The Oilers stopped the hemorrhaging with a 5-2 victory in Dallas. They received some puck luck, created some chances and didn’t commit the egregious error which has cost them games recently.
Tonight they wrap up their toughest ten-game stretch of the season against the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks, and a win will make their first quarter a big success.
The Oilers haven’t won eleven of their first 20 games since November of 2006, but a win tonight sure changes the outlook of where they sit at the quarter mark of the season.
Win and they are on pace for 92 points in 80 games.
Lose in regulation and they are on pace for 84 points.
Twenty-three points after 20 games would have to be considered a success, regardless of their slump prior to Saturday’s win. I don’t think anyone expected the Oilers to be a dominant team this season, but an 11-8-1 record after 20 games gives us a better illustration of what to expect over the final 62 games. A loss won’t derail their season, but it illustrates how much of a difference one more win can make over a 20-game period.
A win over Chicago would also help their average home record. The biggest improvement for the Oilers has been their ability to compete on the road. The Oilers are 6-4-1 on the road. Only Tampa Bay and Boston have more road wins and points. Meanwhile, only the Flames (3-7) and Buffalo (2-4-2) have fewer home wins than the Oilers’ four.
The Oilers started the season 4-1 at home, but they’ve lost three straight, scoring a total of three goals. They’ve shown considerable improvement on the road it is time they start making their new arena a difficult place to play for opposing teams.
Rarely do you change a winning lineup. No one played poorly. Zack Kassian was playing well before he took a four-minute minor, the second one for chirping the referee. He didn’t see the ice afterwards, but similar to when Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot missed icetime due to a bad performance or selfish decision earlier this season, they were in the lineup the next game. Todd McLellan hasn’t been afraid to send a message to players when they make a dumb play, but he also doesn’t carry the punishment over to the next game.
Players respect it when a coach doesn’t hold a grudge.
Corey Crawford gets the start after a night off in Vancouver on Saturday.
Lineups courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com
- Through 64 games Connor McDavid has 70 points. He has seven three-point games and one five-point night. In his first 64 games Sidney Crosby had 74 points and six three-point games and one four-point night. There were more goals scored league-wide in Crosby’s rookie season, and McDavid is playing his second year, so there are some differences, but there is no denying McDavid looks to be the next dominant player in the NHL.
Crosby had 28 points in his final 17 games to finish the season, and if McDavid can come close to that over the next 17 games the Oilers should be in the playoff mix when 2017 begins.
- The Hawks have allowed a league-high 18 PP goals (tied with CGY) and they have the worst PK in the NHL, an ugly 69.5%. However, those numbers are not reflective of their PK lately. They allowed 15 PP goals in their first eight games, but they’ve allowed only three goals in their last eleven games, killing off 36 of 39 power plays.
- How about the Columbus Blue Jackets? They are 10-4-2 and only have two regulation losses in their last 14 games. They have defeated Dallas, Washington and Anaheim twice, and Chicago, Montreal St.Louis and the New York Rangers once. They are beating the top teams. They are the biggest surprise early this season.
- With veterans Mark Letestu, Eric Gryba and Benoit Pouliot in the pressbox it doesn’t look like Edmonton will be in need to make a call to the AHL anytime soon. Taylor Beck leads the Condors in scoring with 5-11-16 in 11 games. Jujhar Khaira was off to a great start, seven points in six games, but an injury has kept him out of five games.
The most interesting battle has been in goal. Laurent Brossoit has started seven games and has a .915sv% and 2.77 GAA. Nick Ellis has started six games and has a .931sv% and 2.38 GAA. Ellis is really pushing Brossoit for icetime.
- We’ll be having another NationGear pop-up shop at Vacancy Hall (Downstairs at the Mercer building – 10359 104th Street) from 4-6pm. Swing by and upgrade your wardrobe accordingly.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From Second City Hockey
The Oilers (10-8-1) came out flying this season going 7-1 in their first eight games, but have been struggling lately, losing five of their last six. Edmonton now sits in second in the Pacific Division, tied in points at 21 with the Ducks and Kings.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid has had an exceptional second season so far, sitting tied atop the leader board in points with 22 (eight goals and 14 assists). The Hawks missed out on facing McDavid last season because all three meetings happened when he was recovering from a broken clavicle. Chicago capitalized with McDavid out and swept the season series, scoring four goals in each contest behind Corey Crawford in net. Patrick Kane tallied two goals and five assists in the series while Artemi Panarin had four goals and four assists against the Oilers last season.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers had played well and lost near the end of their losing streak before getting some bounces in Dallas. The Hawks have needed third period comebacks over Calgary and Vancouver in their previous two games. Instead of wasting a good opportunity, the Oilers finally defeat a team playing their third game in four nights. Oilers win 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: On at least two occasions, Patrick Kane puts on a ridiculous display of stickhanding and controlling the puck in offensive zone. He’ll have the Oilers on their heels hoping not to get embarrassed. His puckhandling skills are top-shelf.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Puljujarvi scores his first goal since opening night.
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