JONES: Oilers looked like they belong at the top of Pacific Division
There's likely no understating what Wednesday night's victory over the Philadelphia Flyers might mean to the Edmonton Oilers in terms of the big picture going forward into the remainder of the regular season.
That may seem like a silly thing to say seven games into the season.
For another hockey club, in another situation, that game probably wouldn't have meant that much. But for this hockey club in this situation, it says here, it meant far more than may meet the average eye.
The Oilers needed to prove to themselves and their long-suffering fans, who watched a 549-game sellout streak come to an end this night, that they are going forward as a team of substance, not the one that lost all those games of Snakes & Ladders that are the 82-game NHL regular-season schedules.
OK. For the longest time there, it didn't look like the Oilers were a team of grit going against the team of Gritty.
Well into the second period Edmonton was being outshot 24-11 when Connor McDavid broke free and pulled the trigger to make it 3-1 and send the Oilers on their way to a 6-3 victory.
The concept, of course, is to make the winning streaks long and keep the losing streaks short.
Last season the Oilers longest winning streaks were a pair of four-gamers and trio of three-gamers.
They already topped those with their five wins in a row to start the season.
A pair of six-game losing streaks, a five-game belly flop and a pair of four-game skids over-compensated for those brief stretches of success.
And then there was the old 'First Game Back From A Road Trip' scenario.' It can't be overstated what that might mean in the big picture going forward.
With Edmonton's location on the map, it's been a hurdle for this franchise no matter what part of their history you look at.
There's also the simple fact that Edmonton was gifted with a good schedule against teams that, like themselves, mostly missed the playoffs last year.
Just that fact they haven't blown it and the record they are now guaranteed to be taking forward should give them the confidence to go forward and compete against the tougher teams.
The Oilers, who came from behind to win each of their first five games of the season, took the lead in this one only 73 seconds into the game when McDavid set up Leon Draisaitl in the middle of the right-side faceoff circle for his fifth goal of the season.
Edmonton gave up a rare (for this year) power-play goal in the middle of the first frame but had the lead back on the first NHL goal of the career of Ethan Bear.
It was starting to look very much like one of those 'First Games Back After A Road Trip' tilts in the front end of the second period until McDavid scored his fifth of the season and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins potted his first of the year and Draisaitl followed with his second of the night to put the Oilers up a comfortable 5-1 against the team that had played the night before in Calgary. Early in the third period it was the third five-point night of McDavid's career
So many times in recent years, a major breakdown on defence or a soft goal against would have turned a game like that south for the Oilers. But for a significant stretch there, much-maligned goaltender Mikko Koskinen was full-value for his $4.5 million annual salary in the Edmonton nets.
But this was a team that looked like a veteran, experienced, group that believed they belonged up at the top of the Pacific Division tables with the mental toughness to believe if they stuck to the defensive discipline being preached by Dave Tippett would win the game at the end.
The Oilers scored first and never trailed. If you didn't know better, you'd figure that was situation normal.
The Oilers telegraphed that the crowd count wouldn't be.
Attendance was 18,347 for the first time since the team moved to Rogers Place. But they weren't alone. In their most recent home games, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal and now Edmonton all failed to record sellout ticket totals.
The announced attendance was 17,107.
Ken Holland's former franchise, the Detroit Red Wings, are here Friday and one would expect that Oilers will want to make it a statement game for no other reason than that.[email protected]
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