The best record in the National Hockey League. The best power play in the National Hockey League. The best player in the National Hockey League.
How on Earth could it get better for the Edmonton Oilers? How about the best weekend on tap on the National Hockey League, as the Oilers will play a round of golf in Las Vegas on Saturday and take in the Raiders-Philadelphia Eagles NFL game Sunday before flying back to Edmonton.
But for now they’ll savour their first statement game of the season, as the Oilers walked into Vegas on the back end of two games in two nights and glazed the Golden Knights 5-3. These are the two teams that will battle for first place in the Pacific Division, or so we would predict, and as the Oilers' weekend in Vegas begins they have 10 points (5-0) while the Golden Knights have just two after a sluggish 1-3 start.
What’s going right with Connor McDavid’s boys? Well, how about everything?
Zach Hyman had his second two-goal game inside 24 hours, while Leon Draisaitl added two more. Zack Kassian scored the game-winner on a stellar play from Duncan Keith, McDavid now has a league-leading 13 points in five games, and Mikko Koskinen is sporting a 3-0 record and a save percentage of .943.
So, yeah, things are going all right for the Oilers early in the season.
“We talked before the game,” began head coach Dave Tippett. “The work we put in so far in training camp, the first four games, it leads up to a game against Vegas on a back to back. They were going to be hungry, and it was a real test for our team.
“We bent a little bit but we didn’t break. When your team goes through the season you have to build confidence. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. But you still have to find a way to win. It’s a good feeling among our guys right now.”
A good feeling?
How about great?
McDavid and Draisaitl are one-two in league scoring. (That didn’t take long).
The new third line that opened Edmonton’s scoring in three of the four games notched the game-winner in Game 5. The new guy, Hyman, has five goals in as many games as an Oiler. The Duncan Keith-Cody Ceci pairing is miles better than Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones, and young Evan Bouchard played 24 minutes Friday, going plus-2 against the best opponent the Oilers have seen all season.
Honestly, even the most delusional Oilers fan couldn’t have predicted a better opening five games than this.
When Edmonton placed starter Mike Smith on IR on the eve of their two-game southern swing, Oilers Twitter took off. The instructions for Tippett were flying, with Stuart Skinner — the organization’s No. 3 — called up from AHL Bakersfield.
“Start Skinner at Arizona, because it was going to be an easy win anyhow.” “No, start Koskinen to insure a win against the Coyotes, then roll the dice with Skinner in Vegas on the second of back to backs.”
“Whatever you do,” the fans warned, “don’t start Koskinen in both games. He can’t play two in a row. Remember last season?”
Well, Koskinen just won both games, allowing only four goals and outplaying Vegas No. 1 Robin Lehner.
“Can’t say enough about Mikko. He stepped up and gave us a chance to win,” said Kassian. “We know that Mikko is fully capable of beating this team. He’s been rock solid for us. It’s nice having him back enjoying himself, and playing great.”
Koskinen doesn’t like talking about himself much, but he knows there are doubters. On the last year of his contract, he’d love to prove 'em all wrong — though the polite Finn would never say as much.
“Overall, it’s been a good 24 hours,” said Koskinen, who loved getting the start in one of the great atmospheres in the NHL. “Oh yeah, it’s an amazing feeling to get the fans in here. Now that they’re back, you wonder how we went a year without the fans. It makes you feel alive. It’s a great feeling
What McDavid is doing to start of this season is truly Gretzkian.
With another two-point night Friday, McDavid has reeled off five multi-point games to start of the season, two short of the Oilers' record of seven, set by The Great One back in the 1983-84 season.
But he doesn’t even look like a guy on a hot streak. He’s just playing his game and casually producing like a man with his hair on fire, looking like a guy who could surpass the 150-point mark in an 82-game season.
“He’s doing the things he’s doing and it helps our team win every night,” Tippett said. “He’s just kind of humming along, and I don’t see his attitude or anything else changing. He just goes out and plays well for our team, and if you walk by him and didn’t know, or didn’t check the stats, you’d never know anything is happening. But it is.”