The Edmonton Oilers have started their season with a perfect 5-0-0 for the fourth time in franchise history and the second time in the past three seasons. The last time they started this good, the team finished October with a record of 8-4-1, cooling off a bit. They are hoping a new season results in a better outcome, and they remain one of six unbeaten teams remaining. The beaten-up Vegas Golden Knights were at the wrong end of the tear that the Oilers have been on.
The Oilers have won eight straight road games going back to last season, and look to continue having success away from home. In recent seasons they have performed well on the road but less so at home. With a record of 3-0 at home already, this team can finally be dominant in any arena they play in.
It just so happens that both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kris Russell record the 300th and 200th assists of their careers on the same goal. It was the third goal of the night for the Oilers to give them the 3-2 advantage going into the second intermission.
Oilers’ Top-6 Unstoppable
I know I said top-six, but really it’s been only five forwards on the first two lines. Kailer Yamamoto hasn’t gotten going yet, but he’s been doing the right things recently. That leaves us with a seemingly unstoppable five forwards that coach Dave Tippett has mixed and matched with at his convenience.
This is the second game in a row where Tippett has decided to go with Zach Hyman on the top line with Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi, and have Leon Draisaitl centre the second line with Nugent-Hopkins and Yamamoto. (“Zach Hyman proving his versatility with Edmonton Oilers early on”, Edmonton Sun, 10/8/21) With the help of the power play and passing from McDavid, Hyman recorded his second consecutive two-goal game on the road, putting him at five goals in five games to this point. That’s the way to introduce yourself to a new team you’ll be spending seven years with.
It just seems impossible to not bring up McDavid’s name each and every night. The captain is up to six goals and 13 points in the Oilers’ first five games, a ridiculous pace. He is the second player in franchise history to start a season with five multi-point games behind Wayne Gretzky (7). He will have to continue to dominate against the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks in the Oilers’ upcoming games to match that record.
Puljujarvi has been a little quieter of the bunch in the past two games as the other four players have been talked about more. That doesn’t take away from his production or bother him one bit. He still has eight points in five games, which looks like a certain breakout season already.
Though Nugent-Hopkins has yet to score a goal this season, he has still been able to produce. Whether it’s on a line with Draisaitl, centering his own line, power play, or penalty kill. He is used in every situation and has helped out the Oilers in each. Nugent-Hopkins has seven assists in total, two at even strength, four on the power play, and one shorthanded. Where can’t he produce?
Last but not least, Draisaitl has been a beast as usual for the Oilers. As expected, he is second on the team in scoring with four goals and 11 points, and also second in the league, only trailing teammate McDavid. He has two multi-goal games in the past three, failing to score in Arizona.
Things can only get better if Yamamoto is able to find the back of the net and reach his full potential soon. With the group surrounding him, he won’t get a better opportunity to do so.
Key Momentum Changes Between Oilers & Golden Knights
In a game that saw teams score a total of eight goals in a back and forth affair, there were bound to be certain moments where fans could see the momentum shift from one team to another. I noticed three key momentum changes that went in the Oilers’ favour.
It’s difficult to not take penalties against this Oilers team with how fast and dynamic they are in the offensive zone. Teams have received the memo, and try their best to keep this incredible power play off the ice at any cost. The Oilers’ power play has factored into every game this season and is executing at a 47.1 percent efficiency. The Golden Knights took their first penalty of the game 8:15 in, and the Oilers proceeded to strike a mere 22 seconds later, tying the game at one goal. The Golden Knights had looked pretty dominating up until this point, and one offensive zone penalty cost their team the lead.
Later in the first period, the Golden Knights had taken control of the ice again and the Oilers really got in trouble when Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse took penalties 19 seconds apart. The Oilers killed off the long 5-on-3 penalty kill and momentum shifted back to them after that hard-fought effort. The untimely end of the period put an end to the momentum.
The third and most important momentum shift in favour of the Oilers was after they had gone down by a goal just over a minute into the second period. Tippett decided to do what he always does when Edmonton is in need of some offence or momentum in a hurry — put the big guns back together. Draisaitl was reunited with McDavid and Puljujarvi on the top line for a shift that they spent in the offensive zone. Just minutes later, Tippett put the top-6 back to normal for consecutive shifts that saw each line score a goal to go up by one. This led to a second period that saw the Oilers more than double the number of shots they took in the first.
Bouchard Moves Up, Benson & Sceviour In
Tippett decided to reward Evan Bouchard with more minutes on the top defensive pairing with Nurse, moving Barrie down to play with Russell on the third pairing. It was the perfect game to test out how Bouchard really performs against a top team, and he did well. He was calm and looked right at home playing more minutes and against the opposing team’s top players. Barrie remained in his spot on the power play, but we could see more of this going forward.
With the top-six rolling and the third line looking like the best the Oilers have had in years, the fourth line is the only one that really has room to change out players. That’s what Tippett decided to do in their second game of a back-to-back. Devin Shore stayed in the lineup, but Kyle Turris and Brendan Perlini were replaced with Tyler Benson getting into his first regular-season game of the season and Colton Sceviour. (“For Oilers’ Tyler Benson, the long wait to become an NHLer may be over”, Edmonton Sun, 9/27/21) They were noticeable when they got their chance and needed to be to stay in the lineup and get more playing time.
The Golden Knights were the most competitive team the Oilers have faced yet in this young season, but a 5-0-0 start speaks volumes as to where the team is and is heading this season. There are high expectations after this start, and they hope to continue scoring and winning at an absurd rate.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.