The two teams with the fewest points in the NHL square off on Thursday night when the Edmonton Oilers visit the San Jose Sharks.
It’s no surprise the rebuilding Sharks have started slowly, tying an NHL record with an 11-game winless streak to start the season before grinding out a 2-1 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
But the fact that Edmonton, led by arguably the two best players on the planet in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and expected to challenge for the Western Conference crown, comes into the contest with just two wins and five points after 11 games is head-scratching.
The Oilers have lost three straight games and seven of their last eight games (1-6-1), including a 6-2 loss at Vancouver on Monday.
McDavid, the reigning Hart Trophy winner as the league’s MVP after leading the NHL in goals (64), assists (89) and points (153) last season, is in the midst of a six-game goal drought and has just two goals and 10 points so far this season. He did miss two games with an upper-body injury suffered in the fifth game against Winnipeg and speculation has arisen that he isn’t close to being 100 percent healthy.
“Obviously frustrating,” McDavid said after Monday’s loss . “I felt like we did a lot of good things in the first period and found ourselves down and chasing the game again.”
Edmonton outshot Vancouver 19-2 to start the game and 21-8 in the first period but still trailed 3-1.
“We just need to buckle up harder and play harder,” Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “It’s early in the season yet. We’ve got 71 games to go. Lots of hockey still to be played.”
San Jose has the fewest points in the league (three) thanks to that dreadful start but got its first win thanks to a superior game in net by goalie Mackenzie Blackwood (38 saves). Anthony Duclair led the way offensively with a goal and an assist, and William Eklund scored a power-play goal for the game-winner.
The victory helped the Sharks avoid going into the record books for the worst start to a season in NHL history with 12 consecutive losses. Instead, they’ll share the record of 11 in a row with the 1943-44 New York Rangers (0-11-0) and the 2017-18 and 2021-22 Arizona Coyotes (both 0-10-1).
San Jose had allowed 10 goals in each of two losses prior to the win, getting outscored 20-3 by Pittsburgh and Vancouver in the process. Head coach David Quinn called those two losses “an aberration.”
“I give these guys so much credit,” Quinn said. “They’ve been such a great group to coach. They’ve never stopped working. There’s just so many things that went into tonight, and at some point you say enough’s enough.”
“A lot of relief in here,” Blackwood said after the game, referring to the San Jose locker room. “Everyone’s happy. It’s been a long time coming, and now we can take a breath and start to try and put some more wins together.”
The game with Edmonton is the first game of a difficult back-to-back. The Sharks who travel to Las Vegas afterward to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights on Friday.
–Field Level Media