is to lose it, too. You have to be on your toes and keep playing good hockey. I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet.”
That’s a scary thought for teams. If this isn’t the full potential of the Oilers, then what is? They’ll look to take another step towards showing everyone their full potential tonight when they go for the sweep of the Canucks.