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The Day After 20.0: Regression to the mean continues as Edmonton Oilers run roughshod on Anaheim Ducks

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
2 months ago
Everybody say it with me now: Regression to the mean.
It’s what was due for the Edmonton Oilers after a freakishly slow start to the season that saw them shoot at an uncharacteristically low rate and stop pucks at an even worse rate.
But for the Edmonton Oilers, all is starting to be right in the world again.
The tides seemed to turn a little over a week ago when they embarked on a road trip down the eastern seaboard, but it’s hit another level with a 5-0 win over the Washington Capitals Friday and a significant 8-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks Sunday.
What’s clicked? Well, for one, some bounces have begun to go their way. Look at Connor McDavid, who’s had the puck start going in with him on the ice, racking up nine goals in the last two games.
“It’s big,” said McDavid when asked about the significance of Sunday’s win, acknowledging, “We need to get another one on Tuesday. We got to keep rolling our game over, and that’s all there is to it.
“The team game has definitely just been simpler. It’s something we’ve talked about, and I thought guys have done a great job of buying into that. We’re a good forechecking team, we really are. When we use that to our strength, we can make it a half-ice game pretty quick.”
More on Tuesday later.

THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY


Sunday, however, could’ve gone in a direction the Oilers didn’t want it to. With two Max Jones goals bookending an Evander Kane tally 6:10 into the game, the two teams were trading chances, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ goal at 9:29 ended it.
Because from then on, it was all Oilers.
Edmonton cleaned up their game and buckled down to a more substantial commitment in all three zones, something they’ve struggled with this season.
“It was a little sloppy (early in the game). I thought we were happy just exchanging chances, and most often, we can win a lot of games by doing that,” said head coach Kris Knoblauch. “You exchange chances, and your skills are probably going to finish more chances than the opposition chances, but I think in the long run, when you’re playing good teams who don’t exchange chances, you’re running into trouble.
“That’s something we don’t want to get into, is playing that type of hockey. I thought they did a heckuva job (in) the last 50 minutes. We gave up 11 shots in probably the last 50 minutes of hockey. I think they were playing pretty responsibly from then.”
The Oilers must keep that play up as the schedule rolls forward. Its importance will be critical Tuesday as the defending Stanley Cup champions — and the team who eliminated Edmonton from the playoffs last year — roll into town.
In the still-bruised eyes of Darnell Nurse, it’s just another game.
“The point we’re at right now, we’re just playing hockey,” said the defenceman, whose three-point night Sunday night shant go unnoticed. “It doesn’t matter who comes in here, we want to take care of our own game and see where that gets us at the end of the night.
“There’s going to be a lot made of it because we played them last year in the playoffs, but the same token, for us as a team, we’re at the point here where we’ve just got to worry about ourselves.”
That of the Golden Knights contrasted Edmonton’s start to the year. Two teams who met in the post-season dance last year, both on very different paths early this season, as Vegas went 11-0-1 through their first 12 games of this campaign.
In the last nine? 3-5-1. They meet the Calgary Flames three hours south Monday, before heading up the highway.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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