The Progress Report: Stemming The Tide
Oilers rebound from losing streak to show signs of a playoff team
Mired in a four-game losing streak at the time of the last report, the message of “no need to panic” seems to be making much more sense now. The Oilers snapped out of that streak with a 9-2 beat down of the Chicago Blackhawks that seems to have the team back on track. The Oilers have split games on the current road trip; following up a 4-1 setback to Dallas with a convincing 6-2 win over Nashville.
Progress is sometimes measured over long periods of time but can also be measured in the short-term as well. In looking at the progress the Oilers have made since snapping that losing streak, we see a number of positives starting to emerge.
|Shawn Horcoff battles hard to score 1 of his 2 goals against Nashville. He has 5 points (3 G, 2A) in the past 3 games.|
First of all the Oilers are now starting to slowly see some key players get healthy. Ales Hemsky has integrated his way back in the lineup and put up 7 points in 10 games in the process. This addition to the offence as allowed the Oilers to mix up their lines and create more balanced scoring.
Another important return from injury will be Ryan Whitney’s return for today’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Whitney will bring another talented and experienced body to a blue line that has been badly depleted.
“It feels good out there,” explained Whitney. “I’m eager to get out there and help the team win.”
Oilers head coach Tom Renney realizes that getting key guys like this back in the lineup is huge for this hockey team. The Oilers ability to stay competitive and battle back from losses despite the injuries shows an improvement that is encouraging to the coach.
“It is like making a trade when guys like these come back, it certainly helps fortify the lineup,” said Renney.
The Oilers are also benefiting from depth and the ability of young players like Colten Teubert and Jeff Petry to jump in and play well in these injury situations. In the three games this past week, Petry has put up four points and is a +4 while doing an excellent job filling in for guys such as Whitney.
|Ryan Smyth continues his strong play. He is currently tied for the team lead with 22 points in 21 games.|
“I just try to play my best and help the team however I can,” explained Petry.
The Oilers are currently sitting second in the Northwest division with a record of 11-8-2. Heading into a game against the division leading Wild tonight, the coach recognizes that the ultimate test of his team’s progression will be finding a way to win these tight games against division rivals like Minnesota.
“It’s not style points you’re after in the NHL, its two points,” explained Renney.
The team now feels they have the people in place to win these types of games and to also rebound from losses with strong comeback efforts.
“We got guys who can get in on the forecheck, we have guys that can score, we just have to stay focused on each game, 60 minutes at a time,” said Ryan Smyth.
We sit here at the quarter mark of the season and the Oilers are right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. If this past stretch of hockey has shown us anything, it’s that this team has progressed enough to handle adversity and compete for a playoff spot going forward.
Author: Travis Knee | edmontonoilers.com