The Edmonton Oilers beat the Ottawa Senators 7-1 on Wednesday, to hit the mid-point of the 2020-21 National Hockey League season with a 17-11-0 record. Currently tied for second place in the North Division, Edmonton will begin the second half of its 56-game schedule on Friday, with another game against Ottawa at Rogers Place.
Playing some of the most exciting hockey anywhere, the Oilers have turned things around after a 3-6-0 start, with superstar centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl sitting first and second in the NHL with 48 and 42 points, respectively.
Along the way there have been plenty of intriguing numbers for Edmonton fans to sink their teeth into; here are some of the fun facts and cool stats from the Oilers first 28 games.
They Don’t Like Working Late
Edmonton has only gone to overtime once this season (a 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 30), the fewest times in the NHL by a wide margin. The Vancouver Canucks are next on the list, with four OT appearances, and every other team has played in overtime at least five times. The Chicago Blackhawks lead the way with 11 OT appearances.
For comparison’s sake, the Oilers went to OT 15 times in 71 games last season, or roughly once every six games.
Edmonton is also the only team in the NHL without an overtime or shootout loss. While other teams have been availing themselves of the “loser point” (the Montreal Canadiens, for example, have picked up 7 such points, accounting for nearly one-quarter of their total), the Oilers have earned all 34 of their points the old-fashioned way. Edmonton’s 16 regulation wins are tied with Toronto and the New York Islanders for most in the league.
Finishing Stronger Than They Start
The bad news: Edmonton has given up the first goal in more than half of its games. The good news: this team is very capable of coming back.
In their first 28 games, Edmonton has fallen behind to start 15 times but rallied to win six of those games, including five of the last eight.
Incredibly, Edmonton’s record on the road is better when the opponent strikes first (4-1-0) compared to when the Oilers open the scoring (4-2-0). The Oilers’ biggest comeback of the season came in Vancouver on Feb. 21, when they stormed back from a 3-0 first period deficit to win 4-3.
The Oilers were 8-18-6 when giving up the opening goal in the 2019-20 season.
On Pace With the All-Time Greats
While this season’s abbreviated 56-game schedule makes it virtually impossible for players to hit benchmarks like 50 goals or 100 points (although McDavid could certainly make things interesting as far as the latter is concerned), a trio of Oilers are playing at a historical pace.
McDavid has 16 goals and 32 assists, a pace that would see him amass 141 points over a full 82-game season. Such numbers are reserved for greatness: Wayne Gretzky is the only player to top 140 points in a single season with the Oilers, doing so eight straight times from 1980-81 through 1987-88. Additionally, McDavid’s 20 power-play points project to 59 in 82 games, which would be the most in Oilers history, two more than record 57 that Gretzky recorded in 1981-82.
Seven of Draisaitl’s 14 goals have come with the man-advantage, putting the German center on an 82-game pace for 21 power-play goals, which would be one more than the franchise record of 20 set by Gretzky in 1983-84 and equaled by Ryan Smyth in 1996-97.
Blueliner Darnell Nurse has seven goals, projecting to 21 in 82 games. A 20-goal season has been achieved by only three Oilers defenceman – Paul Coffey, Charlie Huddy, and Sheldon Souray – and just once in the last 35 years, by Souray in 2008-09.
Climbing the Charts
Draisaitl, McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are making their ascent among the Oilers all-time greats. Over the first half of this 2020-21 season, each has either jumped into or made moves inside the franchise’s top 10 career leaders in the goals and points categories.
Draisaitl is eighth with 182 goals, followed closely by ninth-place Nugent Hopkins (179 goals), who is just ahead of McDavid (178). All three are poised to overtake Craig Simpson, currently seventh with 185 goals, very shortly.
McDavid is eighth with 517 points, while Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins are tied for 10th with 464. The Oilers captain has also climbed all the way from 11th at the start of the season to now sit seventh on the all-time assist leaderboard, with 339. Nugent-Hopkins (285 assists) and Draisiatl (282) are nearing the top 10 for helpers, currently in 12th and 14th, respectively.
Additionally, Nugent-Hopkins has become just the 15th player in Edmonton’s NHL history to reach 10 seasons with the Oilers.
They’re Going Streaking
The Oilers have authored a couple impressive streaks this season, one of which is still going.
From Jan. 24 to Feb. 17, Edmonton scored at least three goals in 12 straight games, their longest such streak in more than three decades. The last time Edmonton had three or more goals in 12 consecutive games was Nov. 25 to Dec. 21, 1989, which just so happens to be during the season that Oilers went on to win their fifth and most recent Stanley Cup.
Meanwhile, Edmonton has won its last six games on the road. The streak started with a 3-1 victory in Ottawa on Feb. 8 and was most recently extended on Feb. 25 when the Oilers won 3-0 in Vancouver before beginning their current six-game homestand.
This is Edmonton’s longest road winning streak since the 1986-87 season, when the Oilers Hall-of-Famers won eight in a row away from Northlands Coliseum, from Dec. 9, 1986, to Jan. 17, 1987. That team featured no less than seven future Hall-of-Famers, and – you guessed it – went on to win the Stanley Cup.
On the Road to a Record
After hosting the Senators on Friday, the Oilers will head out on a three-game road trip that will see them visit the Canucks on Saturday, then drop in on the Calgary Flames for a pair of games at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Monday and Wednesday.
Win all three of those games, and the Oilers will establish a new franchise benchmark. And give their fans one more cool stat to talk about in 2021.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.