The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are trending in very different directions in February.
As a result, the North Division standings have evolved quite a bit in recent weeks. The Edmonton Oilers are 8-2-0 in their last ten games and have won five straight, while the Calgary Flames are 1-4-1 in their last six contests. Accordingly, the Oilers are second in the North, and the Flames are fifth.
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So far in 2020-21, the Flames sit at 9-10-2 with a -10 goal differential. Leading point-getters Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm (18 points in 21 games each) have gone cold during Calgary’s recent six-game slump, posting a combined zero goals, four assists, and a minus-2 rating during that span. Goaltending has also been troublesome, as Jacob Markstrom allowed five goals against in each of his last two starts before being injured. His partner, David Rittich, surrendered four goals in his most recent outing against the last-place Ottawa Senators.
Things could not be more different for the Oilers. The team is 14-8-0 with a +14 goal differential, a number that is top five in the NHL. Captain Connor McDavid leads the league with 40 points (14 G, 26 A), and posted a five-point night last weekend against the Flames. The league’s second leading scorer, Leon Draisaitl, has 34 points (10 G, 24 A) on the season, including multi-point games in three of his last five contests. In goal, Mike Smith has helped to support Edmonton’s high-powered offense with his 6-0 record, 1.73 Goals Against Average, and .944 Save Percentage. His Save Percentage has been .943 or better in five games in the month of February.
Should be believe what we’ve seen recently from the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers?
So what does all of this mean? Can we take these numbers at face value and decide that the Flames are doomed to miss the postseason while the Oilers are poised to contend for the Stanley Cup, or are these simply the peaks and valleys that are part of an NHL season? I would tend to believe that the current streaks that these teams are experiencing are only chapters in these teams’ seasons, rather than the whole stories.
There’s no doubt that the Oilers are comfortably in a playoff spot at the moment, and that the Flames are facing an uphill battle. Calgary, though, has three straight games against the Sens, which seems like a perfect opportunity to get back on track. For the Oilers, I just have a hard time believing that Smith is going to continue his hot start, and we have seen in the past that offensive wizardry from McDavid and Draisaitl isn’t always enough for this club.
If there is one streak to put more stock into, however, I think it’s Calgary’s. There are several good teams in this division, which means one is going to miss out on the playoffs. The Flames have been largely disappointing since claiming the number one seed in the Western Conference back in 2019, so this team sitting on the outside of the playoff picture thanks to a difficult stretch feels believable, and based on what we have seen in recent history, like it could stay that way.
I tend to believe what I’m seeing from the Oilers less, because it’s star power that is the primary driver of this team’s success. Again, I think Mike Smith will cool off, but more importantly, even as Edmonton finds success in February, depth scoring is nonexistent. After McDavid and Draisaitl, only four Oilers have scored double digit points. There has to be some production after those top two, and until I see that, I can’t look at this successful stretch of games as something that will become the norm.
There is a lot of work still to be done in the push for the playoffs. While a hot or cold patch will not make or break the season for the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames, this is a short season, and each game is a little more important. Watch for both teams to gravitate back towards average hockey as the calendar turns to March.