Sunday, October 9, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 1: Do the Nuggie

It was one of those nights where the 3 stars told you just about everything you needed to know. They were, for those wondering, The Nuge, Letang, and Dubnyk from third to first. On a night where Pittsburgh was missing it's two headliners (Evgeni "He's going to have a bounceback season" Malkin and Sidney "Hope you didn't take him in a pool" Crosby), the final scoreline makes a lot of sense. Pittsburgh has a much deeper, better, and experienced D core, but missing its top two centers, the Pens are definitely more crackle than snap and pop.

Star three was the man pictured on the left, performing his new hip hop craze the Nuggie. If there was any doubt about him getting his 9 game stint up in the bigs, I'm pretty sure that the doubters have been properly chastised by the Nuge's tight pivots and silky puck distribution. He made some Datsyukian dishes and I'm not sure I can think of a player who I have seen pivot as fast as he does. Sidney Crosby maybe. Perhaps Kane. Regardless, I was expecting he'd play the whole season up with Oil before the puck dropped tonight, and he didn't hurt his chances at all.

Star two was Letang, and while I don't normally spend a lot of time talking about the opposition, Letang was a horse for the Pens tonight. He lead both sides with 29:16 in ice, and had a goal and 6 shots on net. He's a guy in the mold of a Visnovsky, water bug quickness, a great first pass, and a deft touch in the red zone. Debrusk mentioned he thought Letang was undervalued around the league, but I'm not so sure. He was on just about every draft list I looked at, and those poolies don't screw around when it comes to point predictions. He could have a very big year and he's playing all situations.

Star one was Devan Dubnyk. I know I have bromanced him on this blog before, but he's just a giant ice sculpture back in net. He might have the face of a Down's syndrome supermodel, but damnit he can stop a puck. The Letang goal was gettable, there's no doubt, but it was a hard, low comet blocker side that handcuffed Ol' spider limbs. Saveable but most goalies will give up the odd blocker shot that handcuffs them. The rest of his game was completely solid. It's not just that Dubnyk makes saves, he also has been exercising top level rebound control, and perhaps more importantly, he makes his job look easy. The big easy is clearly giving his team a solid sense of confidence when he's in net. I almost wonder if the Oilers have statistically had better shooting ratios for and against with Dubnyk in net versus Khabibulin (the idea that the Oilers 'squeeze their sticks' when Khabibulin is back there). Dubnyk finished with 33 saves on 34 shots (.971), and will probably push Khabibulin firmly into a backup spot if this continues.

As far as the game itself, the Oilers played a strong, scrappy effort, and aside from the definite lull for the first hald of the second period, I was mostly satisfied with the Oilers defensive effort. From the offensive side, Hall, Hemsky, and Hopkins all had great chances are various points, and as of right now I would crown that the #1 line and run with it until the kid breaks down or the offence dries up.

Now if only something rhymed with Dubnyk...

Individuals after the hop and a conclusion.

Jordan Eberle - He played ~14 minutes, about 10 at evens which is considerably below his average last year (around 14 at 5v5). He had a couple of nice cycle shifts and while it wasn't his best game, he still managed three shots and was making typical Eberle type plays. It's early but I think he might win a few more puck battles this year, and he was already pretty good at that as a rookie.

Taylor Hall - Has a real presence on the ice. He's got the aspect of a hawk, he swoops onto pucks and constantly looks dangerous to break around the outside of defenders. Once they turn to get their stick on the inside, Hallsie has clearly been looking to the high-slot trailer. They play happened at least twice and it shows how Hall can be dangerous even on outside rushes. He will constantly threaten the inside cut, and defenders have to respect that and soften the slot presence to play him more one on one. 19 minutes of ice and 5 shots with a +1. Kid looks good.

Cam Barker - I was not tremendously impressed with his game. Numerous baubles with the puck, off passing and a bad penalty. I had very little hope for the dude this season, so I guess he's delivering about what I expected. A Kurtis Foster style player with some very good tools and a bunch of liabilities. I want to go on record saying I am not happy to see Barker playing upwards of 21 minutes every night. I was happy to see Renney did not use him on the PK at all, however (3 seconds worth).

Devan Dubnyk - Not much more to add here, but I was a bit surprised to see Dubnyk's shootout record was 2-7 (now 3-7). A quick check at shows that Dubnyk was right near the bottom of the league for shootout save percentage. It is definitely a concern because a SO performance as bad as Dubies was last year could easy cost your team 5 or 6 points. It's worth monitoring, anyways.

Eric Belanger - Watching him in preseason actually kind of worried me. He reminded me of a smaller, faster Alex Giroux. A lazy, skilled body. But he definitely kicked his game up to an NHL level for the opener, and was faster, more skilled, and more determined than I had seen at any point in the preaseason. He played about 14 minutes total, but almost 6 minutes of that was PKing. Any chance at hitting 40P again will disappear if he doesn't start getting more ice time.

Linus Omark - A fairly quiet game from Omark, but it's tough to be that noticeable in 11:52 in icetime total. He spent about 4 minutes on the powerplay, which means Omark had about 7 at evens which is a about the same as Jones, Belanger, and Lander got. The Oilers having threats on three lines could negatively impact Omark's production if our PP struggles. His SO move was a bit cheeky, and he muffed the shot, so it's a good thing Dubie stopped the final shooter. The same drag delay would work great with a regular wrist shot it seems to me.

Teddy Peckman - Still a little chaotic in his own zone, and I'm not totally sold on his first pass yet. It is early and I'm pretty sure I saw him play at a higher level last year so I still hold out some hope for him to become a legit shutdown defenceman.

Ryan Smyth - It was an interesting game for Smyts. It featured the hardest slapshot of his career (he's a legendary muffin-shot), a game ejection, and him beating Jordan Staal on 2 of 3 faceoff draws he took. The 5 minute call was brutal; it's Smyth putting up a defensive forearm for a guy taking a run at him. Was it a penalty? Sure, but it's a 2 minute maximum. I just don't how you give a guy 5 and a game when it's a 1-1 tie and the other player was the agressor. Smyth actually didn't generate a lot for his 18 minutes of ice, and he only directed *one* puck at net all game - ended up with zero shots on net. You have to wonder if perhaps Smyth might soon find himself on Belanger's line.

The Nuge - That kid can pass, that's for sure. And not just zipline passes plunging through leg jungles, he's also making the saucy through-the-legs, short passes look natural. You can already see his has big league escapability, much in the same way that Patrick Kane has. He's very fluid on his skates, and while you can see he gets clobbered off balance a bit, he's still very slippery and hard to contain. The storybook might have had a few more tassels on it if he had clinched the game in a shoot-out, but I think the kids happy, and the fans are happy. Sky is the limit for this kid.


Fairly scrappy affair that the Oilers definitely played hard enough to win. Smid blocked 6 shots and Petry and Gilbert were solid, if unspectacular on the back end. It will be interesting to see how our defence holds up when we face a team with a little more offensive pop.

Good, gritty win for the Oilers, with The Nuge, Dubnyk, and our PK all playing huge parts.


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