It was a memorable night for second overall pick Kaapo Kakko on Saturday as the Finnish forward tallied his first NHL goal with an impressive display of his puck handling abilities down in front of the net. At the time, the goal gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead over the surprisingly undefeated Edmonton Oilers. However, the celebration didn’t last long as the Oilers scored four unanswered goals to drop New York 4-1 and move to 5-0-0.
The Kakko goal was the lone highlight of the night for the Blueshirts home fans as the Rangers managed just 21 shots against Oilers netminder, Mike Smith. Despite having four power play opportunities, the Rangers got just seven shots on net. Smith stopped them all.
On the other end of the ice, Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 23-of-26 shots from the Oilers. Leon Draisaitl added an empty-net goal for his second of the game in the closing seconds of the third period. Connor McDavid and Oscar Klefbom tallied the other two goals for the Oilers who are off to their first 5-0 start since the 1985-86 season. In addition, they are the first team to start 5-0 after trailing in each game.
Can the Oilers sustain this success?
The competition hasn’t quite included the juggernauts of the NHL but you can only play the schedule given to you so it is tough to tell at this point if they can sustain it. We can all point to the Sabres hot start last season and recall where they finished. However, at this point, it is nothing but positives for the new regime under Ken Holland and head coach Dave Tippett.
Of course, familiar faces like McDavid and Draisaitl have contributed in the early going but the addition of James Neal seems to already be paying dividends. Especially for a team that has been starved for any sort of consisted production from their wings. And with Neal, production is exactly what they have got to the tune of seven goals in five games. It goes without saying (so I’ll say it anyway) that he won’t keep this pace up the entire season but if he can be a 30 goal scorer for the team he can have a massive impact.
One thing to be concerned in the early going is the goaltending. Yes, they only allowed the one goal against the Rangers, however, entering Saturday’s game, the duo of Smith and Mikko Koskinen have a combined save percentage of .902 and a GAA of 2.94. Nothing spectacular. Especially when you consider the teams they have played to this point are some of the worst offensive teams in the early going. They will have to tighten up the goaltending if they have any chance of making a surprise run.
Moving forward, the Oilers have an opportunity to gain some more momentum with a reasonable schedule in the month of October. Aside from a matchup with the Capitals and the Red Wings, they should have an opportunity to pick up points in most of those games. However, when the calender turns to November, it gets much more difficult with games looming with the Golden Knights, Penguins, Stars, Avalanche and the Ducks. We will really know then who the Oilers are.