Hello Oilersnation, the regular season is finally here. Let’s get it on.
Here are the usual short notes on stats, quotes, useless facts, analytics and more before every Oilers game.
1. This is the Oilers 39th season opener. It is only the 10th time they will start a season on the road. They are 3-5-1 (tie) in season openers on the road. This is the first time will open the season against the New Jersey Devils. They are an impressive 18-8-3 in their 29 season openers on home ice.
2. Former roommates and teammates, Taylor Hall and Connor McDavid are only the second former teammates to win consecutive Hart Trophies. The first duo, also former Oilers, Wayne Gretzky in 1989 and Mark Messier in 1990.
3. McDavid begins his quest to become only the 9th player in NHL history to win the Art Ross trophy three times as the NHL’s leading scorer. When he wins the scoring race he will join Gretzky (10), Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux (6), Phil Esposito and Jaromir Jagr (5), Stan Makita (4) and Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur (3). He would also become only the 6th player to win it three consecutive seasons along with Gretzky, Howe, Esposito, Jagr and Lafleur.
4. This is the 81st meeting between the Devils and Oilers. Edmonton is 39-26-9-6. (The 9 are ties).
5. The Scandinavian in Gothenberg will be the 71st building the Oilers have played an NHL regular season game in. They played 1428 at Northlands/Skyreach/Rexall and this will be the 10th arena they have played one game in. They are 2-7 in rinks they’ve only played once. They won at the new Little Caesers Arena in Detroit last year and at the outdoor stadium in Winnipeg in 2017. They have losses at Commonwealth Stadium (Heritage Classic), the old Detroit Olympia arena (1979), and in Sacramento, Springfield, Oklahoma City, Richfield (Ohio) and Saskatchewan Place.
6. I am starting a new category this year. The LIOT (rhymes with Riot) award. Short for “Laying It On Thick.” An early candidate is PK Subban for his comment after the Predators 3-2 victory over the Rangers last night. Filip Forsberg scored one goal in the victory. “In my opinion, when he’s playing like that, he’s the best player in the League,” said Subban. When you see a contender for this comment, please tweet me @jasongregor with #LIOT.
7. Here is another early candidate from Pierre Lebrun. I respect Pierre a lot, he’s a great guy, but this gets him in running for #LIOT.
Starting to think $12.5 M a year would be a bargain for the Leafs to get No. 34 signed on his next deal.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) October 4, 2018
8. Never underestimate the importance of confidence. Patrik Laine scored 44 goals last season. He didn’t score once this preseason, but scored on opening night. His head coach Paul Maurice said this after the game. “It’s good for him. He hadn’t scored in exhibition, so he was fairly close to quitting hockey. He takes it very personally when he doesn’t score.” Of course he wouldn’t quit, but it is a good reminder of how players feel, especially those who expect to produce. Don’t discount the importance of a good start for the Oilers skilled forwards.
9. Brutal news for Devils sophomore Jesper Bratt. He was placed on the IR with a broken jaw yesterday. An errant puck ricocheted off the crossbar and hit him in the face. Bratt was 5th on the Devils in scoring last year and they were hoping he’d be more productive this year. After his injury, they signed Drew Stafford to a one-year deal. Stafford had been in camp with them.
10. Kirill Maksimov didn’t have a great rookie tournament and training camp for the Oilers. He needs to put in more work off the ice, which is what they said about Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear a few years ago. This past summer Jones and Bear had the best training of their lives and came to camp in great shape and both looked better. Maksimov is still young and it might take a few years for him to “get it,” but he has a lot of skill. He is off to a good start in the OHL with 4-3-7 in five games. He can really shoot the puck, and if he puts in the work off the ice he could become a nice late round pick for the Oilers.
11. McDavid has scored a goal against every NHL except three, and he faces all three of those teams on the Oilers season-opening four-game road trip. He has 0-8-8 in five games v. the Devils. He has 0-7-7 in four games v. Boston and 0-8-8 in eight games against Winnipeg. There is zero chance he returns home goalless against all three. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score against all three on this road trip, but I will say he scores a goal against the Devils and Bruins for sure.
12. Reminder that McDavid scored 51 EV points in the final 39 games last season. Could he reach a 100 EV points this season? It is a story line to watch, and if he does the magnitude of that accomplishment should not be overlooked.
13. I predict McDavid scores 126 points. The most in the NHL since Jaromir Jagr tallied 127 in 1999. In fact, only five players have scored 120+ points since 1995. Mario Lemieux had 161 in 1996 and 122 in 1997. Jagr scored 149 in 1996, 127 in 1999, 123 in 2006 and 121in 2001. Joe Thornton produced 125 in 2006, while Joe Sakic (1996) and Sidney Crosby (2007) each had 120. Reaching 120 would be a massive season, but I will go with 52-74-126 for McDavid. What is your point prediction?