It took two full months, but the Edmonton Oilers have managed to climb out of the rather deep, muddy hole they dug themselves into since the beginning of the season.
With a 4-1 win over the visiting New Jersey Devils, the Oilers pushed their winning streak to seven games and their record to 12-12-1 to get themselves back to square one for the first time since starting out 0-0 in what turned into an 8-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks to start the season on Oct. 11. Since then, they have only just been able to bring their head above water.
And that’s a far cry better than the 2-9-1 deficit they found themselves drowning in following a loss to the last-place San Jose Sharks that spelled the end of former head coach Jay Woodcroft’s time in Edmonton.
Now 9-3 under his replacement, Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers haven’t lost since back on Nov. 22, 6-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes.
“It’s good, it’s really good. I don’t think a lot of people would have thought that seven games ago, but it just shows that we have the team to do it,” said Oilers defenceman Vincent Desharnais. “We have the team to make playoffs, we have the team to go all the way, we’ve just got to do it every day.
“It’s every day in practices, in games, it’s not just, ‘Alright, there’s a game, we flip the switch and we go.’ It’s habit and I think we’ve turned the boat around and we keep building, our confidence is going to get better and better.”
The way this ship has been sailing over the past three weeks, reaching .500 seems like a low watermark for a team on the rise like the Oilers have been rowing.
“Our confidence is back, our swagger is back, special teams have been awesome and I think that’s our identity here,” Desharnais said. “I think when the power play goes well, we know those guys are humming. Bouch (Evan Bouchard) is really hot right now, he’s playing so well for us. Even defensively he’s playing really well.
“So, it’s really positive, it’s fun, it’s so much more fun to come in every day and put in the work and be consistent with it when you win like that.”
At this point, all the consistent winning has done was wipe out the consistent losing that plagued them like a swarm of locusts earlier on in the season.
But with the run they’re on right now, it feels like there is much more to reap over the remaining two-thirds of the schedule.
“I mean, the sun maybe will come up tomorrow,” Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse joked of hitting .500. “For us, I think, knowing that we played some good hockey and won a lot of games in a row. But with the position we put ourselves in, we can’t get complacent.
“We’ve got to continue to stay hungry and push ourselves more and more to not only compete at the level that we’re at, but I think we still have steps and room that we can grow as a team. So, it’s been great to climb and get to this spot but, like I said, we have a lot of work yet to do.”
The thing about adversity is, if you’ve got to go through it in order to evolve, it’s far better to get it out of the way early on in the season and know you’re able to survive whatever else ends up getting tossed your way.
“And that’s what we kept saying, even though it’s hard with all the pressure, all the media,” Desharnais said. “You go anywhere and everyone is talking to you about the bad start and all that.
“But I think in this locker-room, our big thing was just stay positive with it and we’re going to get out of it. But we’ve just got to keep going and I think by going through tough times like that, that’s how you get better and when you get out of it, it feels so much better.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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