3 reasons why the Oilers are the Western Conference’s hottest team in the NHL playoff race

Even if they aren’t in first place, the Edmonton Oilers could be the team to beat in the Western Conference during the NHL playoff race.

Mar 16, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) and Colorado
Mar 16, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) and Colorado / Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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Stuart Skinner is getting hot again…and so is Calvin Pickard

Can Stuart Skinner get hot and stay hot? That has been the burning question surrounding the Edmonton Oilers since their 16-game winning streak snapped shortly following the All-Star Break. Should Skinner up his save percentage into the 0.910 range, we’re looking at a potential Vezina candidate, regardless of how many inconsistent spans he’s struggled through this season. 

He was awful throughout most of February, but let’s check out what he’s done between February 26th and March 16th. In that span, Skinner has a 5-0-2 record in eight appearances (seven starts), with 206 saves and 13 goals allowed, to go with a 0.941 save percentage. If Skinner keeps this pace going, he’s up there with the best netminders in hockey as a playoff-caliber goaltender. 

While Skinner would get most of the starts in the playoffs, let’s give some credit to Calvin Pickard, who has been incredible lately as the No. 2 goaltender. Pickard has nine wins on the season, a 0.919 save percentage, plus a 2.27 GAA. While his 0.538 quality starts percentage shows he’s been up-and-down, Pickard has recently posted a 0.959 save percentage between March 5th and March 16th, allowing just four goals in 97 shot attempts. 

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)