First, the good news: Even after a crucial loss to Montreal Tuesday, the Oilers were tied for the final post-season berth in the Western Conference.
Now the bad news: the team that’s one measly point behind them in the standings is the same team that’s arguably become Edmonton’s biggest rival (outside of Calgary, of course) in recent years.
I’m talking about the Dallas Stars, a franchise the Oilers have faced in six of their last seven playoff appearances – and a franchise Edmonton was defeated by in five of those six series.
The links between the Stars and Oilers don’t end with their frequent post-season meetings. Both operate in a city built on petroleum products and the sweat of the locals; both teams are owned by self-made multi-millionaires; and both have two of the longer-tenured coaches in the league.
And although Edmonton and Dallas finished their head-to-head season series (with both teams finishing 2-2-0) in mid-February, the Stars still could play a major role in deciding the Oilers’ playoff fate.
Indeed, as the regular season winds down, eight of Dallas’ remaining 15 games will take place against teams that currently are within four points of the Oilers in the standings.
So what do you do – cheer for the Stars to beat up on the Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, L.A. Kings, St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks, and perhaps create a scenario where Dallas nudges out Edmonton for the eighth seed? Or would you prefer to instead watch the Stars fail miserably against all those teams, in the process allowing two or three of them to push the Oilers out of the post-season picture?
In any case, almost all potential scenarios for the Oilers are of the pick-your-poison variety. And that will almost inevitably result in more vitriol added to the Dallas/Edmonton rivalry.
If that happens, the only way the rivalry gets any more heated will be if the Oilers acquire Sean Avery during the summer.
This column also appears in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.
Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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