2.86% Of The Time, It Works Everytime
The Oilers' PP is now 1/35 and counting.
I haven't commented much on Dustin Penner.
I'm noticing something eerily similar to last season with Lupul. For the first 5-6 games last year, I was astonished at how soft Lupul was along the boards (LT probably remembers the game - three chances to get the puck five feet out of the zone on the same shift. All failed.) and how ineffective he managed to be in the offensive zone. Then, after a couple of more games I started to see some of the upside that Lupul had - Lupul could pass the puck, he had a decent top gear while skating in a straight line, and a legitmately impressive shot when he got it off. Of course, we know how that story ended.
I realize this is just my hangup, but should I be worried that I'm following the same progression with Dustin Penner?
During the first five games, his glaring weaknesses seemed pretty evident. I don't care about anyone's "Lindros Theory" about big players looking lazy; if a forward is last into the offensive zone and the last player back into the defensive zone on nearly every shift, he's slow and/or lazy. The aesthetics of his stride has no impact on my evaluation when he can't even make it on my screen. Other than his speed, he also was not a physical player and had no clue about his assignments in his own end. Reports from training camp suggested that Penner was out of shape and that certainly seemed to jive with what I was seeing.
As with Lupul, I did start to see flashes of why the Oilers liked this guy. He is basically Georges Laraque with hands and a clue how to get the puck to the net. Just like Big Georges was effective by keeping the puck behind the other team's net rather than playing a total game, Penner is going to keep his job in the NHL by maximizing territorial advantage. That is a valuable thing. I almost hate to say it, but that's the kind of thing that made Todd Bertuzzi a terrifying player for a few years while playing with a healthy Markus Naslund.
For the past few games, Penner has been Jekyll and Hyde. He looked decent tonight playing with more appropriate linemates but he was mediocre in Phoenix and godawful against Calgary. The only way the Oilers won a faceoff when he was on the ice is if the centre won it clean - Penner didn't win a single puck battle against Calgary in the faceoff circle. (I'm not even worried about the silly penalties.) I suppose the problem could still be fitness because he was trending up until the Calgary embarrassment and now he had a decent showing tonight.
I'm not sure he'll earn his dough, but he certainly has a chance if he is indeed playing his way into shape and manages to get a more appropriate role on this club.