Enjoy the Ride Oilers Fans
One of the best parts about the start of a new hockey season is how fans can go from utter desperation to complete joy in the blink of an eye. It was exactly one week ago when large chunks of the Edmonton Oilers fan base were wondering what was up with their team following a loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Fast forward seven days and suddenly all is well in good ol’ Oil Country, following a hard fought 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. That’s right, after going 2-3 in their first five games, Edmonton has run off four consecutive victories and is suddenly the hottest team in the Western Conference.
It was in this very spot last Sunday that I suggested fans should expect what we saw from this group over the last six days. Simply put, this roster has too many good players on it to not win on most nights and all it took was a comeback win against the Pittsburgh Penguins and a brief three-game road trip.
Was it always pretty? Nope but to be perfectly frank, it doesn’t need to be. For the most part, the Oilers have been entertaining through their first nine games and that is all anyone should really care about. This group has so much skill, that if they can entertain, they will win more than their fair share of games.
It really is that simple. Some may want to see a defensively sound team through 82 games but for me, all I want is high-event hockey and that is what this group can and will continue to deliver. Despite the collective’s early struggles, we’re talking about a group who is scoring at will and have yet to fully click.
Not surprisingly, Connor McDavid leads the league in goals and points with 9 and 18 respectively. Leon Draisaitl hasn’t found his game but still leads the NHL with 12 assists and sits third with 16 points. Yes, those two dominating is no surprise but others have managed to chip in along the way.
Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have 11 points apiece and three game-winning goals between them. Evander Kane has yet to find his goal-scoring touch from a season ago but still has 8 points in 9 games and Ryan McLeod has three goals, after scoring 9 times in 71 games during the ‘21-‘22 campaign.
On the flipside, the remaining forwards have a total of one goal between them (courtesy Jesse Puljujarvi) and their blueline will continue to be a work in progress throughout the season. At the other end of the spectrum, the goaltending has been solid and Stuart Skinner is in the midst of heater.
In his four appearances (three of them being starts) the Edmonton-native has posted some eye-pooping totals. Most notably a sparkling .955 SV% (1st in the league) and a tidy 1.59 GAA which has only been bettered to this point in the season by Dallas Stars standout Jake Oettinger(1.40).
While their no. 1 goalie Jack Campbell hasn’t been nearly as sharp to start the season, he has had far more so-called questionable play to deal with in front of him but has managed to make the stops this group needed to win four of his six starts. Two points are two points, no matter how a team gets them.
The special teams have been a mixed bag. The power play remains elite, sitting second in the league at 33.3%. The penalty kill is an issue, as their 21st ranking suggests (76.7%), as is the fact they allow far too many Grade A chances when own a man and appear incapable of knocking down a cross-seam pass.
That’s right, even with this recent hot stretch, Jay Woodcroft has a ton of stuff to figure out with this group but dammit, that is what an NHL regular season should be for. Build on what you already have in place and aim to have everything pointing in the right direction once the playoffs roll around.
This team is rarely boring and I love it. Oilers fans should enjoy the ride without getting too worked up with what’s to come. After all, there is a good chance this roster will have a player or two put together a memorable campaign and that alone will be worth the price of admission and investment of time.