After consecutive 4-0 victories over teams desperate for wins, Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie discuss whether or not the Edmonton Oilers are for real.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: A simple question for you. Can the Oilers do the damn thing? Back-to-back 4-0 wins for the Edmonton Oilers over desperate teams in the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights. It improved the Oilers' record to 8-1-1 over the last 10 games. They are playing a lot better. And they are stepping into the postseason, probably at home, against either Los Angeles or the Vegas team that they just beat.
The Oilers look like they've captured something here. Are you buying in to what's happening around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl once and for all?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I don't know yet. I don't know if I want to jump on and be like, they're all in. I mean, of course they're all in. But I don't know if I want to say that they are. I mean, then again, I have questions for every single playoff team at this point.
But I think for the Edmonton Oilers, the fact that they finally picked themselves up, and it seems as if some of the changes they were able to make or not make, they are working, at least through this stretch at the end of the season. Good for them, I guess.
Mike Smith, back-to-back shutouts, I don't know. I think I accidentally called him being good on zone time after Avery had that speech about how Stuart Skinner should be called up. And I kind of jokingly said, no, I'd rather see Mike Smith start. And look, he did really well. Good for Mike Smith.
Also-- and I think I've mentioned this either on this podcast or on other platforms-- I say it all the time. I don't get bored of Connor McDavid. There's a reason why I made him my tire pump. But him and Leon Draisaitl are producing very well. And I don't find we've been talking about that team a lot compared to other teams maybe a little bit closer or in the market that you happen to be in or other teams along the East Coast that are trying to make pushes for the playoffs here, compared to what we could be talking about with the Edmonton Oilers.
But maybe it's because we exhausted all of that through the first half of the season when they were actually looking really good before CJ inevitably cursed them by saying that they were a pretender. And then they kind of fell off.
But yeah, I'm going to wait until the playoffs at this point with the Edmonton Oilers. I think at this point, while it's good that they were able to get the wins they were to get and the back-to-back shutout wins, I think at this point with the Edmonton Oilers, I need to see it where it really matters. And ultimately, it will very much depend on who they play.
If they're going up against the Vegas Golden Knights, a team that will, hopefully in their case, be healthier, I have a lot of questions about how that'll hold up in a playoff series. If the LA Kings somehow are able to hold up their end and they're able to stay in a playoff spot, I think it's them. They don't have any more playoff teams to play against, if I remember correctly.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, they have an easier schedule.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Exactly. So that could also affect things. I might feel a little bit more comfortable saying the Oilers are better. Against the Vegas Golden Knights? That's a risky bet. And I mean, it makes sense, being in Vegas. But it really depends on who that first round team is. I'm not ready to jump on the Oilers' bandwagon.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, the Oilers took a pretty sizable step into not facing the Vegas Golden Knights by shutting them out on Saturday. And whether this is important or unimportant, McDavid and Draisaitl, 0 points in that victory. It was the supporting cast and Mike Smith who helped secure that victory or played a major role in securing that victory.
I think that the only thing we can really say for certain is that the coaching change was the right move.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yes.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Jay Woodcroft has clearly found something that Dave Tippett didn't have, whether it's just the respect of the locker room or actual tactics. I think the combination of both, given what the team has said since the transition, would indicate that, yeah, they have more belief in the head coach. But they're also just in a better headspace because Dave Tippett is no longer there.
But he's actually changed things. I mean, the Oilers have played an 11-forward, seven-defenceman thing for the last little bit here. And they've got some great success out of it. And I think when you're a team that is top-heavy and has questions on the back end, that it should work.
That sort of strategy could work very well for a team like the Oilers, because what happens when you go to 11-7? You accentuate what you have from the forward position. And we know the Oilers have a lot of good forwards that they can just give more ice time to. But also when you have problems on defense and you have guys like Tyson Barrie who are only good on the power play, and a couple of others at the bottom like Chris Russell, who are more of, let's get him out on the penalty kill and have him block shots, you can play those guys situationally more. And it gives you more options on the back end.
So maybe they've found something here with this 11-7. Maybe we're putting too much into it or I'm putting too much into this 8-1-1 run. But I feel like if they get LA-- and again, they took a major step toward getting LA, with LA winning and then themselves beating Vegas, I think they're going to be heavily, heavily, heavily favored in that series and should be.
And then we're going to get that battle of Alberta. And who knows what can happen? Because Calgary, they've been so, so good. They've been dominant. They crushed them a couple of weeks ago. But I think it'll be entertaining and fun. And that's the best thing for a hockey fan is a battle of Alberta in the second round. And I think the Oilers can, whether it's Vegas or LA, keep their end of the bargain there, just by the way they've been playing over the last little bit here.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Imagine we get a wild first round with all the match that it looks like we're going to get. And then the second round, we get the Battle of Alberta. I don't want to call it early. We could be in for the best Stanley Cup playoffs we've seen in a very long time. Maybe I'm jumping the gun here.
But if it works out, we could be in for one of the best playoffs we've seen in a very long time.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: If it works out perfectly. We could get battle of Alberta second round. We could get Toronto-Florida second round. If Tampa Bay crosses over, we could get something like Tampa-Pittsburgh or Tampa-New York. That would be great, maybe not as juicy.
And in the Central Division, whoever Colorado faces in the second round, be it St. Louis or Minnesota, is going to be insane. So the second round could be absolutely off the charts. And the first round, we know, is going to be good, because it's always good.