Oilers still have outside shot of taking top spot in Western Conference

Mar 29 2023, 3:52 pm

The Edmonton Oilers are far from locked into a Pacific Division matchup when it comes to the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In fact, the Oilers could be wise to keep a keen eye on that Western Conference wild card situation that’s been bubbling between the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, and Nashville Predators.

Because, at least in theory, Connor McDavid’s crew could vault themselves to the top of the West in time for an opening-round showdown against the last entrant into the second season.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near our potential just yet,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft told media Tuesday. “I think we’re working toward that. We’re building toward peaking at the right time, which is in about three weeks.

“I think a lot of people in this crowd right here might’ve wrote the Oilers off when it comes to where we were going to finish, all that kind of stuff. As you hear me say every single day, we try to take it one at a time.”

The Oilers currently have a 14.4% shot at winning the Pacific Division, according to Hockey Reference, with the Pacific currently boasting the two highest teams in the Western Conference according to points percentage.

Edmonton, third in the Pacific, trails the Vegas Golden Knights — who they convincingly dispatched 7-4 at T-Mobile Arena in Tuesday’s four-pointer — by just three points for the division and West lead. The Oilers are also one back of the Los Angeles Kings, who currently hold down the second spot in the division and conference.

The Oilers currently rank as the second-hottest team in the West, with an 8-1-1 record over their past 10 games, and still have two dates against the Kings, a single against the Colorado Avalanche, and two each against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks.

The strength of schedule, to say the least, favours Edmonton.

In fact, only the Flames have a softer schedule down the stretch than the Oilers, per Tankathon. The former will see four of their remaining seven skates come against two of the bottom four clubs in the entire National Hockey League.

By comparison, Vegas has the eighth-hardest stretch over their remaining eight skates, with the Kings not too far behind at 12th-worst.

One doesn’t have to squint too hard to see the possibility of a first-place finish in the Pacific Division, despite having one fewer opportunity to gobble points and, by extension, a perch atop the Western Conference.

“Obviously it’s been tight all year,” forward Evander Kane said after their latest win. “It’s been like that I feel like the last two months. One night can change the complexion about what the standings look like.

“Games mean a little bit more down the stretch and you want to finish as high as you possibly can and try to get home ice.”

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