Sports is filled with outliers. Whether it is individual players or a team, every year someone is doing something unexpected, and sometimes those extend into seasons. On rare occasions, they extend to a full decade.
Oilers fans have witnessed a lot of frustration, mainly from seeing the most losses in the NHL since 2007. It has been brutal, but during those dark years, there was one situation where the Oilers, and their fans, would have a positive result.
A road game in Florida against the Panthers.
Edmonton hasn’t lost in Florida’s home rink since March 8th, 2002. They’ve won nine consecutive road games v. the Panthers. And trust me, it is an outlier, when you compare how they have fared in their previous ten road games against the rest of the NHL. Here is a look at their last ten road games against Eastern Conference teams.
Buffalo and NYR: 5-4-1
New Jersey: 4-2-4
Columbus and Detroit: 3-5-2
Toronto, Pittsburgh and Washington: 2-6-2
New York Islanders: 2-7-1
Tampa Bay: 1-8-1
Going out East hasn’t been pleasant for the Oilers.
The West hasn’t been much different
Winnipeg: 5-1-3* (Only played nine games in Winnipeg since Jets returned).
San Jose: 4-4-2
St. Louis: 3-6-1
Anaheim and Dallas: 3-7-0
Los Angeles: 1-9-0 (Oilers ended losing streak with a win a 4-3 on February 24th last year.
The Oilers are 2-4-0 on the road v. the East this year, and extending their win-streak v. the Panthers would be massive. It would improve the Oilers to 9-6-1 and they’d arrive in Edmonton late tonight with seven of their 16 eastern road games already completed.
The Oilers don’t return to the Eastern time zone until February when they are in Philadelphia and Montreal on the 2nd and 3rd. So after a brutal first six week of travel, the Oilers should, in theory, physically feel better with less travel between November 9th and February 2nd.
In their 40 year history (39 seasons played), the Oilers have never had a 10-game road winning streak against one opponent. The nine-game run v. Florida is already the longest in franchise history. Even when the Oilers were the top team in the NHL it didn’t occur. They won eight straight in Detroit between 1982-1987. They won six straight road games in Vancouver and St.Louis in the 1980s as well.
Their current streak against the Panthers is a major outlier, and they will try to keep it that way tonight.
I fully expect when the Oilers return home they will send one, or ideally both, of Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi to Bakersfield. The Oilers will arrive home late this evening and likely have Friday off. Bakersfield is playing in Iowa tonight and Saturday. The Oilers could send the players to Iowa Friday evening, or they could just wait until Sunday and send them directly to Bakersfield and let them get comfortable. Either way, one will be going down, and both of them should.
Yamamoto isn’t ready for the NHL. He is 20. Get him to the AHL stat. Puljujarvi is in the same boat. Playing him eleven minutes a night isn’t helping his cause. He isn’t contributing enough to make it worthwhile to play him and risk him losing more confidence. I hope these moves occur over the weekend.
Since October 17th Leon Draisaitl has eight goals, second most in the NHL. After a bit of a slow start, he has played very well as of late. And he has only played 31 of his 208 5×5 minutes with McDavid.
Luongo returned to the lineup last Friday and posted a 4-2 victory after being injured in the Panthers opening game of the season. They haven’t played since last Friday in Finland, so they should come out firing. The Oilers competed very well in Washington and Tampa Bay, and if it wasn’t some stellar goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy, that score would have been much closer. They need the same effort tonight against a team that isn’t as deep or talented as the Capitals and Lightning.
Edmonton’s bottom six needs to create some chances against Florida’s third D pairing.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Florida Panthers have gotten out to a rough start. A 3-5-3 record to open the season; although, they did win their last matchup.
Despite that, they’ve gained points in over half of their games. Their NHL-worst nine total points are only tempered by the fact that they’ve played at least two fewer games than any other team.
The last time the Florida Panthers faced the Edmonton Oilers was on March 17th last season. The 35-26-7 Panthers dropped the decision to the 30-35-5 Oilers by a 4-2 final count.
Vincent Trocheck (28) and Frank Vatrano (4) split the pipes for the Cats, with assists credited to Derek MacKenzie and Aaron Ekblad on the Trocheck marker.
Connor McDavid led the Oilers with a goal and two helpers. Roberto Luongo stopped 32-of-35 in the loss. The Panthers won nine of their final 13 games afterward, only to fall one point short of Lord Stanley’s Tournament.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Outlier continues. The Oilers win, and again they need extra time, defeating the Panthers 4-3 in OT.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McNuge love playing the Panthers. McDavid has nine points in four games, while RNH has eleven points in ten games. They each pick up two points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Brodziak and Strome ended their goal droughts on this road trip and Tobias Rieder ends his tonight.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/08/2018 – 11:00 am MT