Hard Nose the Highway

The Edmonton Oilers looked much better than I thought they would in their 2009-10 debut. Among the things that impressed me were Gilbert Brule, was skated well and looked like he knew what we was doing; Sam Gagner, who got in a fight and scored a big goal in the third period; Dustin Penner, who played hard all night although he didn’t seem to be in the game as much in the back half of the 60 minutes; Shawn Horcoff, who was dynamite in the faceoff circle and Patrick O’Sullivan who got his shots but was unable to score on them.

I know the goaltending will be front and center today, but for me Nikolai Khabibulin was not (and is not) the problem. The backup goaltending is another conversation altogether and one of the major stories this year (did anyone check Devan Dubnyk’s SP from last night?) as time rolls along.

The night was about positioning and the penalty kill, and we knew this was going to be an issue. It’s becoming quite clear that the Oilers have too many fancy Dan’s on the blue for coach Pat Quinn and someone is heading out of town. It could be soon. Why do I say this? Check out the EV time-on-ice totals for the blue last night:

  1. Souray 18:26
  2. Grebeshkov 18:26
  3. Gilbert 18:00
  4. Staios 17:31
  5. Visnovsky 12:32
  6. Smid 11:11

You know what’s crazier than playing Staios 5 more minutes at EVs than Lubomir Visnovsky? Paying Lubomir Visnovsky 5.6M beans to play 5 less minutes than Steve Staios. If this trend continues, Lubo is gone, baby gone.

While we’re at it, let’s run the EV time-on ice numbers for the C’s and W’s.

  1. Brule 14:42
  2. Horcoff 13:48
  3. Comrie 10:08
  4. Gagner 9:25

Gagner passed Comrie in the third period (Comrie sat a lot in the final 12 minutes) on merit and I felt Brule looked much better last night than I’d seen him play in the past. Their faceoff totals were Comrie (9/12 75%), Horcoff (14/21 67%), Brule (4/11 36%), Gagner (2/10 20%). It should be mentioned Brule was 3/5 in his own zone, Cogliano was 2/2 in his own zone, Horcoff was 2/4 and Gagner 0/2 in the same category.

  1. Jacques 13:10
  2. Stone 12:48
  3. Penner 12:03
  4. Moreau 10:17

Based on last night I think we can predict Penner will soon be on the 1line and Jacques will slide down the depth chart. JFJ certainly brings a physical element but didn’t get a lot done (to my eye) in the danger zones. Penner was far more dangerous, especially early in the game. Stone is about what we thought he’d be–a player when he can get to the parts of the ice where the game is happening–but whether that is going to happen is an open question.

  1. Cogliano 14:22
  2. Hemsky 13:14
  3. O’Sullivan 11:22
  4. Stortini 9:16

Not a lot to say, except that Hemsky didn’t seem to deserve more playing time but I think Quinn (as was the case with MacT) will eventually decide that Hemsky is a guy you’d rather send over the boards than Ryan Stone and Andrew Cogliano. O’Sullivan played a good game, ripping 6 shots on net. He does that every night good things will come.

They were more physical, skilled and determined than I thought they’d be, they were not a good PK team and the PP didn’t cash. There were some very good things about last night, and I’d suggest Gagner’s response to some pressure and Gilbert Brule’s effective play are two things we can be happy about today.

On the other hand, they lost the game and Khabibulin has to be better. Plus, they’re going to trade a puck moving defenseman.

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