The Edmonton Oilers win this one against the Arizona Coyotes to improve to a perfect 4-0 for the second time in three seasons and the fifth time in franchise history. The only other team to match them thus far is the Florida Panthers, also at 4-0. There is lots of good to take away from this game, even though it’s against the unanimous worst team in the league.
Oilers Have Found the 3rd Line They’ve Been Waiting For
Though the top lines of the Oilers are something to rave about, they have finally found a third line that is consistently productive and gives them the depth they were in dire need of for years. Warren Foegele, Derek Ryan, and Zack Kassian have combined for four goals in four games (Kassian three games played) and eight total points.
Foegele scored his first of the season with a spectacular move to get by the Coyotes’ defence and smack it in the far side. This line had multiple momentum-changing shifts in this one.
Special Teams Perfect
Not only were the special teams perfect, but it was also the difference-maker in the game. (“The Edmonton Oilers’ special teams thrust into a new-age role as ‘enforcer’: 9 Things”, Edmonton Journal, Oct. 17, 2021) The Oilers only had a lead of 1-0 when the Coyotes were making a hard push to tie it. Zach Hyman scored a shorthanded goal on the second of back-to-back Oilers’ penalty kills to completely switch the momentum. Connor McDavid scored the next goal for the Oilers in less than 2:30. They topped off the night killing all four penalties they took and added that one shorthanded goal.
The power play came at the perfect time. The Coyotes were very disciplined against an Oilers’ team that are known to change the tides of a game while on the man advantage. The Coyotes held out on taking a penalty until 12 minutes remaining in the third period. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for them and a better time for the Oilers. Now their turn to snap it around, Hyman and McDavid both scored their second goals of the game on the only two power plays the Oilers got. They finished the night with a perfect 2-for-2 on the power play.
Top-6 Back to the Original Plan
The top-six for the Oilers were back to how the preseason started, with Hyman on a line with McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi, and Leon Draisaitl centering the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto on his wings.
The top line can’t seem to be stopped, but only one goal from the Oilers’ first line came at 5-on-5. That’s not to say they didn’t have chances. Draisaitl was held off the score sheet, as was Yamamoto once again. The line did get their chances, and with a few more games together, I’m sure they can generate more offence. Yamamoto was more noticeable this game, and played well enough for coach Dave Tippett to keep him rolling on that line. Nugent-Hopkins was the only one who could get anything going, recording three assists, all on special teams.
Connor McDavid Well on His Way to Art Ross, Rocket Richard Trophies
I figured McDavid would come out flying, but who knew he could even improve on the performance he put on last season for us. He has 47 points in his last 18 games, reminding us of a dynasty assembled in the ’80s that included the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Mark Messier.
Through four games, McDavid leads the NHL in goals (six) and points (11). In the past 30 years, he is only second to Mario Lemieux for the most points (14) through the first four games of a season. McDavid passed the 200-goal mark in his career, one game after teammate Draisaitl did so against the Anaheim Ducks. They both sit at 201 goals in their careers. McDavid is also the second player in franchise history to begin the season with four multi-point games, joining Gretzky in that regard.
Mikko Koskinen Shuts it Down
Like many, there was a right to be concerned when starting goalie Mike Smith went down to injury in the second period against the Ducks. Since that moment, Mikko Koskinen has come in and completely shut the door. (“Mikko Koskinen helps Edmonton Oilers stay perfect,” Edmonton Sun, Oct. 21, 2021) He stopped 27 of 28 shots last night, bringing his total to 47 of 49 for a .959 save percentage (SV%) on the young season. There’s not much more we can ask from him, only that he stays fresh and isn’t overplayed while Smith hopefully makes a quick return.
A solid performance and all positives from the game — but there’s always room for improvement, even for a team with a perfect start. McDavid should keep rolling and it’s a mystery as to whether the top-six will continue to switch every couple of games. If the third line continues its play and the fourth line can add a little here and there, the Oilers will be nearly unstoppable this season.
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.