Taking stock of what Edmonton’s rise in the Pacific Division means for the Canucks : Canucks Conversation

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Clarke Corsan
4 months ago
On today’s episode of Canucks Conversation, David Quadrelli and Harman Dayal discussed why the Edmonton Oilers pose the only real threat to take the Pacific Division lead away from the Canucks, even with Vancouver’s hefty lead in the standings.
The Oilers are riding a 16-game win streak into the All-Star break, just two wins short of the NHL record, pushing them into 3rd place in the Pacific Division behind Vegas and Vancouver. As incredible as this win streak is, the Canucks are on a bit of a heater themselves, going 10-1-2 in January, and keeping up with Edmonton points-wise, maintaining their cushion.
“Legit cup contenders,” Harm said of the Oilers. “I was a little worried about them, obviously at the start of the year, when everything was going wrong, especially with the goaltending situation. Skinner has a save percentage above .930 in his last 21 or 22 games. McDavid and Draisaitl look like McDavid and Draisaitl again, which is notable because I feel like a big reason McDavid was struggling early was that he was playing through injury. Same with Ekholm; he missed a big chunk of Edmonton’s training camp and preseason and came back too early. That had a rippling effect on Evan Bouchard, who was awful defensively. [Bouchard] has probably had the biggest in-season turnaround- since then, he’s been one of the best defensemen in the NHL. That pair of Ekholm-Bouchard went from being one of the worst in the first few games to now one of the best; that makes a massive difference.”
Edmonton started the season 5-12-1, shocking many, and had the NHL world wondering if the Oilers would even make the playoffs. In early November, Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft was fired and replaced by Chris Knoblauch. Since Knoblauch has taken over behind the bench, Edmonton has won 25 of 31 games.
Harm: “When you have goaltending that’s back on track, you suddenly have your dominant defensive pair, plus McDavid and Draisaitl who, yeah, they’ve been really good, and the power play has been clicking, but it’s not like they’re carrying the team on their own. A big reason for their success right now is teams aren’t scoring on them. Early in the season, in the context of discussing them as potential cup contenders, the biggest flaw was, ‘Sure, you’ve got this elite power play, McDavid and Draisatl, but how are you going to win a cup when you defend that poorly and don’t have any goaltending?’ They’ve fixed those things. I think they’re a legit threat; it would suck for Vancouver to win the division and end up playing Edmonton in the wildcard. I’m not scared of Edmonton, but I’d much rather play another team.”
Edmonton is proving to be the team most fans thought they would be coming into the year — perhaps even slightly better — and with Vegas struggling with injuries and the Kings on a bad slide, it’s looking more and more like the Pacific is going to come down to a two-horse race. 
Harm: “They’re going to finish somewhere in the top 3 in the Pacific, with how hot they’ve been lately plus down the stretch, them having an easier schedule than Vancouver; it’s not something I’m worried about yet, but they’re a legit threat behind the Canucks in the Pacific Division race.”
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