Friday, October 06, 2006

New Kid(s) In Town


New addition Petr Sykora's 5-on-3 PP goal at 17:49 of the first period heldup as the winner in a 3-1 win over the visiting Calgary Flames.

The flow of the game was marred by a steady flow to the penalty box, 17 PP's awarded combined with the Flames taking the edge nine to eight, and the Oilers newly minted special teams unit won that battle and subsequently the game.

That's the new NHL and the Oilers may be in lockstep with how to play it.

The Oilers seemingly take no ultimate solace in the fact they were one winaway from the '06 Stanley Cup. They'll say it helped them realize their own potential and understand the sacrifices necessary to make a long run in the spring, hopefully they'll also eventually pay sufficent homage to luck, but they don't carry the 15 wins on their respective lapels. More proof to that was the fact they raised their Conference Champions banner with their players still in the dressing room.

After a slow and scrambly early start highlighted by Smith paying tribute to Igor Ulanov by firing a puck up the middle the Oilers settled down and began to flash the skill which trickles down throughout their forward corps. After an iffy call that resulted in Iginla being awarded a penalty shot, did you hear he's lost 12 pounds off his old fat frame, the Oilers clicked just 30seconds after Roloson followed Jarome across the crease to keep the game scoreless.

Hemsky whistled down the left wing and past Mark Giordano, the newest member of The League's Greatest Defense Ever TM, and Kipper was a fish out of water when Sykora drilled the rebound into an empty net. Iginla put his team down two men a little while later and the Oilers unveiled their new five forward PP unit and Sykora notched his second of the period off a slapper from the left side.

It was 2-0 Oilers and we were all waiting for this new Flames offense to kick in.

Sadly it was not to be and here's a hint why the Flames really don't or can't score a lot of goals. He might have saw just 2:17 on the PP but if you're a Flames fan do you EVER want to see Marcus Nilson on your PP? I enjoyed it though and I hope it becomes a trend.

The second period really became bogged down with all the penalties and at the very least it gave us a chance to see what MacT will do with his PK unit. The first five guys will be Moreau-Pisani-Smyth-Horcoff and then Reasoner chiming in as the 6th guy. I expected to see Thoresen see a little time on that unit and I'd imagine he will if one of those guys happens to be serving an infraction.

The Oilers made it 3-0 midway through the third when Tarnqvist sniped off a beautiful rush from Hemsky and Iginla closed out the scoring a little under four mintues later.

Edmonton's been taking it rough in the last two BOA's and if they're about to push for a divisional crown then they have to win no less than five of these eight matches. Thursday night was a good start and if all these penalties continue to be called then I like the Oilers chances of makingsome big waves early in this campaign.

Notes:
- It could've been a lot worst for the Flames. Kipper made three huge saves on Torres alone. Hemsky was Jagr-esque on some shifts. Minus 68's strength mind you but he did have some stretches where you couldn't take the puck off his stick. It's hard to imagine that Sykora-Torres won't have at least 50 goals combined if this line stays together and if Hemsky was a lock for 30 goals I'd put him in the top 10 scoring at year's end. He looked faster on this evening and even more confident and the kid has never lacked confidence when it comes to playmaking.

- By my eye it looked like the Stoll line played the Iginla line as much as the Horcoff unit did. I thought MacT would use the last change to go power versus power but maybe he didn't want the other coach to dictate his forwards icetime or maybe he's just confident enough in the depth of his charges.

- I think MacT showed all his cards in terms of his PP plan. Early on with the game scoreless he had Bergeron on the PP point but once the Oilers had the lead he went for the throat with the five forwards and I think that will always be the plan with a two man advantage unless it's late in the 3rd and the Oilers are winning. The only time he went with two dmen on the point was with the Oilers leading midway through the final frame. I've mentioned lately that I expect this PP to be Detroit good and the first game did nothing to sway me from this point.

- Where does Lupul fit in? That should be one of the most interesting sidebars of the season. Some are wondering if the Oilers have too many offensive players but I don't think there's any such thing. With Hemsky-Pisani already in house on the right wing and Mikhnov and Schremp in the pipe it might not be a bad idea though to eventually float Lupul for ayoung dman who could be both affordable and effective for say the next three seasons.

- You may have to trade more than just a prospect for another dman because Ladislav Smid doesn't look to be ready. It's also a damning statement towards the abilities of 7th rearguard Jan Hejda that he couldn't draw in over the former Anaheim prospect.

By The Numbers:

Tjarnqvist - 25:37 TOI and a team leading and whopping 10:45 on the PK.

Lupul - 14:37 TOI and a "did he really play that much" 5:57 on the PP

Stoll - 19:33 TOI and a paltry 6:58 at ES which was the third lowest total amongst all Oilers forwards. Only trailing Stoll were Thoresen, 6:17, and...

Winchester - :32 TOI. Maybe it is better than Pouliot started the season in the AHL. Thoresen looked quite capable as an 11th forward and the 12th spot looks to be less than important.

10 Comments:

Blogger RiversQ said...

No kidding. MC79 alluded to this as well, but the Oilers are much different these days. In 03/04, this team was basically begging to only go -1 on special teams so that they had a chance to win the game at ES.

This year, they're probably going to be +1 on special teams most nights and the forward depth should allow them to be a decent ES team as well. Combine the potential mismatches with Roloson and they could approach the ES performance of that 03/04 team which was pretty solid IIRC. (148GF and 121GA at 5V5 that year)

Like Vic says - it's only one game - but it's hard not to be optimistic about this team. They're good and maybe better than last year not so much because of additions and subtractions but just because young guys like Stoll, Torres, and Hemsky are close to being ready to take the wheel, while the vets like Smyth and Horcoff are still more than legit contributors.

10/06/2006 3:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that Hejda still makes huge positional mistakes due to the rink size. He will draw in when the opponents are not as solid.

10/06/2006 3:30 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I still think that this team will be better in two or three years than they are now, assuming that they stay together. I don't think that short term fixes are on the cards until they see how good that they are or aren't.

If they could have traded Lupul for Gleason last week I would have been happy with that. Then again I'm not a Lupul fan.

To be fair to the guy, he has scored a lot of goals already in his short NHL career, and he didn't look out of place in the playoffs at all last year, while Getzlaf and Perry looked terrible against the Oilers.

When and if they look to add to the blue line, I'd rather see them go for a quality defenseman who is just 23 or 24 years old, that range, so he's already past by the really error filled phase, but is young and UNfamous enough to come relatively cheap.

As for Smid: To copy LT's phrase, it looks like he's going to get his 500 at bats. And against some good pitching if game 1 is any indication. Grin and bear it, Dennis. :)

10/06/2006 4:45 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

This is great stuff Dennis, I'll expect 82 of them. :-)

I'm going to go against the grain and defend both Lupul and Smid.

In the case of Lupul he looked like a floater last night and that's never a good thing but this is a guy who has terrific hands and will score goals given the identical ATOI and PP ATOI through the season. He'll score a bunch somewhere along the line and from that point forward suspect we'll see a better and more consistent player. Remember folks he isn't 30 or anything.

Which brings me to Smid. I've argued all summer long that the Oilers need to deal for a reliable, dependable Don Awrey-type because I just couldn't see Smid doing that job (and that's the job opening here).

But along with the warts there were some outstanding plays (mostly involving moving the puck effectively) and the positioning is something he's going to learn.

If they're not trying to win the division I'm fine with Smid based on what I saw last night. This guy is miles ahead of any young D we've seen here in forever.

I know it's one game, but lordy he can pass the puck with authority.

10/06/2006 5:21 pm  
Anonymous Rod said...

>>After a slow and scrambly early start highlighted by Smith paying tribute to Igor Ulanov by firing a puck up the middle... <<

Great line Dennis. Classic. Well done.

I'm with LT on Smid though. I thought he looked good. Based on last night, there's no rush to trade anyone. 81 games to go after all. No need for a snap decision on whether a 20 year old is ready based on only a single game. Or writing off Hejda before he's even played. To put it another way, I was more nervous with MAB out there than Smid...

As for Lupul, give him some time. Clearly he's capable of better. Lupul will come around.

Besides, the strength of the current lineup is that on any of the first three lines could carry the team on a given night. Hemsky and Sykora won't play like game one every night. Neither will Lupul.

-riversq: Good point about the special teams mindset change from surviving @-1 vs. attacking for +1. It's been a while since the Oil had this much skill up front. Should be fun!

- Rod

10/06/2006 6:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about 82 LT but I'll do what I can;) Vic likes it when I review the games and make notes and I don't mind doing that for the playoffs and I just might break it out in the reg season when the Oilers play a really deep team or good team like say SJ. Maybe Buf or Ott too.

In any case...maybe I missed something when it comes to Smid. What I saw a big kid who's an excellent skater but looked tenative. He also didn't look great in his lateral movement. Could be inexperience I don't know. I do know that 24 doesn't need a kid to look bad but he's gonna look a lot worse if Smid continues to play as wooden as he did last night.

In terms of me being biased about the kid...we all have our biases for sure and I was ready to carve up Greene and report his first minor penalty of the year. Even when 71 took the over the glass collar late in the game I thought 2 was gonna get the gate because the stripes are against him;) But greene played a fine game...at least by my eye. Lupul was lost and I don't think he can handle the fishbowl but we'll see.

Dennis

10/06/2006 7:20 pm  
Blogger namflashback said...

In some strange hockey coaching fantasy, I am imagining that Lupul's floaty play was a "rope-a-dope" designed to set up Playfair to focus on the wrong matchup. Phaneuf-Regehr get the Hemsky line, leaving 94-10-15 to do the damage on Saturday night.

10/06/2006 8:59 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Nice to see a post from you Dennis - its been a while.

I didn't see the damn game (landed from England that afternoon so seriously jetlagged) and I've read a lot about Lupul not being a factor at all - anyone think he was just nervous and took himself out of the game? He may not be a guy who can play in the fishbowl but when it comes to him and Smid as well I'm more then a little willing to cut them some slack on what was their first game in their hometown jersey and their first NHL game period, respectively.

Although Smid sounds like he may be the real deal and it was nice to hear that Greene had a good game and stayed out of the box.

Should be fun tonight - Calgary is going to be jacked - should be a good test on the road to 82-0 :)

10/07/2006 1:22 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

BDHS:

Don't you mean 98-0? :]

- PDO

10/07/2006 1:32 pm  
Blogger Puck Engineer said...

Re: raising the banner while the players were still in the dressing room - This has been getting a lot of bad press by some tv hockey personalities. Personally, I like it. It kind of reminds me of the 98 playoffs when the Red Wings won the Campbell Trophy. No pandering to superstitions by not touching the thing, and no overblown celebrations. Stevie just picked it up and skated straight off the ice with team in tow. All business, all focused on the goal. That's the mentality that wins championships.

10/11/2006 1:00 pm  

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