How about the Edmonton Oilers? I’m not jumping to any conclusions yet here. After all, the Canadiens started off perfect in the first nine games of the season last year and then shat the bed the rest of the season. The Habs are off to a similar start in 2016-17, but with a healthy Carey Price, I would be surprised if they fall off a cliff like they did a year ago. The moral of the story is to keep everything in perspective this early in the season, a lot can and will change. Nevertheless, for a team who have been as bad as the Oilers for the last several years, this is a welcoming sign. The biggest win yet came the other night against the Washington Capitals, a 4-1 win. I was on the Capitals and clearly took the Oilers lightly, just like the Caps did, and we both ended up getting bitten. Despite the big win, I’m still going to take it day-by-day with the Oilers and see where they go with this in November.
The Oilers travel to nearby Vancouver for a west coast meeting with the Canucks. Edmonton already has two wins against Calgary, and another would make them 3-0 against west coast Canadian teams. It does mean something for these three teams, being the Flames, Canucks, and Oilers, to be the team on top. The Canucks have been the best in recent memory, as they have a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals to be thankful for. The Flames made the playoffs two years ago, and the Oilers have been sputtering. The idea of the Oilers taking the west coast over would have seemed a little bizarre just a month ago, but we’ve seen how they can play lately. The trick is to keep doing it for the rest of the schedule, in other words, 95% of the schedule. It’s the Oilers and Canucks on Friday night from Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Talking about how fast things can change in the NHL. The Canucks opened the season up 4-0, but have since dropped their last three games. They did pick up a point against the Los Angeles Kings in a shootout loss. The Canucks were on the road for two of the last three games, with their latest loss coming at home against the Ottawa Senators. With a couple of nights to dwell on the three straight losses, they have a red hot Oilers’ team coming to town Friday. The most surprising facet of the Oilers has been their defense. Note that Edmonton are allowing 2.43 goals per game, which is 10th in the NHL. In their last three games they’ve only given up 2 goals in total. I know 10th doesn’t look like much to an outside observer who doesn’t follow hockey, but considering they have had one of the worst defenses in recent years, this has been a revelation for them.
The Canucks have surprisingly been particularly well defensively as well in 2016-17. They are 5th in the NHL in goals against with 2.29. They’ve also gone 4-1-0 at home thus far. I don’t think the Oilers are a bad team, but I do think they are being overvalued in this game. I expect variation to take over and ultimately regress some. Everybody sees how well the Oilers are playing, but I still need more time to understand them a little better. Getting plus-points with the Canucks is great value in this spot. Like I said, they’ve been hot so the sportsbooks are adjusting as more money comes in on them, but I’m going to take my chances and fade them as favorites Friday night.
PICK: CANUCKS TO WIN +113