Good NHL teams win on the road, but very few good teams are bad at home. The Edmonton Oilers are 2-0 at home this season, and that is the first time they have been 2-0 since October 2010. They haven’t won their first three home games since October 2006, when they won their first six.
In the previous four seasons with Connor McDavid on the roster, the Oilers are 81-69-14 on home ice. They sit 25th in home victories, but after two consecutive home wins maybe the Oilers can start to make Edmonton an imposing rink for the opposition.
Two wins isn’t much, but you have to start somewhere. Tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers, and Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, the Oilers will face teams on the second night of back-to-back games. It isn’t a major advantage, but it is a slight one and good teams exploit those opportunities. They have a total of ten home games this season where their opponent plays the night before.
Tonight against Flyers, who played in Calgary last night.
October 18th home to Red Wings. They are in Calgary on the 17th. **Third game in four nights for Detroit.**
November 6th they host the Blues. STL is in Vancouver the previous night.
November 8th v. Devils. NJ is in Calgary the night before. **Third game in four nights for New Jersey**
December 4th home to the Senators, and the Sens are in Vancouver on the 3rd.
December 8th they host the Sabres, who are in Vancouver on the 7th. **Third game in four nights for Buffalo.**
January 29th the Flames are in town. They host St. Louis on the 29th in Calgary.
March 9th against Golden Knights, who are in Calgary on the 8th. **Third game in four night for Vegas.**
March 13th they host the Islanders. In Calgary the night prior. *Third game in four nights for New York.**
March 29th home to Ducks. They are in Vancouver on the 28th.
Almost 25% of their home games are against an opponent who played the night before. I don’t think it is unrealistic to expect them to win at least seven of those games if they want to make the playoffs. Five of these ten games are against teams on their third game in four nights.
Edmonton is off to a good start at home with two wins. They scored first in both of them, but then had to come from behind to defeat the Canucks, and actually came from behind four times against the Kings before defeating them 6-5. They weren’t the prettiest of wins, but they were victories and for a team hellbent on becoming a playoff contender, becoming a solid home team is a must.
In 2017, the only year they have made the playoffs since 2006, the Oilers were a solid 25-12-4 on home ice, which tied them for eighth most home wins in the NHL. Last season only one playoff team, Columbus (20th), finished outside the top-16 in points on home ice. The Montreal Canadiens, who finished ninth in the east, two back of Columbus, were fifth with 54 points (25-12-4), but the Blue Jackets were the second best road team in the NHL and that got them to the dance.
It is only October and it is early in the season, but tonight presents a wonderful opportunity for the Oilers to start 3-0 at home for the first time in 13 years: the Flyers are 0-1-1 on the road so far this season, and they have traveled a lot after starting the season in Prague. The Flyers have logged 18,633 KM since leaving for Lausanne, Switzerland. The Oilers traveled 6,722 KM on their recent four-game road trip, so they are clearly the more rested team.
Good teams take advantage of a favourable schedule and the Oilers won’t face a team who has traveled this much, in such a short time and on the second night of back-to-backs all season. This is a game they should win.
“He(Chiasson) missed some time early in the year and we want to get him more involved. And with Nygard injury we needed a LW so we will move Neal there and Chiasson moves up on the right side beside them (RNH and Neal),” Tippett on new 2nd line
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) October 16, 2019
Joakim Nygard is out two-four weeks with a rib injury he sustained Monday in Chicago. Dave Tippett was looking for a left winger so he moved James Neal to LW and slid Alex Chiasson up. “He missed about a week of time and we want to get him more involved,” said Tippett on Chiasson.
Patrick Russell draws back in and Tippett will go with a bigger, heavier line and a quicker, smaller line in his bottom six. “I’ve liked how they have played, but whether you are in the top six or bottom six, players want to see their chances go in,” said Tippett on the fact the bottom six has created more chances but are still without a goal at 5×5.
Carter Hart, the pride of Sherwood Park, gets the start. He’s been excellent in his first three starts going 2-0-1 with a .938sv% and a 1.62 GAA. The Flyers have only allowed 80 shots in his three starts, but last night they showed some fatigue and you wonder if their three week trek to Europe, back to Philly and now through western Canada is catching up with them.
Claude Giroux split his time with Hayes and Couturier last night in Calgary as Alain Vigneault looked for a spark offensively. Travis Konecny leads the Flyers with seven points in four games, but the only other forward with more than two points is Oscar Linblom with 2-1-3. Claude Giroux has one assist in four games, while Jakub Voracek has no points in four games and James Van Riemsdyk has none in three games. Voracek is averaging only 15:36/game thus far, which is 13th among Flyers skaters and seventh among forwards. It is only four games, but his $8.25 million cap hit means the Flyers are expecting much more production from him.
The Flyers are only carrying 22 players. Samuel Morin is the seventh defenceman and he has yet to play, while Connor Bunnaman dressed the first three games, but sat out last night after the Flyers signed Chris Stewart and inserted him into the lineup.
NEAL’S HOT START CONTINUES…
Last week after Neal scored six goals in the first four games, I looked at who led the Oilers in goals each October. He is already tied for the 14th most goals in October by and Oilers, and if he scores two more he’ll become the first player since Glenn Anderson in 1987 to score ten goals in October.
With eight goals in six games, I wanted to look at who led the NHL each year in October since the league expanded to 21 teams in 1979. And how many goals the October leader finished with at the end of the season.
1979: Charlie Simmer had 11 in 10 games. He finished with a career-best 56 goals in 64 games.
1980: No one scored ten goals.
1981: Gretzky scored 13 in 13 games. He scored 18 goals in 12 games in November and then he scored 19 goals in 13 games in December to reach 50 goals in 39 games. The crazy part about that season was between December 13th-February 28th, Gretzky scored 50 goals in 35 games. Incredible. He finished the season with an NHL record 92 goals in 80 games.
1982: Mike Bossy buried 14 goals in 12 games. He scored 60 goals in 79 games.
1983: Rick Vaive tallied 14 goals in 12 games. He tallied 52 goals in 76 games.
1984: Bossy had 13 goals in nine games. He finished with 58 goals in 76 games.
1985: Simmer had 12 goals in 10 games. He ended the season with 36 goals in 55 games. He was 31 years old.
1986: Mario Lemieux potted 15 goals in 11 games. He finished the year with 54 goals in 63 games.
1987: Lemieux had 13 goals in 12 games. He would go on to score 70 goals in 77 games.
1988: Lemieux scored 16 times in 11 games — an NHL record for most goals in October. He finished the season with a career-high 85 goals in 76 games.
1989: Brett Hull (11 games) and Joe Nieuwendyk (13 games) scored 11 goals. Hull finished with 72 goals in 80 games while Nieuwendyk scored 45 times in 79 games.
1990: Hull scored 15 times in 12 games. He’d go on to score a career-best 86 goals in 78 games.
1991: Owen Nolan potted 13 goals in 12 games. He ended the year with 42 goals in 75 games.
1992: Lemieux had 16 goals in 11 games. He finished the season with 69 goals in 60 games.
1993: Eric Lindros scored 11 goals in 12 games. He tallied 44 goals in 65 games.
1995: Brian Savage scored 11 times in 11 games. He finished the season with 25 goals in 75 games.
1996: Mike Gartner had 10 goals in 11 games. He ended the season with 32 goals in 82 games. He was 38 years of age.
1997: John Leclair tallied 11 genos in 14 games. He would tie his career-best with 51 goals in 82 games.
1998: No one scored ten goals.
1999: Brian Savage (12 games) Luc Robitaille and Valeri Bure (13 games) each scored 10 goals. Savage got injured and finished with 17 goals in 38 games. Robitaille (33 years old) would score 36 goals in 71 games while Bure scored a career-best 35 goals in 82 games.
2000: Scott Young had 12 goals in 12 games. He finished with a career-high 40 goals in 81 games. He was 33 years old.
2001: Mark Parrish scored 11 times in 11 games. He tallied a career-best 30 goals in 78 games.
2002: No one scored ten goals.
2003: Ilya Kovalchuk had 11 goals in 11 games. He finished the season with 41 goals in 81 games.
2005: Jaromir Jagr buried 12 goals in 13 games. He’d score 54 goals in 82 games. He was 33 years old.
2006: Chris Drury and Brendan Shanahan (11 games) and Marian Hossa (13 games) each had 10 goals. Hossa finished the season with 43 goals in 82 games, Drury’s season ended with a career-high 37 goals in 77 games while Shanahan scored 29 goals in 67 games. He was 36 years old.
2007: Henrik Zetterberg scored 10 times in 13 games. He’d score a career-best 43 goals in 75 games.
2008: No one scored ten goals.
2009: Alex Ovechkin had 14 goals in 13 games. He scored 50 goals in 72 games.
2010: Patrick Sharp scored 10 goals in 12 games. He finished with 34 goals in 74 games.
2011: Phil Kessel potted 10 goals in 11 games. He ended the season with a career-high 37 goals in 82 games.
2013: Alex Steen had 11 goals in 10 games. He finished with a career-high 33 goals in 68 games.
2014: Corey Perry scored 10 times in 12 games. He scored 33 goals in 67 games.
2015: No one scored ten goals
2016: No one scored ten goals
2017: Nikita Kucherov scored 13 times in 13 games. He finished with 39 goals in 80 games.
2018: David Pastrnak and Patrick Kane each scored 11 goals in 12 games. Pastrnak finished with 38 goals in 66 games while Kane tallied 44 in 81 games.
Of the 30 aforementioned players who had 10+ goals and led, or tied, for the league lead in goals in October only two of them didn’t finish the season with at least 30 goals. Brian Savage, twice, but once he was injured and only played 38 games and Shanahan when he scored 29 goals in 67 games at the age of 36.
If Neal can reach ten goals by the end of October, history tells us he has an excellent chance of scoring at least 30 goals.
Right now Neal has eight goals in six games. Auston Matthews has seven in seven while Anthony Mantha and David Pastrnak have six through six games. Let’s see who remains hot over the final 15 days of October.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers have their first 3-0 start on home ice in 13 years as they skate away with a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nugent-Hopkins scores his first goal of the season. It is his ninth goal in 12 career games against the Flyers.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The bottom six produces a goal as Sheahan and Khaira team up for some much needed offensive contributions from outside the top-two lines.
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