The Oilers take on the San Jose Sharks right now in an effort to further muddy the Western Conference waters. Well we hope its just mud, in these Shark movies its usually Blood in the Water.
However, this time the Oilers aren’t coming into this mid-march games like some unsuspecting co-ed in those Shark movies. They arent automatic chum. The Sharks are barely holding down a Playoff position and the the Oilers could move into a 4 way tie for the 8th spot if they win in Regulation and Colorado wins their game tonight. All but 6 points separate the 8th place team and the 15th placed team in the West. Madness. Pure madness.
San Jose began the year on an absolute tear starting out an unbelievable 7-0 but now have gone 5-10-6 since that time. They have just 1 win in their last 5 games. The big guns who were steering the ship early had fallen off the Earth for a long while. Marleau potted 9 goals in his first 5 games but only 6 in the 23 games after that. The good news, if you cheer for the Teal Fish, is that the former Captain has points in 5 straight games. So it appears his season did not end in January after all.
The Oilers are on an unbelievable run of snatching points where they’ve been available as of late and that opportunism has gummed up the Western Conference. There are really only 2 teams (Anaheim and Chicago) who have separated from the pack. Something that didnt seem possible at the beginning of the month is happening tonight. The Oilers are playing meaningful games in March!
The Oilers line combinations have been providing a depth of scoring that they previously were not enjoying. Magnus Paajarvi’s resurgence has also been a much needed shot in the arm. If you look at the lines it seems implausible, but the Oilers highest scoring player is centering what is likely the 3rd line, and if you disagree with that then the alternative is that Nugent Hopkins and Eberle are anchoring the 3rd line. Either way, opposing teams get to pick their poison in terms of which line they can try to shut down.
Oilers Keys to the Game
As I alluded to above, the Oilers are actually showing their depth right now, at least in the forward lines. San Jose can try to shut down Taylor Hall, and if they do then the Oil can come out with Nuge & Eberle then the Gagner line after that. The team’s most dynamic player right now is probably Taylor Hall. Gagner is having the best season, but Hall is likely the best player. If these players can keep creating offense while being spread out then watch out, Western Conference, here comes the Oilers.
2) Dubnyk playing well again
Dubnyk has been up and down a little bit this season. He started off so hot then really started to let the softies in. The good news is that, like most of the team, he is playing a lot better since Horcoff pulled the team in for a players only meeting. I think its obvious that Dubnyk is the best option for the Oilers right now, but the reality is that as Dubnyk goes so will the team. If he is cutting down on the softies then the Oilers are getting above average goaltending. If the Oilers are lucky then the fluctuations in Devan’s game will stop being so noticeable as he gets more experience.
3) Get Schultz Going
Schultz have have hit a wall in his season. His ice time is down (but still high for a Rookie Defenseman) and his scoring has gone too. He hasnt disappeared altogether but playing with Whitney has helped the older player more than it has the younger. He has just 2 points in his last 8 games. Now Schultz is a Rookie Pro coming from the American College system. To suggest that playing every other day would be a shock to his system would be an understatement. He has also played in ~60 games this year despite this only being game 29 of the Oilers’ season. Fatigue might be setting in, the fact that he plays in such key situations all the time could be preventing him from flying up in the rush too. Whatever it is, the Oilers would greatly benefit from some more spark in his game.
Puck drops at 7:38 PM Mountain Time on TSN. Game On!