Game Notes Capitals @ Oilers: Edmonton Winning Again is Not a Surprise

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
11 months ago
The Decade of Darkness was awful for the Edmonton Oilers organization, but it was equally painful for the fans. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ first five seasons in the NHL were the final five of the DOD. Leon Draisaitl experienced it for half of the 2015 season, before going back to junior, and then the entire 2016 season along with Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse. RNH likely still has scars from the DOD, but McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nurse only felt a small part of the pain. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have disappointment of their own in 2018 and 2019 while missing the playoffs, and first round losses in 2020 and 2021, but they’ve had success, so they are less likely to instantly think of worst-case-scenarios like many did after the Oilers hit a rough patch in November.
— It was only a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers started winning again. No, seriously it was. Edmonton was 7-3 in its first 10 games, but then limped through the next 10 with a 3-7 record. Some fans lamented the playoffs might not occur and suggested this could be a repeat of the 2018 season. Those suggestions likely stem from the trauma of the DOD, which deeply impacted the psyche of fans. But this isn’t the DOD or 2018, and the Oilers winning again isn’t a surprise to me for a few reasons.
— There are two reasons why the wins were going to come. One was the quality of competition. The Oilers had a tough opening 20 games, but they are currently in a stretch of 15 games where the majority of their opponents are below them in the standings, or even with them. Edmonton is 4-1 in its last five with victories over the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Montreal Canadiens. Their loss came in Minnesota on the second half of a back-to-back. Their next five opponents are Washington, Arizona, Minnesota, Minnesota, and Nashville. The Wild and Oilers are tied for 14th in the NHL with 28 points, while the Predators are 19th, Washington 22nd, and Arizona 29th. Another 4-1 record over the next five wouldn’t be a surprise.
— The other (combined) reason is Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The league’s two most productive players over the past five seasons were not going to score at a meager 1.15 points/game pace as they did during the Oilers 3-7 stretch in November. Here are their point splits this season in 10-game stretches.
PlayerFirst 102nd 10Current 5
— They were averaging over 2.00 points/game in the first 10 games, then dipped in the second, and have found their mojo again over the past five games. Their resurgence came at a much-needed time as their forward depth was decimated with to injuries to Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele.
— During games 11-20, Draisaitl only had four points 5×5 and McDavid had two. McDavid was outscored 8-3 at 5×5, while Draisaitl was outscored 11-8. The lack of offence was not going to remain that low, and they also weren’t going to get outscored 5×5. In the last five games, Draisaitl has six points 5×5 and has outscored the opposition 7-4, while McDavid has four points and outscored the opposition 7-5.
— McDavid is having the best goal-scoring start of his career with 21 goals in 25 games. His previous best was 16 in 2019-20 and last season. He is on pace to score 69 goals, but keep in mind Draisaitl had 23 goals in the first 25 games last year and finished with 55. It is difficult to maintain a high goal-scoring rate all season, but McDavid seems destined to have his first 50-goal season and I believe he will push for 60.
— Draisaitl has 25 assists in 25 games and is on pace for 82. His career-high is 67, which occurred in the 71-game 2019-20 season. He also had 53 in 56 games in the shortened 2021 campaign. His best start to a season as a passer occurred in 2019-20 when he had 31 apples through 25 games.
— Since 2000, only five players have tallied 80 assists in a season: Joe Thornton (96 in 2006 and 92 in 2007), Nikita Kucherov (87 in 2019), Jonathon Huberdeau (85 last season), and Sidney Crosby (84 in 2007). McDavid had seasons with 79 (last year) and 75 (2019). He also had 72 in 56 games in 2021, which prorates to 105. He could have become only the fourth player in NHL history to record 100+ assists in a season, joining Wayne Gretzky (11 times) while Mario Lemieux (1989) and Bobby Orr (1971) did it once.
— Only nine players have ever scored 50 goals and 80 assists in the same season. Gretzky (nine times), Lemieux (four times), and Guy Lafleur, Mike Bossy, Bernie Nicholls, Steve Yzerman, Pat Lafontaine and Jaromir Jagr did it once. Draisaitl is on pace for 55 goals and 82 assists. Do you think he does it?
— Washington’s injury woes got worse in Calgary on Saturday. Defenceman Martin Fehervary and goalie Darcy Kuemper left in the second period. Fehervary is out for tonight and Kuemper is being evaluated.  The Capitals are already without Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery), Tom Wilson (ACL), Connor Brown (ACL), Carl Hagelin (hip surgery), Beck Malenstyn (broken finger), and Dmitri Orlov (lower-body injury). Washington is 3-5-2 in its last 10 and in 22nd place overall (12th in the East).
— Fehervary and Nick Jensen have been a regular pair for the Capitals and have played the most 5×5 minutes on the team. The Caps will be without two of their top-four D-men, and if Kuemper can’t go then Charlie Lindgren will get the start. The Oilers scored four goals on 29 shots on Lindgren, but still lost 5-4 on November 7th. Lindgren started the year quite strong, but since defeating the Oilers Lindgren has allowed 12 goals on 87 shots for an ugly .862Sv% in four appearances.
The Oilers’ top guns are rolling, and the Capitals are banged up and leaking goals recently. Edmonton has done a good job of beating teams they should beat recently and need to continue that tonight.


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