We're seven games into the 2013 NHL season, and the Edmonton Oilers are coming off of a gutsy comeback and shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. They're now 4-2-1, but are they better?
You may recall that the Oilers had a record of 3-2-2 after seven games last season, and they would get as good as 9-3-2 in their first fourteen before the wheels fell off completely. The Oilers ultimately finished in 29th place despite their hot start. So what signs are there - if any - that the Oilers are actually getting better?
By eye the team seems to be playing better overall, and I must admit to being a little swept away myself, but there are some concerning underlying numbers that may bring them back down to earth if they don't change. You be the judge:
AFTER SEVEN GAMES
The shots for and against are especially concerning from the Oilers this year. At least the team that finished 29th was limiting other teams more than these Oilers are to start. Last year the Oilers ended up scoring on 9.5% of their shots as a team, which is right about in line with where they are now. In other words, the improvement in Goals For is an anomaly. 7 of their 12 goals in the first seven games of 2011-12 came 5x5 (58.3%), while the 2013 Oilers have scored just 7 of their 18 goals at even strength (38.8%).
Numbers like these mean that the Oilers' house of cards is bound to come crashing down over the long haul. On the other hand, plenty of skaters haven't played for longer than they're used to, and there were no pre-season games to iron out the wrinkles. The Oilers seemed to buy into a plan against Phoenix and then adapted to a different opponent the following night in San Jose.
But how much of what we're seeing is for real, and how much is just smoke and mirrors (again)?