Washington Capitals at Edmonton Oilers – NHL Pick for October 28th
As the 2017-18 season continues to take its shape we can see the clumping of teams in the standings starting to occur. For example, if you consider that a team gets a point for a loss in OT or the shootout a “.500” team is a little different. If you think about two teams that have played 10 games the maximum points they can have is 20. Whether they are 5-5-0 or 0-0-10, they both have 10 points ½ of the maximum 20 points. Taking that theory into consideration all but three Western Conference teams are at or above “.500”.
The Sharks, Oilers and Coyotes are the three teams below the “.500” mark. At this point no team is out of contention but how close everyone is makes for exciting games. Those aforementioned Coyotes are still winless at 0-9-1 good for 1 point and their time is starting to run out. One positive for Arizona? They have more goals-for than the Oilers who 7 points on the year and the Canadiens who have 5 points. You would think that some of their struggles is just bad luck. On the flip-side the Lightning are racing out to an unbelievable start.
They’re 9-1-1 and have the two hottest players in the NHL. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have scored in 11-straight games to start the season. They are the first duo to achieve that since the 1992-93 season. As always, it’s a busy Saturday night in the NHL. We have 12 games hitting the ice so let’s break it all down!
- Washington Capitals (+120) at Edmonton Oilers (-140)
At the beginning of the season, this certainly could have been billed as a possible Stanley Cup Final preview. The Capitals are perennial contenders for the President’s Trophy. The Oilers were the preseason favorites to win it all in Vegas. However, the season hasn’t started the way these teams would have wanted. Both teams are below .500 and struggling to keep the puck out of their own net. They both have a negative goal differential and they are a combined 3-6-0 on home ice. All of those point to non-playoff teams, not Stanley Cup finalists. Of course, it is early and with the likes of Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin on the ice, these teams can be expected to turn it around.
Washington came into the season off of another disappointing playoff run. They were the President’s Trophy winners in 2016-17 and once again saw themselves eliminated in the second round. That defeat came at the hands of Sidney Crosby no less. In the Ovechkin-era the Capitals have yet to get out of the second round of the playoffs. This year starts with a few questions marks. They lie primarily on the blueline. They lost veteran Karl Alzner and trade deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk to free agency. They hope for some youth to step up on the backend and get a Vezina-like season from Brayden Holtby.
Excitement hasn’t been this high in Edmonton since perhaps the 80’s and the Gretzky-era in the City of Champions. It’s hard not to get ahead of yourself when you have one of the best players in the world in just his second season in the NHL. They made a nice run in last year’s playoffs winning their opening round. However, 2017-18 hasn’t been the smoothest of starts. They are 3-5-1, 2nd last in the Conference. Their biggest question may be the group around McDavid. Gretzky had Messier, Coffey, Kurri and others. McDavid needs that type of support too.
The Capitals got off to a hot-start to the year. At one point the top-3 scorers in the league all residing in Washington. However, things have slowed considerably. They have just 9 goals in their last 4 games. Alex Ovechkin is second in goals with 10 but has scored just once in his last five contests. He also has just two assists all season. As a result, the team’s offensive numbers have understandably plummeted. They now sit 20th in the league averaging just 2.9 goals a game. They need a lot more secondary scoring. Evgeny Kuznetzov, Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin all have more points than games played. TJ Oshie has 9 points in 10 games but after that, there is a huge drop-off. When their top players go a bit cold they need the 3rd and 4th lines to chip-in a bit.
Edmonton is having trouble getting a ton of secondary scoring as well. They have averaged 2.2 goals a game thus far good for 30th league-wide. Having 5 points this season would put you tied-4th on this club. To put that into perspective the Maple Leafs are the highest scoring team in the NHL. Thirteen of their players have 5 or more points this year. Even McDavid has struggled. He has just 5 goals and 10 points. Leon Draisatl has missed some time and now has 6 points in just 5 games. Milan Lucic and Ryan Strome were both acquisitions over the last 2 years to provide offense have just one goal each this season.
Washington certainly lacks depth on the backend. They were a top-end team in goals against last year and this season they are 28th. The 3.7 goals a game they are surrendering is just too much to be successful. The load falls squarely on Matt Niskanen and John Carlson. Niskanen was a +20 in 2016-17. This year he’s missed time and is just +1 in five games. Carlson is a -5 thus far this season compared to +7 last year. As a whole, the team has allowed 23 goals in their last five games. That has led to a 1-4-0 stretch where they have looked terrible. I don’t expect it to continue but if it does expect a move for a big-time defenseman by the Capitals brass and soon.
The Oilers haven’t been able to score and they can’t keep the puck out of their own net with any regularity either. They are allowing 3.1 goals against a game. That ranks 18th in the NHL. You can’t be bad on both sides of the puck and expect to win. Edmonton has a young defense core. Darnell Nurse is 22 while Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom are 24-years-old. However, those three lead the team with time on the ice for defensemen. With that youth mistakes will occur. They will look to 30-year-old Kris Russell to secure the backend when the kids are struggling.
Brayden Holtby is a perennial Vezina nominee. He won the award in the 2015-16 season. His numbers this year have been below average for his standards. He owns a 2.87 GAA and a .913 save percentage. Those are far below the career 2.32 GAA and .921 save percentage he has. Despite that, he’s won 40+ games in 3 straight seasons and I expect much of the same.
Cam Talbot’s numbers aren’t any better. He has a 2.96 GAA and .909 save percentage. He was pulled against the Senators just 5 games ago and there are some questions about him in Edmonton. After being yanked he gave up just 5 goals over the next 3 games. That shows he can bounce back. We will see how he responds after giving up 4 goals last time out in a win against Dallas.
Alex Ovechkin v. Connor McDavid
This is a great opportunity to see the former generational talent against the new one. Ovechkin has shown early that he’s not done yet. He has 10 goals so far double that of McDavid. If this game is as high-scoring as it looks like it may be, we could be in for a treat with these two.
Neither club has looked like the Cup contender they were tabbed to be before the season started. However, I expect both will get back on track. Edmonton should be able to get the win at home in a high scoring affair.