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GENE'S BLOG: The Start of Something

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about the Oilers first successful road trip of the 2019-20 campaign

by Gene Principe /

I know you can't win every game or at least not every game during an NHL season. You can have a team go undefeated in football like, for example, the Miami Dolphins did during the 1972 season. They are the only NFL team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season (14-0).

In hockey, it just doesn't happen. You can get some really long winning or undefeated streaks like Philadelphia had during the 1979-80 season. The Flyers went 35 games without a loss (25-0-10). The streak started Oct.14,1979 and didn't end until Jan. 6, 1980. Back then a tie finished as a tie. 

There was no tie on Monday night but it looked like there was going to be another successful comeback after James Neal scored his eighth goal of the season and sixth on the power play to cut Chicago's lead in half. 

Video: Blackhawks top Oilers for first win of season

"We obviously were hoping for that," stated Connor McDavid, who also scored a goal earlier in the game only to have it wiped out. 

Also wiped out was the Oilers winning streak. Five straight victories equaled the start of the 1985-86 season. They were closing in on the all-time best beginning to a season as the 1983-84 version of the Oilers started 7-0. Instead, the Oilers finished at 3-1 on their trip and that included a sweep of New York and New Jersey for the first time in franchise history. 

"We had a real good road trip," said Mike Smith. "We would have liked to have got this one." 

Instead, after wins against Vancouver, Los Angeles, the New York Islanders, New Jersey and New York Rangers, the Oilers fell from the ranks of the undefeated. 

Monday night started with two teams and two unblemished records. Colorado improved to 5-0. Edmonton couldn't quite make it to 6-0. 

Video: Oilers top Rangers for best start in 34 years

"We knew it was a matter of time," Oscar Klefbom said regarding eventually losing a game, "but we are pretty happy with 5-1."  

What's not to be happy about? The goaltending, whether it's been Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen, has been somewhere between solid to spectacular. The blueline is boosting its offensive numbers while handling assignments in their own zone. Up front, Connor and Leon still drive the bus. While there are people on it, they aren't just passengers but players who have made the team better. 

"We've set a standard and if we play to those standards, we'll have a chance to win," explained head coach Dave Tippett.

Video: Draisaitl leads Oilers past Devils in shootout

It's sometimes hard to describe a feel, a vibe or a sense that things are different. You have to be around it to fully get the impact. Edmonton is only a couple weeks into the season but early returns are just as good on the ice as they are away from the rink.

It's a good group of guys. They are getting to know each other. Winning helps everyone like each other and the victories make it happen even faster. There were a lot of changes on the ice. There, you have last names and numbers to go with it. Off the ice, it's about getting used to the new faces. 

Short trips to Kelowna help. Long stays on the road, like four games in eight days, also help. It's hard to win anything in October other than some respect around the League and belief amongst yourselves. The Oilers have been able to accomplish both in the first homestand and road trip of the season. 

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