EDMONTON — Alex Chiasson picked his mother, Marylin, up from the Edmonton International Airport on Thursday, as the mothers of the Oilers players arrived for a California "Mom’s Trip" that begins with a game in Anaheim Sunday.
Marylin made a living with a calculator when she worked for the federal tax department. When it comes to zero goals in 14 goals for her boy Alex, of course, she’s never been one to count.
"That’s the special relationship I have with my Mom," said Chiasson, 29, who busted his slump with a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win Friday. "Honestly, we don’t really talk about hockey. If I need advice, or we just need to chat, I know she doesn’t care about my goal scoring or things like that. She’s just there to pick me up and make me feel good about myself."
It’s a long drive in from the airport here. Chiasson is lucky it wasn’t a Dad’s trip.
"I know it’s different when I talk to my Dad," he laughed. "He’s a lot more honest."
This was the game Chiasson has been waiting for since early October, like that bus that never seems to arrive on a minus-23 Edmonton winter day. The big Montrealer had 22 goals last season, and although few people expected he would pot 20 again, the Oilers are counting on 12-15 at least.
Well, until he got a stick on a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wrist shot, deflecting a puck behind beleaguered Devils goalie Cory Schneider, Chiasson had been starving for that first one. And getting frustrated, we might add.
And then his Mom came to town, and he scored.
"She might have to stay for the rest of the month," he said.
"You could tell there was just a hunger around the net," head coach Dave Tippett said of Chiasson’s game. "I think the frustration had just gotten to the point where he just wasn’t going to be denied. That is a good sign. If you look at it, he is a guy who usually scores in streaks, so hopefully that is a good sign of things to come."
The Oilers have been absolutely begging for some support scoring behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, neither of whom were required for post-game interviews for the first time in who-knows-how-long. On Friday, Nove. 8, it finally arrived.
Better late than never.
"Your best players are going to be your best players in this league," said Chiasson. "But I’ve said this time and time again: when you have guys on any given night coming in and pulling on the rope, that’s what is going to make this team dangerous."
When the puck goes from the stick of Kris Russell over to third pairing partner Matt Benning, whose shot is deflected home by a fourth-line centre named Gaetan Haas, you have virtually defined depth scoring.
James Neal, who had gone three games without, scored his 12th in 18 games. Draisaitl also buried as breakaway on a bullet pass from Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers best player on the night with two assists. McDavid had just a lonely second assist — the kind of team effort that has been sorely missed on a team that is so often carried by the captain and Draisaitl, two of the NHL’s Top 4 scorers going into action this weekend.
And just in case anyone forgot about the goalie, Mikko Koskinen recorded his first shutout this season, beefing his saves percentage up to .926. Put that next to Mike Smith’s identical .926, and this tandem is far, far out pacing the kind of success predicted when the season began.
"He’s just solid," said Tippett, who has masterfully swapped his goalies in and out, just in time for the next guy to give him a solid start. "(Koskinen) has good practices before his starts. He was just in position and made the game look simple. That was a strong game by a goaltender. He was positionally sound and right in tune with the game and got rewarded with the shutout."
The goaltending hasn’t waivered for Edmonton, an area that will go a long way towards becoming a playoff team.
If the support scoring hangs around, well, that’s a whole new ballgame.