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GENE'S BLOG: Day off in the desert

As the team enjoys a mandated single-day break in Arizona, Gene blogs about all the factors that have contributed to their 16-7-3 record through 26 games

by Gene Principe / Special to

A day off in Arizona. Sounds like the right way to start the week for the Edmonton Oilers. A day of rest, relaxation, and time to ponder how the first 26 games of the 2019-20 season have gone.

Whether it's on a golf course, pool side, at a patio having lunch, or maybe just a day of room service, the Oilers should thoroughly enjoy what they have accomplished prior to this CBA-mandated break. The team has poured their heart, their head, their skill, their passion and their commitment into bursting out to a stellar beginning to the campaign.

Edmonton is 16-7-3 with 35 points, good enough for third overall in the NHL and first in the Pacific Division. It's quite a statline to describe where the Oilers sit through nearly the first two months of the season. If you were putting together a list of reasons for their success to date, it would be a long list.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Post-Game at ARI 11.24.19

It wouldn't feel right not starting with the Dynamic Duo of Connor and Leon. They are 1-2 in points in the NHL (Draisaitl 48, McDavid 47). They are also 2-3 in goals (Connor 18, Leon 16). While those numbers are incredible, they somehow don't even quite justify the wizardry they've displayed in taking over games this season. It's been nothing short of amazing for Oiler fans to watch these two put up 1980s-like numbers.

As we witnessed last season, despite all that McDavid and Draisaitl achieved, it wasn't enough to get the team into post-season action. This season they've been even better, but so has the supporting cast. A prime example was Sunday night versus Arizona.

After stripping Vegas of two points the night before, the Oilers arrived in the desert short on rest and short one player as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was unable to play due to a hand injury.

Enter Sam Gagner - a veteran, former first-rounder who slid in seamlessly into the second-line centre spot. Nice player to have sitting and waiting for an opportunity. Gagner set up Alex Chiasson's goal and their line alongside James Neal was effective throughout the game.

Depth scoring is always a challenge, but the players expected to fill in the blanks are doing their job. Looking like a regulation loss might be on the way last night, Markus Granlund stepped up to tie things up in the third period and allowed Edmonton to eventually prevail in a shootout.

Video: EDM@ARI: Granlund roofs rebound to tie it up

Three goals in four games for Granlund, and then there was Jujhar Khaira's three goals in two games before a blocked shot forced him out of the lineup this weekend. And then there's Neal, who continues to light the lamp to the tune of 14 goals. The Real Deal has more than lived up to his nickname, potting his 10th on the PP last night against the Coyotes.

There's a power play that sits second in the NHL with a 32.4% success rate, and a penalty kill tied for third at 86.7%. In net, Mikko Koskinen putting together nine wins along with Mike Smith's seven has really given Edmonton a 1-2 netminding punch.

Oscar Klefbom's point totals (18 in 26 games) are almost as high as his league-leading 25:50 time on ice. He wears 77 but looks more like a number one defenceman to me.

Ken Holland's off-season moves helped stock the Oilers with seemingly the right players. Dave Tippett is taking those new players, along with the ones who were already wearing the Oil drop, and turning them into a defensive-minded yet offensively-explosive team.

Enjoy the day off, Edmonton Oilers, because you earned it.

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