We’re only two games into the Oilers’ season and the Calgary Flames aren’t the best of tests, but I am cautiously optimistic about Edmonton’s offense based on what we’ve seen so far.
If there were any fears that Connor McDavid might suffer a sophomore slump, they seem rather unlikely now that he’s recorded six points in two games. On top of that Leon Draisaitl is showing signs that he might build off of his strong second campaign and Jordan Eberle’s off to a great start too. Plus if any of them cool off, it could correspond with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins heating up.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Edmonton is going to surpass expectations this season as the Oilers still have plenty to prove defensively, but they’re a team to keep a close eye on. Edmonton next two opponents are Buffalo minus Jack Eichel and Evander Kane on Sunday and Carolina on Tuesday, so the potential is there for the Oilers to build some early season momentum. However, their first big tests will come on Oct. 20 versus St. Louis, Oct. 23 in Winnipeg, and then Oct. 26 versus Washington. So we’ll see what they’re looking like after that stretch.
In the meantime, let’s look at yesterday’s games:
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NASHVILLE 3 CHICAGO 2
We’re way too early into the season to worry, but the Blackhawks can’t be happy to start the campaign with a 0-2-0 record. They lost their first two games in 2010-11 too, but got a consolation point over that stretch so the last time they went 0-2-0 was back in 2008-09. Chicago will challenge Nashville again tonight in the hopes of getting that first win.
It might not be Corey Crawford starting though given that he’s played in the Blackhawks’ first two games. He turned 24 of 27 shots last night and now has a 3.10 GAA and .898 save percentage in 2016-17.
Pekka Rinne needed to save 22 of 24 shots to earn the win. The bulk of the Blackhawks’ shots – 13 in total – came in the final frame, but Rinne held Chicago scoreless in that period.
EDMONTON 5 CALGARY 3
Connor McDavid scored a goal and registered two assists, which as mentioned above gives him six points in just two games. Not to overhype things too much, but do you know who was the last Edmonton Oilers player to open up a season with six points in two games? Wayne Gretzky in 1987-88 (Courtesy of NHL PR).
Oilers forward Jordan Eberle added a goal and an assist of his own. That gives him three points in Edmonton’s first two games.
The major victim of Edmonton’s early season outburst has been Flames goalie Brian Elliott. He kicked out just 24 of 28 shots in the losing effort Friday night. That leaves him with an ugly 5.08 GAA and .818 save percentage through two games. It wouldn’t be surprising if he gets tonight’s game against Vancouver off, but then he might be back between the pipes on Tuesday versus Buffalo.
Calgary’s Sean Monahan found the back of the net 1:22 minutes into the game. It was the 22-year-old forward’s first marker of the season.
Cam Talbot earned his second straight win by stopping 27 of 30 shots. Unfortunately he also has a 3.50 GAA and .908 save percentage in that two-game span.
PHILADELPHIA 4 LOS ANGELES 2
The Flyers decided to start Michal Neuvirth over Steve Mason in the season opener and the move paid off with Neuvirth turning aside 23 of 25 shots. Mason will try to respond tonight against Arizona as the duo begins its battle for the starting job.
Goaltending in the big story in Los Angeles too as Jonathan Quick is week-to-week with a groin injury. That’s created an opportunity for Jeff Zatkoff, but he surrendered four goals on 30 shots last night.
Sean Couturier netted two goals, including the game-winner on Friday. He’s always had a lot of offensive potential, but he’s never recorded more than 39 points in a single season. He has instead established himself as an asset defensively, but it will be interesting to see if he can build off this strong start and finally take a step forward offensively.
This was also a big game for Travis Konecny. The 19-year-old recorded two assists in his rookie debut. Including him, we have four rookies that recorded at least two points in their season debut with the others being William Nylander, Patrick Laine, and, of course, Auston Matthews.