FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
5 p.m., Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, TV: Sportsnet Oilers; Radio: 630 CHED
1 Playing tighter
Oilers coach Dave Tippett loves being 2-0 to start the season heading out on a four-game trip, but while coaches don’t expect perfection, they hope for better 200-foot defensive work and, in the 6-5 win over Los Angeles, it was far too loose for Tippett. As his best, defenceman Oscar Klefbom said “we outscored our mistakes. You give up five goals and you don’t expect to win.”
2 Not much breathing room
The Islanders won the Jennings trophy last season for the fewest goals allowed (196) under new coach Barry Trotz, with goalies Thomas Greiss and the departed Robin Lehner (Chicago) each playing 40 games. In their first two games this year, the Trotz-led Islanders have given up three goals in a W (Jets) and a L (Capitals). And only two goals at even-strength in the two games. Trotz coached his 1,608th game Sunday against Winnipeg to move into third all-time behind Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville.
3 Letting good times roll
The Oilers have opened 2-0 for only the third time in the past 10 years. It also happened in 2016-17 en route to their 103-point season and, yes, they got blown out in Game 3 by Buffalo at home. In 2010-2011, Taylor Hall’s first Oilers season, they opened with home wins over Calgary and Florida then, uh, lost six in a row, two to Calgary, two to Minnesota, Chicago and San Jose. They finished with only 62 points, so we’ve seen both ends of the spectrum after a 2-0 start. The most recent time the Oilers started 3-0 was in 2008-09.
4 Spreading blue-line minutes around
The Oilers are starting two rookies in their top four in Ethan Bear and Joel Persson. Bear’s with Darnell Nurse in a quasi-shutdown pairing while Persson is with Swedish countryman Klefbom. Bear got 19 minutes against Los Angeles and Persson almost 15. Without Larsson to eat up minutes, the third pairing of Matt Benning and Kris Russell should probably be in the 15-minute range too.
5 Keeping Barzal off the board
Mathew Barzal is the Islanders best player on an offensively challenged team that was 21st in goals last year and 29th on the power play. He centres their No. 1 line with ex-oiler Jordan Eberle and captain Anders Lee, and has 148 points in his first
168 NHL games. Barzal and Oilers centre
Ryan Nugent-hopkins got their young hockey start at the same Burnaby Winter Club in Vancouver and Barzal admits that RNH was one of his role models growing up.
New York Islanders centre Mathew Barzal led the team in scoring last season with 62 points.