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Game Notes: Canucks @ Oilers G1

The Edmonton Oilers are a good team. How good remains to be seen, but after years, heck decades, of being a non-contender, the Oilers are once again a legitimate playoff contender.

After one year in the all-Canadian (North) division, Edmonton returns to the Pacific Division and with Vegas, Vancouver, Calgary, Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim and the newest NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken.

Many feel the overall depth of the Pacific division isn’t as deep as the other divisions. Will that be accurate? We find out starting tonight.

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— Edmonton has the 10th best points% in season openers going 22-15-4 for .585P%. Vancouver is 9th at .590 with a record of 27-18-3-2. Edmonton is 11th best on home ice at .661 (31-9-3), while Vancouver is 8th best all-time at .529 (9-8).

—This is the third consecutive season the Oilers begin the campaign with a home game against Vancouver. In 2019, Edmonton defeated Vancouver 3-2, while last season the Canucks won 5-3. Connor McDavid mentioned yesterday he didn’t like how they started last year. I sense they will be more focused and determined tonight. They seem like a team on a mission to prove they can play a more consistent game most nights.

— After three seasons with very little improvement in lowering their goals against at 5×5, Edmonton made some progress last season. They allowed 2.18 in 2018, 2.14 in 2019 and 2.16 in 2020. It dropped to 2.07 in 2021. Not a massive drop, but some progress. Between 2018-2020 they were 28th in GA at 5×5, and last year they finished 21st. To be middle of the pack, 16th, they likely need to be around 1.90-1.95 GA/game at 5×5. If they do that they will have a great chance to win the division, because their offence will be better.

— McDavid is looking to become only the 19th player in NHL history with five 100-point seasons. If he does he will join a select group.

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5: Paul Coffey, Jaromir Jagr and Denis Savard.
6: Sidney Crosby, Phil Esposito, Dale Hawerchuk, Jari Kurri, Guy Lafleur, Mark Messier, Bobby Orr, Joe Sakic, Bryan Trottier and Steve Yzerman.
7: Mike Bossy and Peter Stastny
8: Marcel Dionne
10: Mario Lemieux
15: Wayne Gretzky

— McDavid sits 8th on the Oilers all-time scoring list with 574 points in 407 games. He should be 5th when the season ends. He will pass Doug Weight (577), Ryan Smyth (631) and Coffey (669).

— Leon Draisaitl is currently 9th with 506 points. He should pass Weight, and has an outside shot to pass Smyth if he scores 126 points.

— Darnell Nurse is 5th all-time in goals by an Oilers defenceman with 45. He will pass Steve Smith (46) this season and then will trail Kevin Lowe (74), Charlie Huddy (81) and Coffey (209). Nurse will likely finish 2nd all-time on this list. He is currently 10th all-time in points (157) and if he scores 32 points he will be 5th at season’s end.

— Odd stat that might only interest me: McDavid was only the 1st star of the week once last season, and that was the final week of the season. Somehow he was only first star of the week once, over the 17-week period, despite leading the NHL with 105 points in 56 games. He was the 2nd star four times. As I said, I know it might only interest me, but it seems odd. Like his ridiculous production became ho-hum. Or simply the NHL wanted to make sure others won.

— Edmonton needs more scoring at 5×5 from forwards other than McDavid and Draisaitl. The 3rd-12th forwards combined for 59 goals in 56 games last season. Here is a quick comparison to the other rest of the NHL:

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WEST 3-12F TOP 2F EAST 3-12F TOP 2F
COL 81 31 WSH 81 27
VGK 79 27 TOR 80 45
WPG 74 29 PITT 79 23
NSH 70 19 NYI 73 29
CGY 68 26 NYR 73 24
DAL 68 26 NJD 70 21
LA 68 17 PHI 69 27
MIN 68 33 OTT 68 24
SJ 66 25 FLO 67 28
ANA 62 24 TB 66 25
STL 61 24 BOS 64 30
VAN 60 23 CAR 64 24
EDM 59 32 MTL 63 30
ARI 58 22 DET 58 17
CHI 57 27 CBJ 57 23
SEA NA NA BUFF 52 19

Edmonton was 26th in goals from forwards 3-12, while they were 3rd in goals from their top-two goal scoring forwards. It isn’t just the bottom six forwards who need to produce more. The Oilers need more goal scoring depth from the other four players in the top-six.

— Zach Hyman will add some scoring punch, so too with Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan on the third line. Jesse Puljujarvi seems poised to have a career year. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto are the two top-six forwards who need to produce more at 5×5. Both are capable of better offensive production than they produced last year. The bottom six needs to chip in more as well, and on paper Edmonton has more offensive punch in their bottom six. We’ll see if they can produce as a group.

— Edmonton did have great 5×5 goal scoring production from their blueline last season.

WEST DMEN EAST DMEN
VGK 29 PITT 24
DAL 24 WSH 23
EDM 24 FLO 23
VAN 20 TB 20
COL 19 NYR 19
CGY 18 CAR 17
ARI 18 CBJ 17
STL 17 BUF 16
CHI 16 PHI 15
NSH 15 OTT 13
MIN 15 BOS 13
SJ 14 MTL 13
ANA 14 DET 12
LA 10 NYI 11
WPG 6 NJD 11
SEA NA TOR 7

They were tied for 2nd overall with Pittsburgh and Dallas with 24 goals. Only Vegas had more with 29.

— Edmonton did finish 9th overall in goals for (115) at 5×5, but they were 21st in goals against with 116. I expect they will score more goals at 5×5 this season, and with more puck possession, in theory they should spend less time defending which should reduce their goals against. Will that happen?

— Edmonton currently has seven new players on the roster: Hyman, Foegele, Ryan, Brendan Perlini, Tyler Benson, Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci. When they announce the Colton Sceviour contract it will be eight. Those are the new faces while Dominik Kahun, Alex Chiasson, Jujhar Khaira, Gaetan Haas, Tyler Ennis, James Neal, Ethan Bear, Adam Larsson and Caleb Jones are out. Josh Archibald is on LTIR and his status for the season is undetermined at this time.

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— Vancouver has 13 new faces currently on the roster. They brought in Chiasson, Jason Dickinson, Justin Downing, Connor Garland, Juho Lammiko, Nik Petan, Vasily Podkolsin, Kyle Burroughs, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Brad Hunt, Tucker Poolman, Luke Schenn and Jaroslav Halak.

They moved on from Jake Virtanen, Antoine Roussel, Zack MacEwan, Jayce Hawryluk, Jimmy Vesey, Travis Boyd, Tyler Graovac, Loui Eriksson, Nate Schmidt, Alex Edler, Travis Hamonic, Olli Joulevi and Braden Holtby. Brock Boeser is on IR to start the season and when activated I’d guess Burroughs will be reassigned. That is a significant change for the Canucks, and you wonder if it will take some time to find chemistry among the D pairings and forwards.

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