This is what they refer to as reverting to the mean.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who began their maiden voyage by winning eight of their first nine games, are now 10-6-1. And the Edmonton Oilers, a team that inexplicably became the lowest scoring team in the National Hockey League this season, had their first eight-goal night of the year in an 8-2 blowout over Vegas.
“It’s so nice,” began Oscar Klefbom, who opened the scoring with the Oilers’ first short-handed goal of the season. “We’ve had a lot of tight, one-goal games. It’s nice to see some of the players who usually don’t score a lot get some points tonight. I heard that 13 guys had at least a point for us tonight.
“It was nice to get some results, especially on special teams. Let’s hope we can build on this.”
These Oilers may be Cup contenders, or maybe they’re closer to the team that dug itself that giant hole with their poor start. But a shooting percentage of 6.3 per cent heading into the game simply had to go north, as did a home record that now stands at just 4-6-0 after 10 games at Rogers Place.
Pat Maroon, who couldn’t buy a goal during these past couple of weeks, opened with a lovely pass on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ first of two snipes, then pumped one home on a chance that was far more difficult than some of the ones he’s squandered of late.
Maroon scored 27 times last year. Those hands had to heat up, eventually.
“We got away from our identity,” Maroon said of an Oilers team that physically dominated Vegas, allowing just 12 shots over the first 40 minutes. “We’re getting pucks deep, we’re using our size, we’re moving on the forecheck, our D are being active and pinching down low, we’re being physical and protecting pucks. We’re getting to the net and finding loose scraps.
“Good things are happening right now and we have to build off that.”
The depth scorers had been all but silent of most of the young season, but fourth-liners Mark Letestu (1-1-2), Jujhar Khaira (two assists) and Zack Kassian (assist) all hit the scoresheet. So did the big boys, with Nugent-Hopkins potting his seventh and eighth, while Connor McDavid had two goals and a helper.
McDavid now has nine goals and 22 points, jumping into the NHL’s top-10 scoring list.
“Everything went wrong tonight,” began Vegas coach Gerard Gallant. “We weren’t skating, we gave them too many odd-man rushes, and they’re a talented team that takes advantage of that. Right from the start it wasn’t a good game for us.”
A good, old-fashioned blowout. Frankly, there were supposed to be more of these here in Edmonton this season than we’ve seen.
“Eight-goal nights don’t happen very often … but just the freedom to play. To have a little bit of fun,” observed head coach Todd McLellan. “Scoring is fun. Everyone gets in their car to come to the rink, they want to score a goal.
“Tonight a lot of guys got rewarded, and it was a little more relaxed on the bench. A little bit of fun in the game, and we haven’t had that in a while,” he said. “Can it be a stepping stone for us? I hope so, but they’re going to continually be reminded that we have to check for those chances.”
It’s the oldest recipe in hockey, but the same formula is playing out in Edmonton this November that has worked in so many towns: A struggling team first had to find its goaltending and defence, scoring four goals on a three-game road trip that went 1-1-1, then eight times on a recent four-gamer that ended up 2-1-1.
Now, with the defence intact, the scoring has arrived. At least for one night.
“We kind of put everything together tonight and things went well for us,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who is en route to perhaps his best season as a pro. “We can’t get away from that now. There have been times this season, at home especially, where we have a good game then come out with a crummy one.
“We have to stick with this and play the same way.”