2) Improved defensive play
The Oilers offence being generated now by this team has a catalyst that wasn’t there at the beginning of the season – better defence. It’s a well-known fact that in the NHL defence leads to offence. Offence might be generated of its own accord on rare occasions but usually, a good defensive play is the catalyst for scoring chances or goals – especially those of the dangerous grade A variety.
Case in point – the San Jose Sharks have the worst GA in the league as well as the worst goal differential and they’re currently in second last place in the division. The only reason they’re not last is because they’ve managed to grind out three OTL points that last place Anaheim doesn’t have; that’s pretty much it.
After a disastrous start to his assignment in the AHL, Jack Campbell got a shutout win at home for the Condors on Tuesday night versus the Silver Knights.
The Vancouver Canucks, on the other hand, who are absolutely rolling right now, are second in the division only to Vegas and they have the league’s best GF (118) and goal differential (+40) and stand second in the division in GA (76). Since the Canucks have been so terrible for so long, whether or not this lasts is up for debate, but there’s no question that they’ve put together a solid (almost) first half of the season.
At the beginning of the season only three Oilers were on the good side of the +/- ledger – three – and two of those were right on the line at 0. Now they have 10 – and I count at least six other players who are capable of joining them by the end of the season.
Part of that was team health, and part was adapting to the zone defence that the team implemented and Jay Woodcroft was trying to instil before his firing and that Kris Knoblauch has continued to utilise as he grabbed the reins.
But the biggest factor has to be the players’ re-dedication to proper defensive play. After all, it’s not the 1980s, where you can outscore your mistakes.
Jack Campbell and Brown are now left as the only players still struggling from the beginning of the season, and we all know what happened to Campbell at the beginning of November.