One of the biggest surprises in this young NHL season is the hot start of the Edmonton Oilers. At,7-1-0,they’re leading the Western Conference with 14 points and they’re beating some of hockey’s best teams in the process. And I’m sure next to none of you are even watching.
That’s too bad,because you should be.
Yes,the Oilers have been the league’s perennial cellar dweller for a while now (a decade), but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Not with generational talent like Connor McDavid on the ice,the 19-year-old captain has early made his presence felt in a big way so far this season,he leads the league in points and has five goals on the season,including last night in Vancouver. This kid changes the game in many ways for this team,even with his being on the ice alone.
One of the biggest bright spots has been the goaltending. Cam Talbot is playing out of this world in front of the net right now.
Despite letting in six goals against Buffalo, Talbot’s play has been stellar. Last night against Vancouver,he had his second shutout in three games and with 127 shots coming at him the last four games he has only let in two goals. He looks a lot more confident in the starting role than he did last season and even more so now after his wife gave birth to their twins,a son and daughter,on Oct. 19. He was just named the NHL’s First Star of the Week last week for his efforts and strong play during the Oilers’ recent five-game winning streak.
Another change in this team you’ll notice is the “Don’t Fuck With Us” attitude they’re beginning to finally have after years of being pushed around not just in the standings,but on the ice,too. When you’ve got hefty forwards like Milan Lucic,Patrick Maroon,and Zack Kassian on this team and on the ice, you’re not going to want to mess with them,especially if you mess with McDavid. If you think crap like knocking McDavid into the boards and breaking his clavicle is going to happen again, think again. Not with these dudes on the roster. There’s also Darnell Nurse,a young defenseman who’s always ready for a fight at the drop of the glove.
I’ll admit,I omitted my beloved Oilers from being in the playoff picture on my NHL Season Preview earlier this month,but that was just me being cautiously optimistic. In reality,ever since they opened Rogers Place with a 7-4 win over their provincial rivals,the Calgary Flames,I’ve been keeping the closest of eyes on them. Lately I have had a free preview of NHL Center Ice on my satellite and I’ve been watching every Oilers game that I can. I even watched their match-up against the Jets in the Heritage Classic in Winnipeg over the Patriots-Steelers game last Sunday afternoon. This team looks so much different than last season’s team and their on the ice results are showing. Now,don’t get me wrong,there’s always room for improvement because they do play too much in their own zone and they still don’t get enough shots on goal to my liking,but they are doing the thing that matters most: They’re winning! They’re not just winning,they’ve beaten quality teams like St. Louis and Washington and have done it in style.
If you get any chance to see this team,whether it’s on television or in person, you will see how they good they are and how far they’ve come along since the true rebuild took place last season. You should also not be shocked if they end their 11-year playoff drought this year. I’m still cautiously optimistic about that,but damn, they look too good not to do it.