Saturday, October 15, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 3: Sweet & Sour

Left to right: Cody Hodgson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Linus Omark, and Sami Salo
After gently paddling the Canucklehead bottom for the first two periods, the Oilers promptly lost their gumption and were at the mercy of a ordinary goaltending effort from Dubnyk. The result unfortunately overshadows an exceptional game by The Nuge. I'm almost 100% certain Hall should have received credit for RNH's hat-trick goal, but it looks like the official scorers have made up their mind, and he certainly was the primary force behind the puck crossing the line. To be honest, of all the plays that Nugent-Hopkins made in the game, the one that impressed me the most was the inside cut he made at the blueline with about 90 seconds left in the game. The Canuck defender bit hard on the Nuge going wide, and when RNH cut back inside he had a clear three-on-two opportunity from the blue line in. Eberle missed the puck/got stick-checked, but that kind of play with the game in a critical, pressure situation gives me great hope that he will continue to be a performer through the rest of the season.

Like I highlighted earlier, it was pretty clear that with our offence in a tenuous flux (Hemsky and Gagner out), sub-par goaltending would certainly make sledding tough for our group of young wolves. Dubnyk, to be fair, really didn't have a ton of chance on the first three goals, with a couple bang-bang plays and a Salo ICBM from 25'. The game winner came at Dubie through a wet-rug of screen (and some lackadaisical defending by a stickless Barker), but he's just gotta squeeze that puck. All of the energy Saiyan-Hopkins had generated was quickly dissipated on the Sedin sleight-of-hand that allowed them to escape the second tied, and Dubnyk letting in a softie pretty much killed all chances of a point.

Another entry in the Sour column was the play of Theo Peckham. Watching him closely on a few shifts, he consistently was playing the puck with virgin-defender earnesty; on the stick off the stick, hot-potato hockey. There is a time and a place for clearing the puck with a spade and shovel, but I'm not sure Peckham has shown he can do much else in the early going of the season. I think Renner agrees with me, as Peckham saw the second least amount of time on D, about 14 minutes, and only about a minute more than Sutton. I liked his game for the most part last year, but he's got to keep on taking steps forward or he's going to find himself the 7th wheel on the defence dune-buggy (they have 6 wheels right?).

A surprising addition to the sweet column was the play of Corey "Hairy" Potter, who had three shots and an apple in about 20 minutes of ice. He was on the ice for the Sedin-orchestrated tying goal (thusly ended up -1), but other then that blip, I felt like he played the style of game that Renney requested of him. He's never going to rustle his hair with skating velocity, but his strength and size, and overall game actually reminded me of a villainous ex-Oiler, Sheldon Souray (who scored a goal tonight, BTW, at the NHL level). I don't know how long we will see him on the big club (Petry sat for no good reason IMO), but the Oilers do have a decent history of making AHL callups look good, at least for a limited time.

Individuals and conclusion after the hop.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Full value for his hat-trick. He was tenacious on the puck in a way that might surprise some people; he is willing to get a bit of grease on his elbows. His stats line is big-boy-boots for game three of his career: 3-0-3 +1 6 SOG in 18:42. Don't look now but RNH is #2 in the league for goals scored. I don't expect it to last, of course - RNH is primarily a pass-then-shoot type player - but drink it up gentlemen... and gentle... women. His 44% shooting rate is also sure to continue :)

Taylor Hall - The official scorers robbed Hall of his first goal of the year, almost like they wanted the most dramatic ruling versus the correct one. Fortunately Hallsie still picked up a helper on the play, and he's still PPG even if he hasn't popped his seasonal goal-cherry yet. Hall was buzzing around the ice, as we've come to expect, and the newly formed kid-line owes a lot to his ability to push defenders back with his power and speed. Hall is also a guy who has been effectively using his rocket boots to play a two-way game, and aside from a few manageable glitches, the whole kid line is playing a more than adequate brand of defence.

Jordan Eberle - It wouldn't be right to slather consonants and vowels over only two thirds of the diaper brigade and miss the baby-faced assassin. His pass to the Nuge for his PP goal was a facsimile of a dozen other beauty Eberle passes we've been treated to in his short NHL career, and I've said it a million times, Eberle is as good a passer as any on the Oilers save perhaps Hemsky. Oh and RNH. And Omark. Still, his slickness was on display tonight, in playing a little point and generally marshaling a steady, solid PP attack. 2 apricots, 4 SOG, +1, 18 mins of ice.

Corey Potter - He smashed a few people, made a half-dozen nice touches in the D-zone (and I mean surprisingly deft for an oversized, career AHL'er), and logged big minutes against some tough competition. I'm not really sure exactly how Petry was displaced, as I felt he had decent games overall, but Potter at least acquitted himself well. Maybe it's time to let old Balpeen Peckham have a seat.

Ladislav Smid - Once again, a solid effort. I really can't say too much good *or* bad about Smid. He's just playing a simple, safe game, and if he was doing this as our #4 guy, we might actually be sitting pretty. Unfortunately he is in a 2/3 slot right now, and it will remain that way until mutant-foot gets back in the lineup. When was the last time Smid scored a goal? Oh, right: Dec 5 '09 EDM @ DAL. Hey, as long as he plays a sandpaper game and moves the puck effectively, I think we can overlook his overall offensive ineptness.

Eric Belanger - He's off to a somewhat slow start, and while I have heard rumours of his health being less than ideal, it's pretty clear the coaching staff hasn't been too enamored with his play early on. He has been destroying the faceoff dot, but two of three games he's also played under 14 minutes. What I'm really looking for is how he's going to contribute offensively. He seems to have OK footspeed, passing, and instincts, but I was hoping for a bit better than OK. He had a glorious chance with under two minutes in tonights game, and he sort of froze up - he got in way too deep on Luongo and then had his shot blocked anyways. Here's hoping he heats up a little more. Under 13 minutes, 1 SOG, and a -1.

Ryan Jones - Was taken off the PP - thank the hockey-gods. His hair flow is undeniable, but his disruption of PP flow is equally apparent. He's like a bad chinese-solder job in a PP circuit. But awesome analogies aside, I thought he actually played OK tonight. He's too far up the depth chart, but he lunch-pails it with the best of them, and I didn't feel like he was a total disaster in his own end. He did, however, play 17 minutes, which is way, way, way too many for a guy who would be on most teams fourth line. Give him 12 and double shift all the kids a couple times.

Ryan Smyth - Had the most minutes amongst forwards, and this has been a trend since the start of the season. Some of this is simply the fact that Horcoff and Smyth are playing power-on-power, but  he's not generating a lot even if he's not giving up a lot either. He's 35 and his production has steadily been dipping, so I guess this is probably par for the course. If he can lamp-light 20 times we are probably going to be pretty happy with his season I'd guess.


Nugent-Hopkins is ready, folks. The debate is over. Now we just need a plan to kidnap Doughty, brainwash him, and then surgically replace his face with Cam Barker's. Think John Woo's face-off meets Slapshot with a dash of Weird Science.


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