The Edmonton Oilers put their hot start to the test tonight in Pittsburgh. It’s been a terrific start for the Oilers, who are 9-3-1 heading into tonight against the Penguins. The question being asked around the league is whether the Oilers are for real or pretenders. I’m sure Oiler fans are asking the same question, something they’re having a difficult time pinpointing. They certainly want to believe that this start is a reflection of things to come in the future, but I think there are some fans being cautiously optimistic with this bunch. Beat the Penguins tonight on the road in Pittsburgh, and there may be a few more people jumping on the Oilers’ bandwagon. Easier said than done, against a Pens team playing excellent hockey as well. However, with the Penguins that is to be expected. With the Oilers, the perception here is that they were a few years off from being a quality team. They are certainly playing like a quality team, but playing like it doesn’t always equate to actually being a quality team. Some of the worst teams in sports will play well for a stretch.
Ever since Sidney Crosby has arrived on the scene in Pittsburgh, the Penguins have proven that they are not a flash in the pan. Two Stanley Cups later, Crosby has cemented his legacy as one of the best players to ever lace the skates up in the NHL. Not to be overshadowed, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and a cast of other role players did their part in helping this franchise out. Who can forget the playoff performance from Matt Murray in net, too? The Oilers have a special player who they hope can follow in the same path as former Oiler, Wayne Gretzky, and Crosby. Gretzky might be stretching it, and earning the same kind of accolades Crosby has will be a difficult toad. All in all though, Connor McDavid has the tools to do big things in Edmonton. Stanley Cups? If management makes the right moves to help him out, I’m sure he’ll at least have a run at it. In any event, a win against the Penguins would be a nice accomplishment for the hot starting Oilers.
It appears that Matt Murray will give Fleury the night off and assume the starting duties in net against the Oilers. Murray may not last long in Pittsburgh, as he has proven the ability to be a starting goaltender. Just like Cam Talbot with the Rangers, who played well in spot duty as a backup, and is now leading the Oilers to a resurgence in Edmonton. I already said on Saturday that Murray could be packing his bags for Las Vegas after the expansion draft. Fleury has a no-movement clause in his contract, and if he doesn’t waive it, it’s looking like Murray will be the one being drafted. However, if the Penguins trade Fleury this season, Murray would ultimately be protected from the draft. I know, the rules of this expansion draft are a lot to grasp, but the moral of the story is that the Vegas team are going to have a slew of quality players to choose from across the league.
Murray was dealing with a broken finger coming into the season, an injury he suffered during the World Cup of Hockey. In two starts this season, Murray has allowed just 1 goal, which equals a GAA of 0.50 with a 0.985 save percentage. On 65 shots he only let the 1 goal in. Fleury is good and all, but it’d be tough for me as a GM of the Penguins to watch this guy go bye bye in an expansion draft. The Pens have yet to lose in regulation this season with a record of 5-0-1. This will be the Oilers fifth straight game on the road, after two straight wins over the Islanders and Red Wings. This looks like a nice opportunity for the Pens to show the youngsters that they are the kings of the NHL. The value on the Penguins’ puck line looks really good here. I feel that they have a better chance than +173 at winning by more than a goal.
PICK: PENGUINS -1.5 (+173)