Eleven games into the Edmonton Oilers season; you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who could have predicted the numbers to look the way they do now. The Oilers own the lowest goals against in the entire league at 1.5 goals. Many thought the offence would be the main source of whatever limited ‘strength’ the Oilers had this season, it hasn’t been the case thus far as the Oilers for the most part have struggled to put the puck in the back of the net and have only lit the lamp an average of 2.2 times per game – good for 25th in the league.
The key factor in the reasoning behind the Oilers dominance in the defensive end has been undoubtedly the goaltending. The tandem of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk has been out of this world, posting .960 and .938 save percentages respectively. Combined they have 7 wins and have led the Oilers to the of the division.
Special teams are off to a special start, the Oilers own an 89.1% penalty kill percentage which is 4th best in the league while the power play is at a respectable 20.8% – which ranks as the 12th best around. Okay, so get this. 25th in goals scored, but 12th in power play goals? You’d like to see the amount of goals go up, but it’s a great sign – the Oilers haven’t even starting shooting and scoring on all cylinders yet, they are just getting started.
I wrote a piece last season about the Oilers being more promising than the nations’ capital team – the Ottawa Senators. This season the Oilers have allowed 16 goals, the Senators? 45. The Oilers haven’t even reached their potential on offence yet, but yet have been more efficient offensively than the likes of the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins – two Stanley Cup favourites.
The Oiler blueliners have stepped up in a big way, allowing an average of fewer than 30 shots per game – only half of the leagues teams can say that. Ladislav Smid leads the league with 40 shots blocked. Corey Potter has surprised everyone and leads the way offensively on defence, while Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger have been great in faceoff circle winning 54.1 and 58.9 percent of face-offs respectively.
Bang for buck, finally? Can you name the top 5 players leading the NHL in shifts played? Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, and… Shawn Horcoff. The captain has played a vital role in the resurgence of the Oilers, helped by none other than ‘Captain Canada’ Ryan Smyth who has shown he has lots left in the tank. The Oilers numbers will probably eventually drop back down to real life slightly, but not as severely as seen in recent past. This club is fundamentally sound for the first time in a long time. If they can stay healthy the play-offs are not out of the question. How about that.
Stephen is a student at the Northern Institute of Technology – Television in Edmonton, Alberta.