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Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

GDB Game Notes Oilers @ Devils: October Goals

The Edmonton Oilers skate into New Jersey plush with confidence and looking to start a season 4-0 for only the fourth time in franchise history. The schedule maker gave them a slight edge as the Devils played in Philadelphia last night and lost 4-0. The Devils have been outscored 15-2 over their last seven periods and 11 seconds of hockey.

Their special teams have been brutal thus far. Their PP is 0-for-9 while their penalty kill is humming along at an ugly 50%, allowing five goals on ten kills. The Oilers need to pounce on a struggling attack.

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1. The Oilers offence is on fire with 14 goals in three games. They have seven players averaging at least one point per game. Tomas Jurco and Darnell Nurse are at 1.00 PPG, Oscar Klefbom and Zack Kassian are at 1.33, James Neal is at 2.00, Leon Draisaitl is at 2.33 and Connor McDavid is at 2.66 PPG.

2. We discussed Neal’s red-hot start a lot yesterday, and rightfully so, but McDavid has eight points, including seven in his past two games and he looks like he is just heating up. Before the year started I felt McDavid would set a new career high in points, which he has done every season thus far scoring 48 (45 games), 100, 108 and 116. I predicted he’d score 128.

3. I based that on my belief that he still hasn’t reached his peak, combined with the Oilers being a better team, their powerplay gaining continuity, and that he is highly driven to regain both the Art Ross and Hart trophies. He has scored eight points in three games, and he’s made it look easy — almost effortless. I know it takes a huge amount of work to become as good as McDavid, but as I re-watched Tuesday’s game I paid close attention to McDavid. He looks quicker to me, but his body language after a rare mishandling of the puck or a pass, showed me he still feels his game isn’t where he wants to be. And if he feels that despite scoring eight points, the rest of league should look out. Now I think he will surpass 130 points.

4. The Devils goalies are struggling. In 102 minutes of action, Corey Schneider has a .891sv% and a 3.51 GAA. Mackenzie Blackwood is even worse with a .800sv% and a 6.58 GAA in 82 minutes. He started against Buffalo and played the third period against the Jets after Schneider left the game with cramping. Schneider started last night in Philly, so I’d guess the Oilers will see Blackwood, unless head coach John Hynes goes against the conventional thinking of not playing a goalie back-to-back and plays Schneider. Either way, the Oilers need to take advantage when they have good scoring opportunities.

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5. In six of the past eight visits to New Jersey the final score was 2-1. (I didn’t include last season’s game in Sweden, which was technically a Devils home game). The other two games were 3-2 and 4-3. Not exactly free wheeling. The Oilers are 4-3-1 in their last eight visits, and while the games are rarely edge-of-your-seat exciting, look for more offence tonight.

6. The Oilers increased team speed is becoming more noticeable every game. They skated the best against the Islanders, a team who is very quick and aggressive, and the Oilers handled their speed without many mistakes. The Oilers weren’t caught in the own zone for extended periods of time. Their speed allowed them to get in passing lanes, or beat Islanders to pucks, that they simply couldn’t do last year.

7. Neal became the first player in Oilers history to score six goals in the first three games. Outstanding, and it got me curious to see who led the Oilers in goals in October year by year.

8. In 1979, their inaugural season, Blair MacDonald scored eight. Then I uncovered this gem: In 1980 Dave Semenko led the Oilers with seven goals in October. Soft hands Sammy. I love it. And it ties in perfectly with this current promotion. Like Neal this year, Semenko had six goals in a three-game stretch in October punctuated by a hat trick in New York against the Rangers on October 19th. Semenko’s six goals came in games #3-#5 that season.

9. Here are the other leaders, year-by-year, for most goals in October:

1981: Wayne Gretzky (13), Mark Messier (11).
1982: Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson (8).
1983: Gretzky (13).
1984: Gretzky (11), Kurri (10).
1985: Anderson (11)
1986: Gretzky (11)
1987: Anderson (10)
1988: Craig Simpson (8)
1989: Kurri (9)
1990: Petr Klima (5)
1991: Esa Tikkanen and Joe Murphy (6).
1992: Simpson (7)
1993: Doug Weight (6)
1994: Lockout
1995: Zdeno Ciger (5)
1996: Ryan Smyth (9)
1997: Weight (6)
1998: Bill Guerin (8)
1999: Alex Selivanov (7)
2000: Guerin (8)
2001: Anson Carter (9)
2002: Carter and Mike Comrie (4)
2003: Smyth (4)
2004: Lockout
2005: Raffi Torres (7)
2006: Petr Sykora (7)
2007: Shawn Horcoff (4)
2008: Horcoff (3)
2009: Dustin Penner (9)
2010: Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle (4)
2011: Smyth and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (5)
2012: Lockout
2013: Nugent-Hopkins (4)
2014: Taylor Hall (6)
2015: Hall and Connor McDavid (5)
2016: McDavid (5)
2017: McDavid (5)
2018: McDavid (9)

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10. Neal has eleven games to score four goals and become the first Oilers player to score ten goals in October since 1987. Do you think he does it?

11. Neal became the fifth Oiler to score four goals in a road game and the first since Alexander Selivanov on November 14th, 1999, in Chicago. The others are: Wayne Gretzky (6 times), Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri.

12. Random thought of the day: What if Alex Chiasson didn’t come down with the flu before game two? Neal likely doesn’t get promoted to the first unit PP and score twice in game two, and then explode in game three. Neal has taken advantage of his opportunity, but it might not have come without Chiasson being ill. Neal likely would eventually gotten some time on the first PP unit, but it is interesting how one illness benefitted Neal and the Oilers significantly.

13. I see no reason not to start Mikko Koskinen tonight. He won on Tuesday, played solid throughout and deserves another start in goal.

THE SEASON LAUNCH PARTY

If you’ve ever been to one of our events, you’ll already know that your ticket to the event will not only guarantee you memories that last a lifetime, a swag bag that will help power to your through life, but it also helps us raise money for a local charity all at the same time. This time around, we wanted to make the event as accessible as possible so that we can pack the Brewhouse and kick off the season with as many Nation citizens as we get in the building. And since the party starts so early on a Saturday, the Brewhouse is able to offer an all-ages event, meaning this is the perfect event to bring your kids to.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Where: The Canadian Brewhouse – Lewis Estates (1320 Webber Greens Dr NW)
When: Saturday, October 12th, with doors opening at 10 AM and the hockey game starting at 11 AM
How much: Tickets are $15 each with net proceeds going directly to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The bag: Exclusive Season Opener Party tee, Brewhouse GC, Oodle Noodle GC, stickers, and a ticket to enter all of the draws and raffles
How: Tickets are available here.

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