Teams in the NHL still have 30+ games remaining in their schedules. However, it will only be a few weeks from now before the current regular season enters the home stretch. In the Pacific Division, a big cushion has developed for the top three teams in comparison to the bottom four. That cushion makes the Edmonton Oilers look strong for the playoffs after a decade of missing the Stanley Cup tournament.
Edmonton, who beat Anaheim on Wednesday, followed up on Thursday with a big win over San Jose. In the two games combined, the Oilers defeated both teams 8-1. That San Jose and Anaheim are Edmonton’s main rivals for the Pacific Division title certainly bodes well for the Oilers’ chances of winning the division outright. Furthermore, the big gap that has opened between the contenders and non-contenders within the Pacific gives each of Edmonton, Anaheim, and San Jose an excellent chance to make the post-season as they look way down at teams like Calgary.
The Flames defeated the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night, however Calgary remain 10 points back of third place in the Pacific Division. At the top the Oilers, Sharks, and Ducks are all within one point of one another so there really is a major drop off with the No. 4 position. The relevance, of course, is that you have to finish third or better to guarantee a playoff spot while other teams have to hope they compete in the wild card race. If Edmonton, San Jose, and/or Anaheim are able to maintain their lead for a few more weeks then they will be very tough to catch down the home stretch of the season.
Edmonton in particular is starting to look very dangerous. The Oilers started the season with spectacular form, however as fast as they started they stopped even faster after the opening weeks. Only recently have Edmonton started to play well again, they are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and perhaps some moves that were made recently have helped solidify Edmonton’s consistency, including the demotion of Jesse Puljujarvi to the minors.
Within the Pacific Division, only the Arizona Coyotes can be considered out of contention. They have just 38 points and that puts them a full 25 points out of third place. Calgary, Los Angeles, and Vancouver all have between 52 and 53 points following play on Thursday. It’s certainly possible for any team in that trio to make a charge and hope to catch a team that fades in the top trio. Los Angeles is a team to note, however recent news with them is that Jonathan Quick won’t be back until March. With the regular season to end on April 9th, the Kings getting back to full health in March doesn’t leave much time for them to play with their top goalie in net.
The Oilers do currently lead the division in goal differential. Furthermore, they still have the NHL’s leading scorer in Connor McDavid. The trade deadline this season is February 28th at 3pm ET and the Oilers are a team that should be considered a buyer as they have playoff-hungry fans that haven’t seen success since the Western Conference championship in 2006.