Oilers off to sputtering start
October 24, 2017 3:05 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Should anyone be really worried about the slow start by the Edmonton Oilers?
Among the National Hockey League clubs expected to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only the Oilers and Montreal don’t have any meaningful excuse; they’re both just not playing well.
But, really, the full-of-firepower Oilers? The club with all the young stars that – they hope – could transform into the next Gretzky/Messier/Kurri unit.
Even the hometown newspaper found the Oilers “mistake-free” yet “methodical” in their 3-0 opening night shutout of Calgary. Since then, there has been no meaningful scoring except for an overtime goal to nip Chicago, 2-1, last week in their only other victory in seven starts.
The Flames were burned on a natural hat trick by center Connor McDavid, a perfect night for goalie Cam Talbot (27 saves), and an awesome performance (nine shots, plus-3) from defenseman Oscar Klefbom.
Since then, Edmonton (2-5-0) is situated near the bottom of the Pacific Division, just above lowly and winless Arizona (0-7-1). At least Calgary bounced back and entered the week at .500, handing first-place Los Angeles (6-0-1) their only blemish.
Oh, yeah, the amazing Vegas Golden Knights are 6-1-0 heading into tonight’s showdown at T-Mobile Arena with Chicago. The clubs are tied for third overall at the top of the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Edmonton seeks a lightning bolt to get its offense in gear; if they were in the Central Division, they’d be in last place, even below Colorado and Minnesota. Ouch!
The club has yet to score more than three goals all season, with their only other three-goal night coming in a 5-3 setback to Carolina. And this week, they play Pittsburgh twice and Washington, so the immediate future is anything but promising.
McDavid either can’t complete a pass or no one can pass the puck to him, leaving him frustrated like Anze Kopitar of the Kings suffered through all last season. First-line winger Patrick Maroon has zero goals on only 11 shots this season; he posted a career-high 27 goals last season. And the blue isn’t helping Talbot, as the team has been outscored 22-11 since winning the first game of the season.
Half of the goals allowed have come on the penalty kill, which rates dead-last in the NHL. And in regards to the Carolina game, The Edmonton Sun reported, “Klefbom’s elite shutdown partner, Adam Larsson, was on for four goals that game, with the pair so discombobulated, head coach Todd McLellan broke them up.”
McLellan also pulled Talbot twice already, yet it’s more of a reflection on poor defensive play in front of the goalie.
At least McLellan knows where the club needs fixing. Until then, you can kick the Oil can and stay away from wagering on the Oilers.
Do The Math
I may not be big on the craze of analytics in hockey (or baseball for that matter). But there was one stat I found interesting, as noted by the announcers for the Washington Capitals.
They report more shots are beating goalies along the near post than last season by 14 percent – that’s a hefty percentage increase.
The theory is so many goalies are now playing the pass to prevent a tip-in or a back-door shot that wingers are now simply blasting the puck Didn’t your youth coach always tell you to shoot the puck?
The alteration in strategy could be another reason for increased scoring this year.
As for Week 3, bettors continue loving the red-hot Over trend.
After a slate of just a single game went Under on Oct. 16, five straight days of Overs registered a composite of 29-12-1 record – that’s more than 70 percent! – including a three-game sweep on Wednesday and an 8-3-1 mark on Saturday.
Even “my” Kings have gone Over in two straight, scoring 11 total goals against the Canadiens and Blue Jackets in matching the best start (6-0-1) in franchise history.
Among the other slow-starters (I’m not talking about the dredge sides like Buffalo and Arizona), some are obvious.
In the Pacific Division, Anaheim almost always starts slowly. Remember the Ducks’ 1-8-1 start last October, only to capture the division going away? San Jose is getting old. and was expected to take a nose dive despite the heroics of Martin Jones in goal.
Back East, Washington is under .500, yet is competitive in every outing. The Caps schedule will even out soon enough and the victories will come thanks to too much talent on both ends of the ice.
As for the N.Y. Rangers (1-5-1 start), this is what we expected from the Blue Shirts last season, but the youngsters on defense came together quickly. Not this year, leaving goalie Henrik Lundqvist “on an island,” as they say.
In addition, Boston is showing signs of collapse, especially after blowing a 4-1 advantage in losing at home to Buffalo, 5-4 in overtime.
At least the developing Sabres show signs of progress and could be a team to often look-to-bet on later in the season.
When some of these teams make the turn-around, you can grab nice prices before the bookmaker adjusts the line.