So, just so we’re clear: Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal scored four goals Tuesday against the New York Islanders and has six goals already this season. In three games.
To put that in perspective, Neal had seven goals in 63 games last season as a member of the Calgary Flames.
Now, it’s easy to say this is an anomaly and Neal will score just one more goal for the rest of the season and thus put him back in mediocrity where he evidently belongs. It’s also easy to say that Neal’s benefitting from his new digs, that he didn’t really find his way on the Flames and wants to impress in his new surroundings.
And while it may be premature to suggest that the James Neal we’re seeing so far this season is the same James Neal that put together a 40-goal run in 2011-2012 while on the Penguins, it may not be all that far off.
The Oilers defeated the Islanders Tuesday by a final score of 5-2 and improved to 3-0-0 on the season so far. That can change in a heartbeat and it’s not unreasonable to expect some trepidation. After all, the Anaheim Ducks are also 3-0-0, while the San Jose Sharks are winless in four.
But the Oilers – and James Neal, obviously – are scoring and doing all the little things right so far. They squeaked by the Vancouver Canucks in the opener and managed to tighten up after that, taking out the Los Angeles Kings before defeating the Islanders. Neal had two goals against the Kings and played 19:28. Against Vancouver, he played for just a bit over 14 minutes and didn’t score on two shots.
The more the Oilers play Neal, the more he scores. And the more he scores, the more they win. That’s, you know, probably science.
And to put a little more shine on it, Neal’s six goals in three games represent the hottest start for any Edmonton Oiler ever.
“Well,” Neal said. “I’ve scored goals my whole career. I put pressure on myself to score goals, I want that pressure and last year was a tough year. I wanted a chance to prove myself. I came here and had people who believed I could bounce back, put a good season together, and help a team get to the playoffs.”
One more thing: Neal’s six goals match Milan Lucic’s production for the entire 2018-2019 campaign. Just putting that out there.
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