I go back to Ken Hitchcock, who changed his description of the Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins late last season.
Hitchcock: “My opinion on Nugent-Hopkins has changed … last summer I thought he reminded me of Joe Sakic, but it’s Pavel Datsyuk now. He strips people of the puck, he’s crafty in high-traffic areas, he dishes well, he’s got great patience with the puck. But, if you’re close to either one of those two guys (in ability), that’s a pretty good thing.”
In a world addicted to instant gratification, Nugent-Hopkins delivered with a solid performance last night in his regular season debut. Scored a key goal, Dennis Kings’s chance count had him at 10-2 during EV time. His linemates included (but were not limited to) Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky, and that line could be outstanding as the year rolls along.
Some other observations…
- Dubnyk had a nice game. I think it was a softie goal he let in, but haven’t seen exactly what was going on in front of him just before it went in. Interesting if there was an angle that could show if the Pens forward shielded the puck for any length of time. Otherwise, he was very good, especially against Letang–who was exceptional on this night.
- There were some crtical comments about Horcoff in the GDT below. Just wanted to mention the captain was solid on the dot and devoted 8.5 minutes of playing time to the PK.
- Speaking of lost arguments in the face of performance, I thought Tommy Gilbert was excellent last night. #77 was 5-2 by Dennis King’s scoring chances and skated miles (led the team in TOI). I’ve grown tired of the knocks on Gilbert, although they’ll remain part of the fanbase. I’ve decided to focus more attention to him this year, and will have something up after the first five games in regard to role, quality of partner and toughness of opponent. We’ll wait to see the math, but by eye he made some nice plays during a long night.
- Taylor Hall is so good he gets things done even on nights when he isn’t driving the play. I thought he had a lot of jump early but the Pens (well coached) defenders kept driving him to the outside. He had a nice chance right at the end of the 2nd period, but seemed to lose mo with all of the penalties during the heart of the game. Buddy still delivered a pure skill pass to 83 on a play that eventually saw 93 find the net.
- I thought Cam Barker was ineffective but Dennis King’s scoring chances had him 4-2. I’ll have to keep closer track of him (#13 makes me think of Cogs) but when he registered it was mostly walkabout in his own end. I think there’s a lot of coaching to do for Steve Smith and co.
- Darcy Hordichuk over Lennart Petrell.
- Among the blue, my eye caught Petry getting in lanes and blocking shots, along with finding his man on the outlets. Teddy Peckman was having a time with that, but played a rugged game all the same. Peckham also had a fine night on the PK.
- Laddy Smid had a good game by my eye, Dennis King scoring chances (7-1) suggest the same. Smid blocked a lot of shots and his shot from the point is noodly every damn time, but I was thankful he was an Oiler last night. Don’t really recall thinking that before.
- I thought Anton Lander accomplished a lot for the role he played.
- Ryan Smyth skated miles and miles. I wish they’d use him more on the PK, although the rotation last night was effective up front imo.
- Sportsnet’s new music sounds like Sunday morning news music for NBC. I keep thinking someone from OPEC is coming up next.
- Dennis King scoring chances are here.
That is all. Anything you noticed?