The Oilers picked up their first win of the 2015-16 season by cruising past the Calgary Flames 5-2 on Saturday night. Here are five things to take from the game in Calgary.
1. FIRST 'W COMES VS. RIVALS
The first win of the season is a sweet thing for any team and it’s even sweeter when it’s against your bitter rivals and it ends a painful losing streak.
The Oilers opened the 2015-16 Battle of Alberta series with a 5-2 win against the Flames on the road in Calgary. It marked the end to a streak in which the Flames won seven straight against Edmonton. Previously, the team’s last win over the Flames came on December 27, 2013.
The Oilers move to 1-4-0 on the season with the important divisional victory.
“An important two points, absolutely,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “You could sense that we needed a reward at some point and we got one now. We’ll see what we do with it. We’re going to keep watching the group. How do we respond when we’re down? How do we respond when we’re up?”
2. A 1ST OVERALL PICK PARTY
When you draft a player first overall, they’re expected to be difference makers. That was on full display in Calgary for the Oilers. All four of their first-overall picks scored against the Flames.
2011 first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring at 12:59 of the first period when he jumped on a rebound from Jonas Hiller. Connor McDavid, taken first overall in this year’s draft, potted his second career NHL goal at 16:31 of the second. It was an excellent goal that rewarded the rookie for a strong game. He’d score another goal late in the third.
2010 first-overall pick Taylor Hall made it a 3-1 game just 25 seconds into the third. Hall banged the loose puck in from the crease after a shot by Oscar Klefbom. Nail Yakupov, first overall in 2012, unleashed a one-timer at 2:59 of the third to get in on the scoring party.
The four top picks combined for five goals and four assists in the win.
3. McDAVID'S STRONG GAME
It was the best game McDavid has played in the NHL to date, according to McLellan. The 18-year-old centre played 17:45 and posted two goals and an assist, with four shots on goal.
He drove the pace of play and was an offensive catalyst for the team.
“Best game yet, I think, from Connor,” said McLellan. “He made an impact throughout the night. He had an impact on the score sheet. He probably could have had more of an impact there with some of the chances he had. I thought he finally let himself go and kind of gave himself permission. Sometimes you have to do that to get after it. He’s a young player. You don’t have to give way to the veterans all the time. You’re allowed to go out and take charge. I thought he did that tonight.”
McDavid’s first goal came as he approached the net with speed and beat Hiller. His second came on a beautiful feed from Hall.
“He was great,” said Hall. “He’s got all the tools to take over games and that’s what he did tonight and it was fun to watch. I hope that he gets a lot of confidence from that game because that’s a tough building to come in and play in. A really good road game for our team.”
The Oilers talked after the game about how McDavid’s confidence continues to grow as he gets more and more comfortable.
“Obviously, you can see his confidence growing game by game and we’re all just going to build off that, feed off that line and hopefully he can rally the guys and hopefully he can keep putting the puck in the net,” said Oilers netminder Cam Talbot.
4. TALBOT'S FIRST 'W
Speaking of Talbot, the Oilers goaltender picked up his first win for the orange and blue.
Talbot was acquired in the off-season via trade with the New York Rangers, and the netminder has been battling hard for that first victory.
“It feels great,” he said. “The first of many, hopefully.”
Talbot made 22 saves, including 10 in the third, to give the Oilers a chance to win the game.
5. A TEAM WIN
The offensive numbers were good, McDavid’s performance was good and Talbot making some saves was also good for the Oilers. But make no mistake, this was a team win. The Oilers roster as a whole put on a winning performance in the eyes of their coach.
“I thought today we had guys that fell into their… roles real well. We had grinders that grinded, we had faceoff guys that won important faceoffs, we had pieces of lines going out and getting jobs done and then changing, we had D that were blocking shots, D that were moving it. It was a team win,” said McLellan.
In a true team-first mentality, McLellan didn’t want to take credit for it being his first victory as the coach of the Oilers either.
“It’s not important that it’s my first win, it’s our first win,” he said. “The team, the group, the organization, the staff, it’s certainly not about me. It feels good to finally get a reward. I think our game has been getting better, minus the Dallas game. We’ve talked enough about that. It’s been getting better. Guys are starting to understand a little bit more of their roles in situational play and we played a solid game. We deserved to win tonight.”