(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Edmonton Oilers have seemed to hit their stride through the first 16 games of this season. At 9-7 and 7-3 over their last 10 games, they have seen their place in the standings skyrocket over the past few weeks.
It is no secret that Edmonton has one of the best one-two punches in the NHL with McDavid and Draisaitl, but surely they are doing as good as they are with help.
Edmonton has found a way to win hockey games in a tough and close-knit division with all Canadian rivals. Through 16 games, they seem to be for real, but are you buying it.
Near The Top
Through 16 games, Edmonton has been good enough to perform with some top-tier talent in the league. With 55 goals forced, 21 of those in the first period, they lead all 31 teams. That is better than the high-power offense of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Boston Bruins.
The goal-scoring efforts are mostly due to the duo of Mcdavid-Draisaitl. McDavid has commanded and bossed around opposing teams for nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points. Followed closely behind by Draisaitl, who has tallied eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points, these two both at the top of the NHL leaderboard in points.
Even more, they are doing their best work at even strength. with 39 goals, they are only second in the entire league behind the St. Louis Blues.
Aside from the offensive category, the Canadian Division has been exhilarating so far this season. We all knew about the Battle of Alberta being a blockbuster on a nightly basis, but it seems that every opponent that faces Edmonton is going all-out in all facets of the game. With 362 hits, the Oilers are fifth in the NHL in that category. They join three other Canadian teams in the top five spots of the league.
Is it good enough for the rest of the season, playoffs? Despite all of the good that has happened, there has been one big problem. Goaltending has to improve.
In 16 games, they have seen three goaltenders between the pipes. Mikko Koskinen, Mike Smith and Stuart Skinner.
Koskinen has seen a majority of the load with 13 starts but has been rocky. At 6-7, he has allowed an average of 3.43 goals against, with a save percentage of .895.
Smith, at 38-years-old, has found the fountain of youth over his two starts this season. He helped the Oilers by shutting the door and allowing one goal against the Ottawa Senators and then shutting out Montreal. That was all in the past week.
Skinner, a rookie, saw one game of action,. He won in a barnburner against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 31. Allowing five past him, the Oilers potted eight to help secure the victory.
Are They For Real?
Is it too early? A lot can happen between now and the end of the season. Is it too early to call the Edmonton Oilers a contender?
With Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie commanding the defense, they have each set the tone with 12 points a piece. Nurse has a PDO, which is on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage combined, of 103.2 so far this season. While Barrie has been able to get the puck on net an attempted 88 times, which is three more than McDavid and only behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the team league.
The Canadian Division is tough. It seems to be a run-away for Toronto, and Montreal and Vancouver have also looked very strong. If they can make it through the 56-game season as a playoff team, they have to face-off against other teams they haven’t faced in a very long time. Of course, obviously every team will have to face this dilemma.
Only time will tell if they have what it takes to make it the season finale, or even make it to the dance for that matter. But, you cannot deny that this team has some serious skill, and some grit to go along with it.
Do you think they have what it takes? Are they for real?