EDMONTON - Does this have to stop now?
Does the bubble have to pop now?
Does Edmonton’s Octoberfest have to come to a conclusion? Can’t it be held over through November?
It really has been a festival of fun in the late great City of Champions.
But now the Edmonton Oilers go on the road for 10 of their next 12.
They won their fifth straight game of the season last night, a fun 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. It was their seventh win of the season to finish the month on the top of the NHL’s Western Conference standings — and second overall after two straight seasons in 30th — with a 7-2-2 record.
The Oilers didn’t win their seventh of the season last year until after the Grey Cup!
It was on Nov. 29. Game 23.
Even if they lose all 12 games, they can’t be worse than they were at the same time last year.
Right now, for the record, they’re No. 1 in the NHL in goals against, fourth on the penalty kill and 12th on the power play.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with two assists Sunday night, is back to being a point per game player with five goals and six assists in 11 games. Eberle scored a goal for his 10th point of the season and Hall had an assist for his ninth point.
And it’s not just the kids. It’s the two old guys.
Ryan Smyth’s return to the Oilers featured two more goals to give him a tie for the team lead with The Nuge with five for his season. He has 10 points.
And Nikolai Khabibulin leads the entire league with a 1.12 goals against average and a .960 save percentage.
Do Edmonton’s patient fans have to now wait for the wheels to fall off and the drop of doom begin to the other end of the standings?
This is where pumpkin time is supposed to kick in for The Baby Oil Line, The Kids In The Hall Line, The Pipeline, The Expensive Line (it will be in three years), The Blackjack Line (they’re 21, 20 and 18) The First Round Line, the Ryan Nugent-Hall Line or whatever you want to call Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
Coach Tom Renney has been able to provide Nugent-Hopkins with soft minutes as he breaks into the league at home. But he can’t do that on the road. And on the road the line hasn’t produced points.
The Nuge doesn’t have a point in three away games, Hall is pointless in his two on the road and Eberle has an lonely assist on another line.
So training wheels time is over for the line as Hall and Eberle and mates get to show RNH the sights in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Montreal, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Minnesota and Colorado in November.
Can they possibly keep it going for another month?
“We’re sure going to try,” said Renney, of his young team.
Renney admits it’ll be different on the road.
“On the road the matchups are tougher and we have to protect those kids on the road, too,” he said.
But talk to the kids and they’re looking forward to the challenge.
“You have to remember we weren’t a line for our first away game and that Hallsy missed the game in Calgary. So we haven’t really had a chance to be tested. We know we have to learn to play on the road, too. But we’re going out there with a lot of confidence,” said Ebere.
Hall snorts at the idea that the season now has to start going up in smoke.
“The rink is still 200 x 85 on the road. If we keep protecting our own end of the ice, and we’re doing very well at that, I think we’re going to keep making progress. Last year I was a far better player on the road than I was at home.”
One thing about what’s ahead. There’s little doubt that the kids should be able to keep it going when the Oilers are on the power play.
“Our line has been successful on the power play from Day 1,” he said. “And we’re steadily getting better.”
Nugent-Hopkins says he can’t wait.
“We want to show we can produce on the road as well,” he said.
“Whatever comes at us, we want to be ready for it.”
And, hey, this is Disneyland for him.
“I haven’t been to a lot of these places or played in a lot of these buildings.”
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