Through four games this year the Oilers remain undefeated and seem to be firing on all cylinders. What are they doing right?
Four games is a pretty small sample size and an undefeated start is in no way a sign that you’re a great team. I mean the Sabres have yet to lose and I don’t think anyone is buying into them, and just two seasons ago the Oilers started off 5-0-0 before falling off for the next few months. Nonetheless, the Oilers are undefeated through four games so let’s look at what’s been working for them.
Offensive Depth has been a huge issue for the Oilers since the beginning of the McDavid era and so far this year it’s seen a steady improvement. The fourth line has still struggled to produce anything, but Warren Foegele, Zack Kassian and Derek Ryan have all played important roles in the Oilers’ success thus far. Foegele officially earned the title of McLovin last night after potting an absolute beauty in Arizona and has been one of the best when it comes to getting the puck to the net this year. He’s been a huge addition for the Oilers’ middle six and if he continues this play I would imagine he sees even more time on the top two lines. Zack Kassian has already matched his goal total from last year with a pair against the Ducks and has seemingly recovered well from a scary injury in the preseason. Overall, through his three games, he’s made a notable improvement in driving the play, and seems like he can be a productive third liner. The same can be said for Derek Ryan, who won’t really stand out to you when you’re watching him, but in a good way. Ryan just hasn’t made many mistakes and is averaging over 14 minutes a game. Just an all around solid bottom six center who’s definitely upped his game so far this year.
Evan Bouchard is really good. Darnell Nurse is still probably the Oilers’ best defenseman, but most of the time he’s on the ice, it’s with Tyson Barrie (who I’ll fully cover another time) which drastically impacts his defensive efficiency. The Oilers defense has been incredibly average this year but Evan Bouchard has been anything but that. He’s producing in both ends and has shown very few holes in his game. An incredibly promising start for someone the Oilers need to be good if they want to succeed.
This Team Scores Goals. Once again, this is a small sample size, but so far the Oilers have had 14 powerplays and have scored on 7 of them. That is an insanely high 50% success rate that is likely unsustainable over a full season, but it looks like the league’s best powerplay has just gotten better. It’s entirely possible that the Oilers’ powerplay this year could be the best the NHL has ever seen. Aside from that, the big guns continue to produce. To the surprise of no one, Connor McDavid leads the league in points with Draisaitl right behind him and Puljujarvi just behind him. Zach Hyman has also produced scoring on both the powerplay and penalty kill last night. If there’s one thing we knew this team could do, it was score, and they’ve done nothing to make us think otherwise as they’re tied currently for the league lead in goals.
It may be a small sample size, but the Oilers have impressed through four games this year and seem to have made some major improvements. These are going to have to stick throughout the year, along with some better defense, if the Oilers want to be real contenders, but for now, 82-0 is still on the table. Onto Vegas for our biggest test of the season.