The Edmonton Oilers clinched a berth in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third straight season with a 6-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
It’s the first time the Oilers have qualified in three consecutive seasons since making it five straight from 1997-2001.
Edmonton was impressive early, going 16-5-0 and leading the NHL in points percentage (.762) and power-play percentage (35.9 percent) on Dec. 1, but then lost six in a row to start a 7-13- 3 slides that led to coach Dave Tippett being fired Feb. 10.
Since new coach Jay Woodcroft took over, the Oilers have regained their form, going 23-8-3.
The Oilers are led by captain Connor McDavidwhose 116 points (43 goals, 73 assists) in 77 games lead the NHL It’s McDavid’s fifth 100-point season since he debuted in 2015-16. Leon Draisaitl has also eclipsed 100 points with 107 points (54 goals, 53 assists) in 77 games. It’s the third time in the past four seasons he’s scored 100, and his 54 goals are a personal NHL best.
The goal now will be to do more with the opportunity. Edmonton has won one playoff series since a seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, a six-game win against the San Jose Sharks in the 2017 Western Conference First Round. The Oilers last won the Stanley Cup in 1990.
Edmonton’s past two postseason appearances have resulted in disappointment. In 2020 they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, and last season they were swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round. In each series the Oilers were the higher-seeded team; Last season the Oilers finished second in the seven-team North Division.
Before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline on March 21, the Oilers made two additions to bolster their depth. They traded a fourth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Derick Brassardand acquired defenseman Brett Kulack in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman William Lagessona conditional second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and a seventh-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.
Here is a look at the Oilers’ path to a playoff berth:
Most Valuable Player: McDavid continues to set the bar high. With four games remaining, he’s on pace for 120 points, which would be the highest of his NHL career. The 25-year-old is the 19th player in NHL history to have five 100-point seasons and the sixth to have five before his 26th birthday, joining Wayne Gretzky (eight), Mario Lemieux (six), Dale Hawerchuk (six), Bryan Trottier (five) and Bobby Orr (five).
Unsung Hero: Defenseman cody ceci, who signed a four-year contract with the Oilers on July 28, 2021, had a difficult role to fill. I had to replace adam larson, who had been a tough-to-play-against, defensive-minded defenseman who chose to sign with the Seattle Kraken as an unrestricted free agent. Ceci has succeeded by averaging 20:57 of ice time in 74 games and scoring an NHL career-high 27 points (five goals, 22 assists).
Memorable Moment: McDavid already had multiple amazing moments, but his game-tying goal at 17:01 of the third period against the New York Rangers on Nov. 5 will be included in that collection. McDavid collected the puck between the red line and the New York blue line and coasted cross-ice for a moment while looking for his opening of it. He then accelerated quickly toward the net and stickhandled his way through four Rangers (Patrick Nemeth, Kevin Rooney, Jacob Trouba and Dryden Hunt) before he deked goalie Alexandra Georgiev. Edmonton won 6-5 in overtime.
KeyNumber: 2.74. Goals against per game Edmonton has allowed in 33 games since Woodcroft took over as coach. In 44 games under Tippett, the Oilers allowed 3.32. They’re also scoring more for Woodcroft, 3.85 goals per game compared to 3.18.
Question Mark: Improving team defense and solid second-half play from mike smith (15-9-2, 2.88 goals-against average, .913 save percentage, two shutouts in 27 games) and mikko koskinen (25-11-4, 3.09 GAA, .902 save percentage, one shutout in 42 games) have reduced panic about the goaltending. But Smith is 40 and has a history of injuries and Koskinen has proven at times to be overwhelmed when Smith has been sidelined.
Reason Oilers Can Win It All: If their goaltending holds up, the Oilers have difference-making skill and depth that could translate into momentum at the most important time of the season.