I'm not saying I was one of those kids in school--I was too busy playing sports, but I didn't really go on a lot of dates either, not that I didn't want to.
Not only do the Oilers have some popular kids like McDavid, Eberle, Draisaitl, and Nuge, they have the bullies like Lucic, Maroon, Hendricks, Kassian, and Gryba, plus Nurse. Then there's the scrappy guys who some don't realize would probably kick your ass like Larsson, Russell, Caggiula, and Letestu. And with that wrecking crew, no one should touch the kids, right?
Wrong. We're still seeing McDavid get held, grabbed, and molested. I still believe those aforementioned bullies need to step in more and sacrifice--especially Lucic. That's what he was signed up for, right? That said, players are defending each other, something you didn't see as much before. That's what a real TEAM is supposed to do.
The recent Arizona game was a testament to the Oilers establishing themselves this season in beating a team they never beat in regulation. It was a nasty win with Zack Kassian literally leading the physical battle in defending his linemate Hendricks against Ekman-Larsson's take down, then dropping his gloves waiting for Shane Doan, then getting taken down by the linesman... just look at his face here...
So against the Kings, even with, Reggie Sekera, their top d-man out with illness, the defense played well, Larsson was incredibly solid in being able to handle the big Kings lineup, stopping Taffoli and Kopitar in their tracks. It was plays like that which made believe in the Hall-Larsson trade even more.
No longer could the Kings tire out and outlast the Oilers--nay! It was the other way around. Even the mighty Drew Doughty, in playing 79 thousand minutes, got tired, and Draisaitl and McDavid were there right on him each time to take advantage with good chances the other way.
The biggest difference this season over the last is not just having way fewer injuries to top players, it's that all teams now have to respect the Oilers--not just because of great skill, but that at the same time, they are arguably the toughest team in the league, physically, skill-wise, and in goaltending.
And that, my friends, is the next step.