Weekly Wraparound: Oilers Depth and Special Teams Come Up Clutch

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 19: Edmonton Oilers Right Wing Zack Kassian (44) celebrates his first goal of the season in the first period during the Edmonton Oilers game versus the Anaheim Ducks on October 19, 2021 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers continue their hot start to a perfect 5-0-0 record, after the first two weeks of the NHL season. Week 1 we seen the stars shine, while in week 2 the depth showed up.

McDavid and Draisaitl will keep contributing regularly, and if secondary scoring continues, the Oilers will keep this hot streak going.

Oilers Stay Undefeated..

After a 2-0-0 start, the Oilers stayed hot with 3 wins in 3 games this past week. While only 2 wins to start the season isn’t much to brag about, I believe 5 is much more telling.

Edmonton started the week with a 6-5 win at home against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday:

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1st Star: Zack Kassian (2G) 2nd Star: Sam Steel (2G) 3rd Star: Leon Draisaitl (2G,2A)

The Oilers started a back to back on the road Thursday night in Glendale, Arizona where they beat the Coyotes by a score of 5-1:

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1st Star: Connor McDavid (2G,1A) 2nd Star: Zach Hyman (2G) 3rd Star: Dysin Mayo (1G)

The biggest test of the season came on Friday night against the Vegas Golden Knights. Where the Oilers bested the Pacific Division favourites in a back and forth affair 5-3:

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1st Star: Zach Hyman (2G) 2nd Star: Nicolas Roy (1G,1A) 3rd Star: Nolan Patrick (1G)

It’s the Oilers best start since 2016-17 season where the team went 7-1-0. Of course, that Oilers team ended up making it to game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Perhaps this is a projection of what this team can accomplish.

Top Performers:

Connor and Leon: I think the dynamic duo will be regulars on my top performers for most of the season. Both guys reached the 200 career goal mark this week. Draisaitl had one off-game against Arizona where he had 0 points, but still added 4 goals and 3 assists for the week. McDavid finished the week with 3 goals and 5 assists, with 4 powerplay points.

Connor is somehow on another level this season…

Zach Hyman: Can Hyman score 30 goals this season? If he continues playing with McDavid and building chemistry, it’s very much a possibility. He ended the week with back to back 2 goal games while scoring at even strength, on the powerplay and shorthanded.

Mikko Koskinen: Mike Smith started the first game of the week against Anaheim but was hurt in the 2nd period and was later placed on the IR. Koskinen came into the game in relief and stopped 20 of 21 shots to get the win.

Coach Dave Tippet started Mikko in the back to back road games as well, and he stopped 63 of 67 shots for another 2 wins. He now holds a .943 SV% and a 2.03 GAA on the season. Hopefully he can keep it up and silence all the critics, like I predicted.

Zack Kassian: One of my other bold takes before the season was Zack Kassian bouncing back. Being back in front of fans has seemed to give him new life. Kassian finished the week with 3 goals and 1 assist, along with a a nice breakaway goal for the game winner against Vegas.

Takeaways from Week 2

Oilers Depth is playing a key role..

The depth is finally something to be proud of. The third line of Foegele – Ryan – Kassian now has 5 goals in the first 5 games, which is something Oilers fans haven’t seen in a while.

Foegele scored his first goal as an Oiler on Thursday against the Coyotes.

Not only at forward but at defense as well. Keith and Ceci were written off before the season even started but with sheltered minutes the duo hasn’t looked all that bad. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve had some rough stretches but they’ve looked a lot better than anyone expected.

Goaltending depth had to come through with Mike Smith going down. When he was placed on the IR with a back to back road set, I was a little worried. Koskinen showed he’s better than what we seen last season and that he has something to prove.

Is Evan Bouchard finally a full-time NHLer?

The young defenseman has already propelled himself into the top pairing with Darnell Nurse. Thanks in large to a slow start by Tyson Barrie, but Bouchard has looked exceptional.

It’s clear that he can do defensively what Barrie can’t. Nurse is good for a few lapses a game but Bouchard has been there to back him up. He always seems calm, cool and collected, especially for his first full season.

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Special teams is winning games

The Oilers have had the best powerplay for the past two and a half seasons, and currently sit at 1st place in the NHL right now. It’s early but at 8 for 17 (47.1%), it looks stronger than ever.

Tyler Yaremchuk of Oilersnation.com has had my favourite take on the Oilers powerplay yet. On the GIANT Pre Game Show with Caroline Szwed, he stated that the powerplay doesn’t really have a coaching style, that the players are so skilled that they just go out and do their thing. That’s what makes it so dangerous. There’s no way to coach against it because there’s not really any set plays. You can watch the full show here.

The penalty kill is doing very well sitting at 88.2% through the first 5 games.

Special teams can define a season and I think it’s the biggest reason the Oilers have been successful for the past few years.

Hot on the dots..

The biggest upgrade this season has been the team’s performance in the faceoff circle. Faceoffs may not seem like a big stat but it’s obviously key to drive up possession numbers.

In a whole, they may not seem important but faceoffs can make or break a game, depending on when and where they happen.

What’s Next for the Oilers?

Week 3 will see Edmonton only play 2 games.

The team has a rare early season break and don’t play until Wednesday. After 4 days off the Oilers will host the Philadelphia Flyers on the 27th.

They then travel to play the Vancouver Canucks for a Hockey Night in Canada matchup on Saturday, October 30th.

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