The quest for a playoff appearance begins tonight for the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. Both organizations are hoping they can make the postseason after years of being on the outside. The Oilers have only made it once in the past 13 years, while the Canucks have missed the past four seasons, and only made once in the last six. Their four-year skid is longer than the Oilers, but the Oilers current 13-year stretch of futility is the worst active streak.
For the past two days Mike Smith has been in the "home" net at practice. For past few years on morning skate the starter was at that end. It is end Oilers defend twice. It is why I lean towards him starting opening night.
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) October 1, 2019
1. This is the first season since 2009/2010 where the Oilers have started a season without one player aged 19 or younger. Ethan Bear and Connor McDavid are the youngest, but both of them are 22. The last time the Oilers youngest regular player was 22 was Ales Hemsky in 2005/2006.
2. Ken Holland has made it clear he will not rush players. FINALLY. This has been a problem in Edmonton since 2007, and it is nice to see it is changing. It doesn’t mean they will never have a teenager or 20 year old on the team, but at least the endless rushing of players looks to have stopped.
3. “I’d like the young guys to stay in the AHL until at least Christmas, and even the entire year. I want the young players to play important roles and big minutes down there instead of a smaller role here,” Holland said yesterday. Of course things can change due to injuries, but expect patience with Holland running the team.
4. This is the Oilers 40th season opener. They are an impressive 18-7-4 in 29 season openers on home ice. They are 3-6-1 (tie) in season openers on the road, and overall they are 21-13-5 on opening night.
5. Connor McDavid begins his quest to become only the ninth player in NHL history to win the Art Ross trophy three times as the NHL’s leading scorer. If he wins the scoring race he will join Wayne Gretzky (10), Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux (6), Phil Esposito and Jaromir Jagr (5), Stan Makita (4) and Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur (3).
6. McDavid will also try to become the 26th player in NHL history with four 100-point seasons, but only the 14th player to do it in four consecutive seasons joining Gretzky (13 years), Steve Yzerman, Peter Stastny, Mike Bossy, Bobby Orr, Lemieux and Lafleur (6), Marcel Dionne, Jari Kurri, Dale Hawerchuk, Bryan Trottier and Esposito (5) and Brett Hull (4).
7. Leon Draisaitl’s 105 points last season made him only the 11th active player to score 100 points in a season. Draisaitl has scored the seventh most points in the NHL over the past three seasons with 252, trailing Blake Wheeler (256), Brad Marchand (270), Patrick Kane (275), Sidney Crosby (278), Nikita Kucherov (313) and McDavid (324).
8. Bo Horvat is the Canucks points leader over the past three seasons with 157 points, followed by Brock Boeser (116), Henrik Sedin (100) and Daniel Sedin (99). The latter three only played two of the past three seasons.
9. Staying healthy is very difficult in the NHL. Over the past three seasons, only five forwards have played all 246 games: Connor Brown, Patrick Marleau, Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Claude Giroux. While six D-men; Dmitri Orlov, Jaccob Slavin, Ivan Provorov, Drew Doughty, Keith Yandle and Brent Burns have played all 246. Milan Lucic played the most games for the Oilers with 243, while Draisaitl and McDavid played 242. Horvat played the most for the Canucks at 227, followed by Troy Stecher (217) and Ben Hutton (201).
10. This year Elias Pettersson will try to become the 14th Canucks player to score 80 points in a season, and the eighth to score 90. Without using the Internet can you name the seven Canucks players who scored 90 points in a season? (Answer below)
11. How hard is it to score goals consistently in the NHL? Only two players have scored 40+ goals in each of the past two seasons: Alex Ovechkin scored 51 and 49, while McDavid scored 41 both times.
12. Mike Smith and Jacob Markstrom were tied for third in goalie assists last year with three trailing Corey Crawford and Jaroslav Halak who each had four.
13. Do you remember that Smith was the last goalie to score a goal in the NHL when he lit the lamp against Detroit on October 19th, 2013?
14. This is the 245th meeting between the Canucks and Oilers. Edmonton is 123-102-19 (21 loses were OT/SO losses, while the 19 are ties). In 122 home games the Oilers are 71-45-6, and since the 2005 lockout Edmonton is 22-16-3 on home ice against the Canucks.
15. Tonight will be the third time the Canucks are the opponents for the Oilers home opener. Vancouver won the two previous meetings, 5-2 in 1989 and 5-4 in 1992.
16. Six players will play their first game as a member of the Edmonton Oilers tonight: James Neal, Joakim Nygard, Gaetan Haas, Mike Smith, Markus Granlund and Josh Archibald. For Nygard and Haas it will be their first NHL game.
17. Granlund spent the past three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks scoring 19, 8 and 12 goals. The Oilers are his third NHL team.
18. The Oilers are Neal’s sixth NHL team and he has scored 20 goals with Dallas, Pittsburgh, Nashville and Las Vegas before slumping to seven goals last season. In his first year with a team he scored 24 goals in Dallas, 40 with Pittsburgh, 23 with Nashville and seven with the Flames. An average of 23 goals. My prediction last month was he will score at least 22.
19. The Oilers are Archibald’s third team. He was drafted in the sixth round, 174th overall, by the Penguins in 2011. He played 197 AHL games for Wilkes Barre, and nine with Wheeling in the ECHL, and 14 NHL games with the Penguins before moving to Arizona midway through the 2017/2018 season. He played 39 games for the Coyotes producing 5-6-11 in 39 games and then produced 12-10-22 in 68 games last season.
20. The Oilers are Smith’s fifth NHL team. He debuted with the Stars on October 21st, 2006 and shutout the Coyotes 4-0. He lost his first game with the Tampa Bay Lighting on February 27th, 2008 to the Minnesota Wild 3-2. In his first start with the Coyotes on October 8th, 2011 Smith lost 6-3 to San Jose and in his first start with the Flames he lost 3-0 to the Oilers on October 4th, 2017. He stopped 42 of 44 shots that night.
***Trivia answer: Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Pavel Bure, Alex Mogilny, Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund and Patrik Sundstrom.***
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