Game Notes G1: Oilers @ Canucks — Welcome to Season #44

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ 44th NHL season begins tonight in Vancouver. All arrows point to the Oilers being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but they have 82 games to prove it and then hope they are healthy when the playoffs begin in April. Their journey to the playoffs likely won’t be smooth. Very few teams coast through the regular season and the playoffs. The 2023 Boston Bruins, 2019 Tampa Bay Lighting and 2006 Detroit Red Wings can attest that being great in the regular season guarantees you nothing. In fact, since 2006 we have seen six teams finish the regular season with 120+ points. The Bruins, Lightning, Red Wings and 2010 Capitals all lost in the first round. The 2022 Florida Panthers (122 points) lost in round two as did the 2016 Washington Capitals (120 points).
The Oilers’ quest for the Stanley Cup begins tonight, but the path to hoisting the Cup is not easy, not guaranteed, and that’s what makes another NHL season so exciting and intriguing.
—  The Oilers and Vancouver Canucks will face each other in their season-opening game for the fifth consecutive season. The previous four were in Edmonton. The Oilers won 3-2 in 2020, 3-2 in a shootout in 2022 and 5-3 last season. The Canucks won 5-3 in 2021.
— Edmonton is 24-15-4 in season openers, while Vancouver is 27-19-4-2. However, this will be the 11th season-opening road game for the Oilers. They are 3-6-1 all-time. In the Connor McDavid era, the Oilers are 0-2 in season openers on the road. They lost in St. Louis in McDavid’s first NHL games in 2015 and lost to New Jersey (in Sweden) in 2018. The last time the Oilers won a road season opener was January 20th, 2013, when they defeated Vancouver 3-2 in a shootout.
— McDavid is looking to become the sixth player in NHL history with seven 100-point seasons. If he reaches the century mark, he will join this select group.
7: Mike Bossy and Peter Stastny
8: Marcel Dionne
10: Mario Lemieux
15: Wayne Gretzky
He seems destined to join Lemieux and Gretzky as the only players with 10 or more seasons of 100 points.
— McDavid sits fifth on the Oilers all-time scoring list with 850 points in 569 games. He will pass Glenn Anderson (906 points) for fourth this season and most likely surpass Mark Messier (1,034), Jari Kurri (1,043) next season. He has a few years before he will challenge Gretzky (1,669). McDavid needs 150 points to reach 1,000 points in his career. If he reaches 1,000 this season, he will be the third-fastest player to 1,000 points. Gretzky tallied his 1,000th point in 424 games, while Lemieux did it in 513. Gretzky is actually the second fastest to 1,000 points as well, as he needed 433 games to go from point 1001 to point 2,000. Crazy.
— If McDavid leads the league in scoring, he’ll become the fourth player in history with six Art Ross trophies. Gretzky won 10, while Gordie Howe and Lemieux each won six. McDavid winning at least two more Art Ross trophies seems inevitable, which would place him second all time. Can he win five more in his career? It’s very possible.
— Leon Draisaitl is currently sixth on the Oilers scoring list with 744 points. He will pass Anderson next season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is currently eighth with 632 points and needs 38 points to pass Paul Coffey (669) to move into seventh place. Darnell Nurse is fourth all time in defenceman scoring with 235 points but will need a few years before he passes Charlie Huddy (368) and Kevin Lowe (383). Nurse is also fourth in goals, and he needs nine to pass Lowe (74). If he scores 16 goals, he’d pass Huddy (81) and move into second place.
— If Draisaitl scores 50 goals this season, he will become the 15th player to have four 50-goal seasons and join these fellow snipers:
4: Michel Goulet, Tim Kerr and Kurri.
5: Pavel Bure, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull, Esposito and Yzerman.
6: Dionne, Lafleur and Lemieux.
9: Alex Ovechkin, Bossy and Gretzky.
— If Draisaitl scores 50 goals and 100 points he’d become the 11th player to do it four times. Like McDavid, he is entering some very exclusive clubs.
4: Brett Hull, Kurri and Ovechkin.
5: Esposito and Yzerman.
6: Dionne, Lafleur and Lemieux.
7: Bossy.
9. Gretzky.
— The Oilers had the most efficient power play in NHL history last season at 32.4%. They scored 89 goals on 275 opportunities. Meanwhile, the Canucks’ penalty kill was 32nd at 71.6%, which is the 10th-worst PK in NHL history. Last season the Oilers’ PP was 50% in three games v. Vancouver, scoring four goals on eight chances. Yesterday the Oilers had a longer than usual practice, and the power play was actually on the ice earlier at the practice rink working on it before joining the main group for the full practice. They have worked on a few new wrinkles. Look for them to unveil them at specific times in the coming weeks.
— The Oilers’ PK got off to a brutal start last season, going 70.8% in the first 15 games. They allowed at least one PP goal in their first eight games and in 12 of the first 15. It improved slightly in the next 27 games, up to 74.2%, but after a dreadful game in LA on January 10th, where they allowed four PP goals in a 6-3 loss, the PK woke up. They were 82.3% in their final 40 games as the additions of Vincent Desharnais and Mattias Ekholm helped on the backend. They scored 13 shorthanded goals in their final 40 games, and their net PK was 92.7%, which was second only to Carolina. A horrible stretch can drastically impact the overall % on the PK, and the Oilers need to avoid another bad start on the PK.
— Ryan McLeod, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mattias Janmark, Evander Kane, Connor Brown, Derek Ryan and Connor McDavid were taking shifts on the PK. Leon Draisaitl could take some draws, but McLeod’s faceoff % improved last season and they’d like to reduce some of Draisaitl’s D-zone draws this year.
—   Edmonton begins the season with only one new player who wasn’t on the Oilers regular season roster last season: Connor Brown. Dylan Holloway played limited minutes in the regular season and didn’t play in the playoffs. He should play more minutes this year, but Edmonton starts with a very similar roster to last year. Players who played at least 15 games (regular season or playoffs) who are no longer with the organization include Nick Bjugstad, Klim Kostin, Tyson Barrie, Jesse Puljujarvi, Devin Shore and Kailer Yamamoto. Edmonton had 27 players play 10 or more games last year, so for those upset (somewhat prematurely) about Raphael Lavoie being placed on waivers, it is very likely he will play at least 10 games for the Oilers this season.
— Lavoie starting in the AHL is actually better for him. He should play a lot, and if I was him, I’d be in coach Chaulk’s office begging to get some PK time. If Lavoie wants to get ice time in the NHL to start, he’ll need to be on the PK. Xavier Bourgault got PK time in the preseason, and those two will be battling each other to be the first RW recall this season. Internal competition is good.
— Watch this to get fired up. So damn good. Enjoy the season.

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