Connor McDavid’s goal last night—the second one—must have been a dagger to the heart of the Calgary Flames. It can’t be any fun at all on the day you find out you’re Wile E. Coyote, but on that second goal all the air came out of the tires on the red team. The ultimate nutcracker—and that’s a good team in Calgary. McDavid was brilliant, Talbot made some fantastic saves and the rest of the team played well. Strong on the puck, calm feet, patient outlet passing—there was a helluva lot to like last night.
- “When we started last year, I thought we were outscoring our mistakes. Tonight we didn’t make many.”
OILERS IN OCTOBER
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-0-0, goal differential +3
A nice start in front of the home crowd, the top of the roster tearing up the blacktop while the middle and bottom of the group didn’t spend a lot of time burning daylight. Outstanding effort across the board. I guess you could bitch about the power play, but that’ll come.
Connor McDavid is not a human being pic.twitter.com/o5yK1kaGkM
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 5, 2017
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OCTOBER
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-0-0)
- At home to: Winnipeg, Ottawa, Carolina (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual: 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Dallas, Washington (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-3-2, 12 points in 10 games
- Current results: 1-0-0, 2 points after one game
DEFENSE LAST NIGHT
- All numbers via NaturalStatTrick.
- Oscar Klefbom, oh my! He had nine shots, 15 shot attempts and rocked Matt Fenwick’s number past 75 and kept it between the lines. Hallelujah, amen!
- Klefbom—Larsson went 30-9 together Fenwick (all numbers Fenwick and all numbers 5×5), including a tidy 23-5 with the McDavid line and 7-5 with the Nuge. The Swedes played most against Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland (12-9) and were 18-0 against the rest. Klefbom is going to get a lot of attention this season, on merit. Larsson is less flashy, but very effective. He’s a rocknrolla.
- Nurse—Gryba went 11-5 together, and that included 4-2 with Mark Letestu, 5-3 with McDavid and 3-3 with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. A balanced pairing on the night, Nurse faced Versteeg—Bennett—Brower most often, going 3-5. Darnell Nurse had a strong game in my opinion, lots of smart analytics people have made the call on him, I’m of the belief the game is still slowing down for him and development continues. Last night was a good arrow for the youngster.
- Russell—Benning was the pairing we were most concerned with, I thought they were solid to good despite the Fenwick numbers. Pair went 12-18 together, including 6-8 with the Strome line and 2-5 with McDavid. Went 5-12 against the Monahan line, Gaudreau torched them but could not cash. Russell is stronger left side and Benning looked like the freewheeling rookie of last year with the puck on his stick. I’m not saying the Fenwicks are lying, but the visual on this pair was far more attractive than the numbers. You are free to accuse me of bias, we have 81 more games to argue.
- Cam Talbot stopped all 26 shots he faced, several of the difficult variety.
FORWARDS LAST NIGHT
- Connor McDavid is going to inspire someone to create more adjectives. His entire night was ridiculous, but that second goal came from another world. The only thing the six Flames on the ice could offer was eye witness testimony.
- Maroon—McDavid—Draisaitl owned the game save one or two shifts, they were dynamic and aggressive. The Flames are a good team, I swear to God. Trio went 29-12 together, including 13-8 against Giordano—Hamilton and 15-6 against T.J. Brodie (10-3 against Travis Hamonic). Scorched Sam Bennett 17-2, only 9-6 against Sean Monahan’s line. The McDavid line are the electric horsemen of the Oilers.
- Lucic—RNH—Yamamoto didn’t last the entire night but hung in there for a lot of it. Nuge was 7-3 with Lucic and the line had two feature RW’s. 93 was 3-4 with Yamamoto and 3-1 with Zack Kassian, who had a nice run with the 2line. Nuge went 7-0 against the Tkachuk—Backlund—Frolik line and that might be the best news all night. Folks, Nuge has to score and we know it. The line’s possession numbers last night were outstanding and that’s a very good sign. I’m not sure Yamamoto gets much more time with this line.
- Jokinen—Strome—Caggiula also had a good evening, going 8-8 as a trio. They went 5-4 against Tkachuk—Backlund—Frolik and that’s excellent. I liked Strome’s game but for me the key man on the trio is Jokinen. His instincts are fabulous, just a wicked hockey player.
- Khaira—Letestu—Kassian went 7-5 as a line and I liked their game. For once, Letestu wasn’t overused on special teams and was able to center his own unit on the 5×5. Khaira is a big, ornery player who gave the Flames some real problems. Kassian once again showed an ability to move up in the order, getting a 10-bell chance on the Nuge line that might have been the best chance for that unit. Line went 4-1 against Glass—Stajan—Hathaway, a line I didn’t like at all, although the broadcasters seemed to like them fine. Khaira got some PK time and played well to my eye.
Here's Connor McDavid's second goal with a speedometer attached. 41 km/h (25.4 mph) by the end of it, how the hell do you stop that? pic.twitter.com/cLXN3qp4d9
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 5, 2017
Another searing performance by the captain, that second goal will be remembered a long time. He didn’t pass some rookie and he wasn’t playing the Colorado Avalanche. We’ve talked about this before, but on the ice with the puck on his stick, McDavid is blur meets rumor. There’s no defense in hockey, there’s no mathematical formula, there’s no answer for that kind of speed and control. Last night, T.J. Brodie, a very good NHL defender, was a house by the side of the road, a witness but not a participant. Incredible. Brodie didn’t even make “also in photo” status when all was said and done. Special.
Even in a well played game, you need the goalie to make some saves. Talbot went long periods without a lot of activity, but made some outstanding saves in a contest that remained close until deep into the proceedings. Last year’s formula may have a new wrinkle (more in a minute)
THE REST OF THE STORY
In yesterday’s GD post, I wrote “it’s going to be a long season, once again relying heavily on Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot. The formula works, we saw it a year ago. Will the complementary players push this team higher?”
Based on one game only, the answer could be yes. Lines two through four gave a strong account of themselves against a good Calgary team (I don’t like their fourth line but the rest of the group is going to make some noise). We need to see more of the group, and there will be tweaks along the way. You can only play the games on the schedule, but there appears to be real quality and depth on this roster. Stay tuned!
The thing that made him so impressive in preseason were the number of times he touched the puck and then moved it to a good spot. We didn’t see him touch the puck much in his first NHL game and perhaps he has reached his outer marker for this season. I think he’ll get a few more games this month to show his stuff and there’s every chance he shows us more in the ensuing games. He handled himself well and now we’re on to game two.
this is not a good spot to find yourself in if you're Travis Hamonic or literally any other human being pic.twitter.com/aEliQfUxOj
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) October 5, 2017
Actual NHL defenseman in full panic mode.
Zone exits by D: 64.8% controlled
Zone entries against: 47.4% controlled
Those are solid!
Will post specific D #s tomorrow.
— WheatNOil (@WheatNOil) October 5, 2017
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s also acknowledge the good that happened last night on Rogers ice. I look forward to Wheat’s thoughts today.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, my friend Bruce McCurdy will be driving to the radio station with a smile on his face. Bruce and I are older gents, we’ve seen some things. Last year, we moved his day on the Lowdown because we seemingly always talked about a loss. No big deal, life is life. That said, I’m very much looking forward to this morning’s conversation with him. Bruce has earned the chance to talk about a win and a strong game, and we’ll clear the decks for him at 10:20. It all begins at 10 this morning, scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. A big win for the Oilers opening night, dozens of storylines for Mr. McCurdy.
- Rob Vollman, NHL.com and ESPN. Oilers-Flames, Jagr, Yamamoto.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Frank picked the Oilers to win it all this season, how does he fell about that bet this morning?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!