Though not the ultimate goal, Oilers aware spot in record books is ‘attainable’

LAS VEGAS — The National Hockey League record book is a clumsy, awkward place. 

In a sport where standing out from your teammates has long been ill-advised, it’s can be an uncomfortable place for an individual player to be. 

For a team, in a game where the only team accomplishment that is supposed to truly matter is winning the Stanley Cup, it’s almost confusing. 

How much should the Edmonton Oilers focus on tying the all-time NHL record for 17 consecutive wins — set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins — Tuesday night in Las Vegas? 

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How much should they talk about it — internally? Externally? — when we’re only 45 games into a season that was supposed to be about so much more than a bunch of regular seasons wins in December, January and perhaps now February? 

At this point, the Oilers themselves aren’t even really sure. 

“It’s a crazy feat, and not a goal you set out to do,” admitted Zach Hyman on Monday. “It’s a ridiculous goal, but when you’re three games away you say, ‘OK, we can win three games in a row…’ 

“As you get closer, it becomes attainable. Now it’s right there. It’s attainable.” 

Trying as we have to chronicle a ride that very few fans or media can say they’ve ever been on, it has become an incremental thing.  

The Oilers have chugged past a team record of 10 wins — How did those old Oilers team never win more than 10 straight? — past the Canadian record of 12 straight Montreal victories. Tying the 16-game Columbus Blue Jackets, now taking a run at Mario’s Penguins… 

“Along the way we’ve knocked off some pretty memorable milestones,” Hyman said. “The Oilers record, with all the great Oilers teams that had come before. Then the Canadian (NHL) team record, where you had the Montreal Canadiens teams of the past. Along the way, with the milestones, it’s been, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ And, ‘That one’s pretty cool.’ 

“Now we’re one game away from tying a record that’s stood from the beginning of the NHL. You never set out to try and do that, but once it’s right there, it’s something that would be pretty memorable. 

“The best teams in the league haven’t done this. No team has done it – except the Penguins.” 

How would the Oilers feel coming into this game? 

“You feel unbeatable,” said Vegas centre William Karlsson, who played for that 2016-17 Blue Jackets squad whose streak died at 16 straight. “You just go into every game and you have this feeling like you’re not going to lose. A lot of confidence.

“It’s pretty easy to play hockey when you just keep winning and winning.” 

The wrench in Edmonton’s gears, of course, is the All-Star break that put 10 days between wins No. 16 and the possible record-tying 17th. And, of course, there is the foe that awaits them, a Golden Knights team that has seen Edmonton all but catch them in the Pacific, trailing Vegas by five points with five games in hand.

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That makes the Golden Knights players even more attentive, as they host an Oilers team they eliminated from last year’s playoffs for the first time this season, not to mention 1,000 or so Edmonton fans who invaded this town on Sunday and Monday. 

“Sure, it’d be great to stop ‘em. That would be fun,” said Vegas defenceman Alex Pietrangelo. “I’m sure if we were in the same situation they’d be saying the same thing about us.” 

His Golden Knights know a thing or two about winning, or course. The Cup champs opened this season with an 11-0-1 run, and before losing their last game before the All-Star break in Detroit, they had been on a 5-0-1 skein. 

“The hardest part when you’re on those streaks is to look in the mirror and say, ‘Okay, we won. But we weren’t as good as we should have been,’” said Pietrangelo, one of the game’s finest defencemen. “Sure, the goalies are going to win some for you. That’s how it was for us at the start of the year. But, you’re always trying to look in the mirror and figure out when we played the game, did we deserve to win?” 

Edmonton has had a couple of those smelly wins, like the night in Chicago where they won 2-1 with just 15 shots on goal. Bur for the most part they’ve played tight defensive hockey, had stellar goaltending from Stuart Skinner, and won seemingly every third period along the way. 

Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy assured us that there are some players on his team who won’t even know about the streak when they arrive at the rink for the game Tuesday. But in the same breath, he says that if it were his team on the precipice of entering the record books, he’d embrace the moment, 

“They should enjoy it. Why wouldn’t they? They might set a record,” Cassidy said. “You should feel pride in it. 

“I would, if I were in that locker room.”

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