Weekly Wraparound: Oilers Big Guns Deliver in Week 1

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 16: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a hat trick against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Rogers Place on October 16, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Now that the NHL season is officially underway, I’ll be recapping the Oilers previous week, every following Monday. It will be called the “Weekly Wraparound”. In this weekly segment I’ll be reviewing which players I believed were the top performers and what or who needs to be better, with a few takeaways from the week. Along with individual players, I’ll also be evaluating the entire team.

Off to a Hot Start..

The Edmonton Oilers finished the first week of the season with a perfect 2-0-0 record. It’s very important for teams to get off to a hot start and they did just that. Last season the team struggled out of the gate with only 4 wins in the first 10 games. Of course, anything is still possible with only 2 games under their belt so far, but I don’t think that will be the case.

In my mind there’s something different about the mood of this Oilers team. Fans are going to be in for a treat this season and have every right to be excited.

In the season opener on Wednesday, the Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in a shootout.

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Saturday was the first Battle of Alberta of the season and the first in front of fans since February 1st of 2019 (I think we all remember THAT game). The game lived up to the hype and was very rough before and after the whistle. The Oilers ended up beating the Flames by the score of 5-2.

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Top Performers

Connor McDavid: The captain has started this year just as he ended the last. Is it really a surprise at this point though? In the season opener McDavid notched 2 assists and followed that up with a hat-trick against the Flames on Saturday. From his 5 points so far this season, 3 of them have come on the powerplay.

Jesse Puljujarvi: Is he finally living up to the hype of being the 4th overall pick? My opinion is yes, and he’s proved it in the first week. It only been 2 games but I would go as far as saying that Puljujarvi has been the best Oiler. He’s forechecking hard, immovable in front of the net, and his shot and skating looks improved from last season. Jesse has put up 2 goals and 2 assists playing on the top line.

Leon Draisaitl: Just like McDavid it’s no surprise anymore to see #29 put up points every game. His elite passing has been on full display so far with 4 assists in the 2 games. With 3 of them coming Saturday against their Alberta rivals.

Mike Smith: The Oilers goalie has also started right where he left off. The team has allowed 85 shots already but Smith has saved 81 of them. He finished the week with a 1.92 GAA and a .953 SV%. (Hopefully he’ll prove me wrong and keep it up).

Takeaways from Week 1

The Third Line

The line that consists of Foegele, Ryan and Kassian really stood out, especially on Saturday against the Flames. (Kassian missed game one with injury). The Oilers third line was the best line on the team at 5 on 5. The trio set the tone with their physical play but also on the scoreboard. They broke the scoreless tie in the first with a goal by Ryan that was assisted by Kassian and Foegele.

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Powerplay is where it left off..

Last season the powerplay started off slow with a new quarterback in Tyson Barrie but ended the season strong. A full season under his belt and familiarity with the Oilers powerplay, it looks better than ever. The additions of Puljujarvi and Zach Hyman as net front presences makes the PP that much more dangerous. With only 6 opportunities early on, the team has scored on 50% of them to sit tied for 2nd in the league. It’s early, but don’t be surprised to see it at #1 by the end of the season.

Weak Spots

The Oilers have to do better at settling down and playing in their own end. The opposition will have possession for far too long as the team scrambles the whole time. The forward group is better defensively than it has been in a long time and the defensive core is more of a veteran group. Hopefully this is something that will get better with the more familiar the team gets.

Make or Break Stats?

Shots and hits aren’t necessarily game changing stats but the Oilers have lost both categories in the 2 games this past week. Particularly against the Flames, how Calgary was throwing absolutely everything at the net. Mike Smith had 45 saves but it’s safe to say that 15 or maybe even more were easy.

On the plus side the Oilers have won in faceoff percantage in both games, which can be a little more telling. Faceoff wins lead to possession, possession leads to scoring chances, scoring chances lead to goals and so forth… If the Oilers continue to have the edge in faceoffs and special teams and work on limiting shots, they’re going to win a lot of games this year.

Having Fans Back

I watched every Oilers game last year and let me tell you it just wasn’t the same. Edmonton went to 3 overtime games in the PLAYOFFS against the Winnipeg Jets, but the second game of the season this year was more exciting.

It’s like the old quote “You never know what you have, till it’s gone”, and did I ever miss having fans in the buildings. Even though I’m always watching on a screen, it’s just that much more entertaining this season.

A Look Ahead..

Edmonton starts Week 2 on Tuesday where they will host the Anaheim Ducks. They hit the road to play the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday the 21st, and than a key matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday the 22nd.

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