Oilers 5-0 Start Ranks Among Best in Franchise History

For just the fourth time since joining the NHL in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers have started the season 5-0. The Oilers opened their schedule with home victories over the Vancouver Canucks (3-2), Calgary Flames (5-2), and Anaheim Ducks (6-5) at home, then defeated the Arizona Coyotes (5-1) and Vegas Golden Knights (5-3) on the road.

Related Link: 3 Takeaways From Oilers’ Hard-Fought Win Over Golden Knights

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have played like the superstars they are, leading Edmonton with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Jesse Puljujarvi has eight points, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has seven assists, and Zach Hyman has five goals. Mikko Koskinen is the goalie of record for three of the wins, while his partner in twine Mike Smith is 2-0.

The Oilers have four regulation wins, with the victory over Vancouver coming via shootout. Edmonton has scored first three times and rallied from a deficit twice against Anaheim and Vegas.

Edmonton also began the 2019-20 season with five straight wins, putting the McDavid-era Oilers in the same class as the Wayne Gretzky-era Oilers. The Great One and company opened the 1983-84 season with seven straight wins and got off to a 5-0 start in 1985-86.

There’s an aura around today’s Oilers that recalls the teams from Edmonton’s dynastic run of five Stanley Cup championships between 1984 and 1990. Here’s a look at the Oilers prior hot starts.

1983-84

Five months after feeling the sting of being swept (by the New York Islanders) in their first Stanley Cup appearance, the Oilers still had a bee in their bonnet. They took it out on their opposition to start the NHL season, buzz sawing through the Toronto Maple Leafs (5-4), Winnipeg Jets (8-6), Minnesota North Stars (4-3 in overtime), Detroit Red Wings (8-3), Flames (4-3 and 5-1 in back-to-back games), and the Canucks (10-7).

Wayne Gretzky #99
Wayne Gretzky with the Edmonton Oilers in 1983. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Indicative of the run-and-gun early ‘80s, the Oilers averaged 6.3 goals during the streak while giving up 3.9 per game. The team’s six future Hall-of-Fame skaters were the top point-producers over the seven-game stretch: Gretzky totaled 20 points, Jari Kurri recorded 14, Glenn Anderson registered 10, Paul Coffey and Mark Messier had nine apiece, and Kevin Lowe notched eight. Another future HOFer, goalie Grant Fuhr, went 3-0 between the pipes, while fellow netminder Andy Moog won four games.

The Oilers’ season-opening win streak was brought to a halt rudely by the Los Angeles Kings, who blasted Edmonton 7-2 at the Great Western Forum with future Oiler Bernie Nichols having a six-point game for the home team.

1985-86

On the heels of consecutive Stanley Cup championship wins in 1984 and 1985, the Oilers theme for 1985-86 was “go for the hat trick,” and they started strong, with wins at home over the Jets (4-3), St. Louis Blues (6-4), Islanders (6-3), and Boston Bruins (3-2), followed by a road victory over the Kings (8-5).

Edmonton actually gave up the first goal in three of the five games, but the ‘80s Oilers rarely dug a hole they couldn’t score their way out of. Gretzky, of course, led the way with 11 points in the five games, however, the winning goal came off the stick of a different player each game, none of whom wore No. 99: Anderson, Craig MacTavish, Messier, Raimo Summanen and Esa Tikkanen. Fuhr won three of the games, Moog the other two.

Just as two years earlier, the streak ended in an ugly fashion. This time it was at the hands of the Jets, who scored six unanswered goals over the game’s final 30 minutes to crush Edmonton 9-3 in the old Winnipeg Arena.

2019-20

Reeling off five straight wins was pretty much a monthly occurrence with the Oilers of the ‘80s. Still, it had been 34 years since Edmonton’s NHL team got off to a start as hot as it did in the fall of 2019, and considering the Oilers were coming off a disappointing season in which they missed the playoffs, no one saw it coming.

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid with the Edmonton Oilers in 2019. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

But that only made it more special when Edmonton shot out of the gate, beating the Canucks (3-2) and Kings (6-5) at Rogers Place before the hitting the road and rolling through the Islanders (5-2), New Jersey Devils (4-3, via shootout), and New York Rangers (4-1). McDavid and Draisaitl had 12 and 11 points, respectively, but the surprise star was new Oiler James Neal, who scored seven goals in the five games. Just as is the case now, the streak saw Smith and Koskinen splitting duty between the pipes, with three and two wins, respectively.

The Chicago Blackhawks ended Edmonton’s streak with a 3-1 win at the United Center. Edmonton trailed 2-0 before Neal scored his eighth goal of the season, but Chicago added an empty netter to deal the Oilers their first loss of 2019-20.

Oilers are Going for a New Record

The Oilers are now two wins away from tying the best start in franchise history and three from rewriting their record book. Edmonton will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday (Oct. 27), travel to Vancouver to take on the Canucks Saturday (Oct. 30), then return home for their first-ever regular-season meeting with the expansion Seattle Kraken next Monday (Nov. 1).

Of course, it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. And for the last three hot-starting Oilers teams, things ended happily, miserably, and unusually. In 1984, Edmonton won its first Stanley Cup. Two years later, the Oilers were shockingly knocked out of the playoffs by the rival Flames in the infamous Steve Smith own-goal game. Finally, in 2020, the NHL season was brought to a premature end by the pandemic, and when hockey restarted months later in the postseason bubble, Edmonton was upset by Chicago 3-1 in the best-of-five qualifying round series.

We’ll know in a week if these Oilers can establish a new benchmark. But it will be several months before we say if this is just the beginning of something truly special in Edmonton.


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