It was five days ago, in this very spot, that I wrote about the Edmonton Oilers’ embarking on their only difficult stretch of games in the month of October. While they still need to deal with a visit from Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, this trifecta of games can be viewed as nothing but a rousing success for Todd McLellan’s crew. Yes, it’s still awfully early but Edmonton has taken full advantage of their current lot in life and should be applauded for it.
FIRST STAR: @ctalbot33 went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA, .970 SV% & 1 SO to guide @EdmontonOilers (5-1-0, 10 points) to top of the NHL's standings pic.twitter.com/tnYfOS3Cd1
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 24, 2016
Related – Oilers to Face First Real Test
After taking care of business against the likes of the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes, the Oilers more than held their own against the St. Louis Blues. In fact, one could easily make the argument that if not for the play of netminder Jake Allen, last Thursday’s 3-1 win could have been far more one-sided on the scoreboard than it was. A strong outing from Cam Talbot, two more points for Connor McDavid, a vintage performance from Milan Lucic, another goal from the fourth line and suddenly beating last year’s Western Conference Finalists isn’t so farfetched.
Oilers Clicking on All Cylinders
With a rare victory over the Blues in their back pocket and a 4-1 record to start the season, it would have surprised no one if the Winnipeg Jets got the better of the Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic. Instead, what we were treated to was more of the same…a 31-save shutout from Talbot and more goals from unlikely sources. How unlikely you ask? Well…do Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Darnell Nurse fit the bill? They most certainly would and Oilers fans couldn’t be happier.
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It’s one thing for Edmonton to win games on the coattails of No. 97 or a hot stretch from their starting netminder. After all, what team doesn’t win games on the strength of their goaltending and play of their best player? Not many but the scary thing about the Oilers, is they are actually getting offensive production from the lesser likes on their roster. Outside of the odd game here and there, can anyone remember the last time that was the case?
ICYMI, Letestu with the shorty. #HeritageClassic pic.twitter.com/RwZyKHci70
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 23, 2016
While centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may still be goal-less on the year and struggling to create offence, the group of Kassian, Letestu, Nurse, Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyler Pitlick and Anton Slepyshev have lit the lamp 10 times in six games. The Oilers have scored 23 times this season and currently trail only the Chicago Blackhawks (25) in goals for and have done so in one fewer game. If you do the quick math, you will see that 44% of the goals Edmonton has scored during the opening month of play have actually come from the so-called lesser likes on their roster.
Scoring Depth a Pleasant Surprise
Make no mistake, this team has been carried by McDavid and will ultimately go as far as the league’s current leading scorer will take them. With that said, secondary scoring has never been more of a necessity as it is in today’s NHL and the Oilers have been given a first-hand look at just how important it can be over the first two weeks of the season. Now if only they could be sure it will continue over the course of a full 82-game campaign.
Cam Talbot's 4th shut-out as an Oiler, 12th career shut-out. Oilers start season 5-1 for the first time since 1985-86.
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) October 23, 2016
Related – Talbot Needs Strong Start
Again, it is early but with games against the Capitals, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators remaining on their October schedule, the Edmonton Oilers appear poised to enter November near or atop the Pacific Division standings for the first team in ages. While their record is not a complete surprise, the manner in which they have won games is and that can be viewed as nothing but a positive moving forward. Funny, what a little confidence, favourable schedule and generational talent can do for a team.