The Edmonton Oilers played one of their best games of the 2022-23 NHL season on Friday (Dec. 30), picking up their second straight win by defeating the Seattle Kraken, 7-2, at Climate Pledge Arena.
League scoring leader Connor McDavid totaled five points and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dished out four assists for Edmonton. The Oilers got two goals each from Zach Hyman and Klim Kostin, helping make up for the absence of second-leading scorer, Leon Draisaitl, who was kept out of the lineup for what Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft called “bumps and bruises.”
Edmonton jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old, giving Stuart Skinner more than enough run support to pick up his 12th win of the season. The Oilers goaltender stopped 36 of 38 shots he faced, including all 15 in the third period.
After stumbling into the Christmas break with just one win in their prior five games, the Oilers returned to action this week with a pair of crucial road wins over divisional opponents. While Edmonton may have been lucky to beat the Calgary Flames, 2-1, on Tuesday (Dec. 27), the Oilers were full-value for Friday’s triumph. As they get set for a New Year’s Eve match-up with the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place tonight (Dec. 31), here’s three takeaways from Edmonton’s impressive win in Seattle.
No Draisaitl, No Problem
This was only the seventh time (six because of injury/health issues, one for rest) since Oct. 29, 2015, that Draisaitl has not suited up for the Oilers. Edmonton is 4-3 in those games and has now won its last three without the German superstar in their lineup. TSN 1260 radio’s Tom Gazzola reported on Friday’s post-game show that Draisaitl is not likely to play against the Jets tonight.
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McDavid has now played 524 games in his career, 508 with Draisaitl also in the lineup. After scoring once and picking up four assists Friday, the Oilers captain has totalled 10 goals and 11 assists in the 16 contests without his good buddy.
McDavid on Pace for Many Milestones
Speaking of No. 97, McDavid now has eight five-point games in his career, tied with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin for most in the NHL since 1996-97.
He’s running away with the Art Ross Trophy race (McDavid has 72 points, 15 ahead of second place, Draisaitl) and pulling away in the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy race (McDavid has 32 goals, six ahead of Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres and Bo Hovart of the Vancouver Canucks, who are tied for second with 26 apiece). What McDavid is really chasing now is history.
McDavid’s 82-game rate projects to 70.9 goals, 88.6 assists, and 159.6 points. There has only been 14 70-goal seasons in NHL history, the last coming 30 years ago, when Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne each tallied 76 times in 1992-93. That was also the last season that anyone recorded 90 assists, with Doug Gilmour (95), Pat LaFontaine (95), Mario Lemieux (91), and Adam Oates (97) all doing so. Finally, only two different players have breached 160 points in a season: Wayne Gretzky (nine times) and Lemieux (four times, most recently in 1995-96).
Two of McDavid’s four assists came on the power play Friday, giving the 25-year-old center 37 power-play points (from 14 goals and 23 assists) in 37 games. That puts McDavid on pace to break Lemieux’s single-season NHL record of 80 power-play points, established in 1987-88. McDavid is also now just 20 points from equalling Gretzky’s Oilers franchise record of 57, set in 1981-82.
Oilers Bust out of Seasonal Slump
Edmonton has a dubious history of struggling around the holiday season, both before and after the NHL’s traditional schedule break that spans Dec. 24-26. While trend continued with the Oilers going 1-2-2 in their five games prior to Dec. 25, they have now won their first two games after Christmas for the first time since 2008.
Related: Oilers Need to Break From Tradition of Losing During the Holidays
Should the Oilers defeat Winnipeg tonight, they will have started their post-Christmas schedule with three straight wins for the first time since the 1990-91 season, when Edmonton defeated Calgary, 4-1, on Dec. 27, the Vancouver Canucks, 5-2, on Dec. 28, and the Hartford Whalers, 4-3, on Dec. 30. Forward Derek Ryan is the only member of the current Oilers roster that was alive in 1990.
In order to get their third consecutive victory, Edmonton will need to overcome another unfortunate tradition: losing on New Year’s Eve.
Since entering the NHL in 1979, the Oilers have played 21 games on New Year’s Eve and won just three times. At one point, Edmonton went 16 consecutive Dec. 31 games without a victory before defeating the New York Rangers, 7-5, at Rogers Place in 2019. They fell back on their old habits last season, losing 6-5 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Dec. 31, 2021.
Tonight’s game in Edmonton is set for 8 p.m. on Hockey Night in Canada. This will be the first meeting of 2022-23 between the Oilers and Winnipeg.