For the second time in three games, the Oilers face a team who played the night before. Ottawa spanked them 6-1 this past Saturday after defeating Calgary 6-0 the night before, and tonight they face a Chicago Blackhawks team who lost 5-3 in St. Louis last night.
The Oilers are desperate for a victory. Here’s a quick look at some stats, facts and oddities prior to puck drop.
1. The Oilers sit 25th in GA/G at 3.80. The Blackhawks are fourth in GF/G at 3.86. The Hawks offence scored 15 goals in their first two games, including ten versus Pittsburgh in their season opener, but they’ve only scored 12 in their last five. Edmonton has allowed 17 goals in three games. If their defensive zone coverage and goaltending doesn’t show up tonight, the Hawks could light them up.
2. Chicago isn’t the dominant team from 2010-2015, but Patrick Kane is still there and he loves playing the Oilers. In 34 games he has scored 13-33-46, but in his last 25 games he has 12-28-40. I’d argue there isn’t a more dangerous player in the league when he has the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. Kane is so patient with the puck. He loves to circle up high towards the blueline to create space and he creates so much havoc when he does this. The Oilers have to play him close. If you give him space he’ll kill you.
3. The Hawks blueline still has Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but Seabrook is aging and the Hawks second and third pairs, while mobile, don’t have much experience. Jan Rutta will play his eighth NHL game tonight, Gustav Forsling his 46th, and it sounds like former Oiler Jordan Oesterle will play his 26th NHL game. Edmonton must pressure the inexperienced defenders and force them into uncomfortable situations. Go right at them and see if they can make the right decision.
4. The NHL has expanded 13 times since ending the 1966/1967 season with six teams.
They grew to 12 teams the next year adding Minnesota, Oakland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and St. Louis. The Oakland Golden Seals finished in 12th place in 1968.
They added two more teams in 1970/71 with Vancouver and Buffalo. Again, the Golden Seals were last.
Two more teams came in 1972/1973 — the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames. The Islanders finished 16th.
Washington and Kansas City joined in 1974/1975. The league split to four divisions and Washington finished 18th.
Kansas relocated to Colorado after the 1976 season and California moved to Cleveland.
In 1978, the league dropped to 17 teams as Cleveland and Minnesota merged. You’d never see two teams merge nowadays.
In 1979/1980, the league grew to 21 teams, adding Winnipeg, Edmonton, Quebec and Hartford. Colorado finished 21st.
Before the next expansion, Atlanta moved to Calgary in 1980 and Colorado relocated to New Jersey in the summer of 1982.
The NHL grew to 22 teams with San Jose entering in 1991/1992. The Sharks finished 22nd.
Ottawa and Tampa joined in 1992/1993 and the Senators finished dead last in 24th, only due to Ottawa having one more win, but the same amount of points.
Florida and Anaheim were added in 1993/1994 and Ottawa finished 26th.
Minny moved to Dallas in 1993, Quebec relocated to Colorado in 1995, Winnipeg went to Phoenix in 1996 and Hartford moved to Carolina in 1997.
Nashville made it a 27-team league in 1998/1999 and Tampa Bay finished 27th.
Atlanta joined the following year and they finished 28th with only 39 points.
Columbus and Minnesota were added in 2000/2001 and the Islanders were the first team to finish 30th.
Vegas was added this year and some team will have the honour of being the first team to finish 31st. In the 12 previous expansion years, an expansion team finished last six times. Vegas is off to a very good start, and while I expect them to dip, there is a good chance they won’t finish 31st. The Oilers won’t finish 31st either, but a loss tonight coupled with an Arizona victory means they’d wake up sitting 31st tomorrow. Not a place they want to be.
5. The possession numbers suggest the Oilers will turn things around, as do my eyes, but they are currently #1 in CF% at 60.16, (which isn’t sustainable), while Chicago is 26th at 46.28%. The Oilers are still giving up way to many freebie goals due to major errors, and that is killing them. If they stop that and continue to get shots on goal, eventually their fortunes will turn.
6. The Oilers are outshooting the opposition 153-109 at 5×5. Part of that could be due to them trailing for over 90% of the past four games, but their offence hasn’t been good enough at EV. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic are the only forwards dressed tonight who have scored a 5×5 goal in the past four games. That is simply unacceptable. The forwards need to find ways to finish at even strength.
7. Kris Russell leads the Oilers in career points versus the Blackhawks, with 16. Russell has played the most games versus the Hawks as well, at 38. RNH is second with 13 points, but he only has one goal in 17 career games versus the Blackhawks.
8. Connor McDavid lead the NHL with 30 multi-point games last season. He has one so far this season. He is due for a multi-point game. In three career games versus Chicago, he has four points, and one multi-point game.
9. Since the start of the 2015/2016 season, Kane leads the NHL with 204 points. Sidney Crosby is second with 183 and Nicklas Backstrom is third with 167. McDavid is ninth with 154 and he missed 37 games. Kane has the highest points-per-game in that span at 1.19, and McDavid is second at 1.17. Only four other players — Crosby (1.13), Evgeni Malkin (1.10), Nikita Kucherov (1.03) and Backstrom (1.02) — have averaged one PPG.
10. Kucherov could tie Wayne Gretzky (1983) for the third-longest goal streak to start a season since 1944 tonight, if he can score in his eighth consecutive game. Kucherov has 27 goals in his last 30 games, dating back to last season, which is seven more than every other player in the league. Mike Bossy scored in the first ten games in 1984 while Mario Lemieux scored in the first 12 in 1992. Pretty good company for Kucherov.
11. A slow start won’t crush a team. Nashville started 2-5-1 last year and finished 41-29-12 and in the second wildcard spot. It isn’t ideal, but as long as you make the playoffs anything can happen. We’ve seen some #8 seeds make it to Cup Finals. The Oilers in 2006, the Kings in 2012 and Nashville last year. But in order to match Nashville’s 2-5-1 start the Oilers have to go at least 1-1-1 on this trip.
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 10/19/2017, 1:30pm