Disbelievers

Jonathan Willis
October 04 2009 11:37AM

That title is certainly wrong when it comes to the grand scheme of things, but it’s a little nuts to toss Nikolai Khabibulin and the Oilers penalty-kill under the bus one game in.

Let’s start with Nikolai Khabibulin’s gaffe. After a lackluster preseason, Khabibulin’s season opener could hardly have gone worse. In a game where the Oilers outshot the Flames 34-to-21, Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves and Khabibulin made only 17. The last goal against was particularly brutal, with Kiprusoff gift-wrapping the puck for Flames forward David Moss with less than a minute left in a 3-3 hockey game.

As everyone here knows, I’m not a believer in Khabibulin; his track record in three of the last four years, along with his propensity towards lower body injuries are the two biggest reasons I’d hoped the Oielrs had pursued someone else.

That said, if you are one of those who believe in the Bulin wall, one game shouldn’t change your mind. After one game, for example, Martin Brodeur has a GAA in excess of 5.00 and a .815 SV% (I know because he’s on my fantasy team). Players have good games and bad games, and while I’m still not a believer in Khabibulin I can honestly say that a 50-save effort in a 1-0 win wouldn’t have changed my mind on him either. Give it ten games, then we’ll talk about what he’s done.

Similarly, I don’t believe in the penalty kill, which went two-for-four on the night, but again it’s too early to change anyone’s mind either way. I maintain that this team needed to bring somebody in, and I don’t think Kelly Buchberger has the coaching chops to propel this unit to even averagish results with the current personnel.

But my message today is that one game is essentially meaningless in evaluating these trends. The evaluation of both the Oilers’ goaltender and special teams will take some time, and if you were a believer during the offseason there’s no reason to change your stripes now.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Heatly
October 04 2009, 11:43AM
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Very disappointing, but we need to move on and get ready for Dallas. Overall good exciting game, couple bad breaks. Worst way to lose!

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#2 Heatly
October 04 2009, 11:48AM
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Nice new site, but I have to type my username and email everytime? Anyway, Jonathan..the the Oiler penalty kills does somewhat suck and Calgary PP is pretty good. Who is left to pick up with our salary cap?

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#3 bingofuel
October 04 2009, 11:50AM
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@Heatly

If you sign-up as a citizen of the nation, then no, you don't have to enter your credentials each time.

Also, some web browsers can be setup to always input that information into those fields for you. All you would have to do is hit "enter".

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#4 Librarian Mike
October 04 2009, 11:50AM
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True enough that it's only the first game. It's just too bad that his miscue couldn't have been in the 2nd period instead of the last minute of the freakin' game.

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#5 Oilers89
October 04 2009, 11:51AM
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I liked the Oiler's effort last night in the period and a half I seen. They actually looked like they cared and they seemed very exciting.

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#6 Heatly
October 04 2009, 11:59AM
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@bingofuel

Thanks bingofuel, I'm officially a "Citizen" : )

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#7 Milli
October 04 2009, 12:00PM
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I agree, and cannot wait till Tuesday (my first game of the year, hope the wife dosn't get us booted again!!!). The team had energy, was very fun game to watch, until the end.

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#8 RossCreekNation
October 04 2009, 12:03PM
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Milli wrote:

I agree, and cannot wait till Tuesday (my first game of the year, hope the wife dosn't get us booted again!!!). The team had energy, was very fun game to watch, until the end.

The wife got you booted!? You drive in from Golden for games?

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#9 Pajamah
October 04 2009, 12:04PM
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@Oilers89

Exactly, this is the best game I've seen the Oilers play in their last 40-50 games.

There was jump, some grit, which takes me back awhile with the Oilers.

The result was crap, otherwise, I'd love to see that game played all season long

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#10 Adil the Aditor
October 04 2009, 12:11PM
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Actually it was Khabibulin, that gift-wrapped the puck for Kiprusoff. I am sure you meant it but that's not how it reads.

-30-

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#11 6zeppelin6
October 04 2009, 12:28PM
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What I thought was interesting was that Bulin actually looked a little nervous out there. He was playing in a pretty hockey crazy city in Chicago, which would lead me to believe he should be used to the pressure. Hopefully we shall see him calm down and play his game.

I thought Gagner's post game comments were interesting. He was talking about developing a system and bringing a level of consistency every game, regardless of the results. Good to finally hear the team talking like this.

Although I was a skeptic at first I think this might be the year where what looks good on paper, doesn't look half bad on the ice.

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#12 Oilchange45
October 04 2009, 12:30PM
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I was at the game last night - admittedly did not watch any preseason and don't get to go that often. Was it just me, or were the Oiler defencemen playing further up when on offence as compared to last year?

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#13 THREE 1ST NAMES
October 04 2009, 12:35PM
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@Oilchange45

Quinn has said he wants the defencemen to jump in more so that could be why

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#14 MrOiler
October 04 2009, 12:36PM
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I thought the team looked great on Saturday night. The Flames had two gift/fluke goals and were badly out-shot.

My hopes are up. I'm already wondering how much improvement they'll show in by the 20 game point.

So much for the Flames being uncontested division leaders. They were lucky to escape the game without a loss.

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#15 THREE 1ST NAMES
October 04 2009, 12:37PM
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1st game i watched this season and enjoyed it thought the oilers were playing hard but both there PK and PP were terrible and Bulin needs to stay in his net and not play the puck

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#16 Hemmertime
October 04 2009, 12:38PM
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Very rarely do we get to say "if not for our goalie we would have kicked the crap out of them". Oh and how we would have, a great freaking game, hitting, Gagner fight and Hemmer shooting the puck like hes aiming for 50 goals this year.

Im optimistic and scared sh*tless all at the same time.

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#17 Hemmertime
October 04 2009, 12:39PM
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I dont like the blue on the sides of the page, sems too lite (might be trying to match this years Blue and orange jersey but on the eyes a deeper blue is nicer), also, I liked the text displayed on Grey background.

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#18 Whitney4PM
October 04 2009, 12:40PM
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Disappointing end to a great effort by the forwards. Was nice to see the boys physically dominate the Flames for once.

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#19 5Rings
October 04 2009, 12:54PM
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Two things were awful: opening ceremony and last goal. The rest was awesome.

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#20 The Pestival
October 04 2009, 12:57PM
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After last night I am cautiously optimistic and yet still severely pissed at how it ended.

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#21 sitting-at-my -desk
October 04 2009, 12:58PM
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good effort,brutal ending,need to get PP way better.. lets forget and move on...

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#22 Lofty
October 04 2009, 01:04PM
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I thought Penner Brule Stone and JFJ all played great. Its nice to have someone who is willing to go to the net on every line.

Hemmer was a waste and Gilbert looked terrible.

I'm not a Moreau hater but I might become one if he plays like that every night.

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#23 EricOG
October 04 2009, 01:07PM
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I have Bulin as my goat. But I think that the Oiler defensemen have to help out a little bit more. They too are responsible for those weak goals they gave up. Those were all lazy plays by them on some of the goals. As for that last goal, I'm guessing the hockey gods were laughing their a*& off after that one.

All in all, a very good effort that I'm sure will bring a lot of positive things this year. However, I don't know what everybody else thinks, but I think that eventually they will have to go lines that ressemble a traditional first line.

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#24 Skidplate
October 04 2009, 01:20PM
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@5Rings

Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. I liked the music and "bag"pipers, the guy swinging on the ribbons was kind of gay, but very athletic. Overall I give it an A.

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#25 Skidrow Gutterbum
October 04 2009, 01:33PM
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Great new look to the Nation!!!

Despite the obvious nightmarish ending last night and Grebs handling the puck like a hand grenade, overall I liked the energy the Oil brought to this game. Yeah they were jacked from home opener hype, but if they continue to hit and outshoot the opponents (where was that last year??) they should be much better than a game over .500 at home this year.

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#26 Jay Gray
October 04 2009, 01:43PM
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@Skidplate

Kind of gay?!?!? That may have been one of the gayest things I've ever seen at a hockey game. I would've guessed that kind of display coming out of California or Florida, not Edmonton...just found it weird.

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#27 Skidplate
October 04 2009, 01:48PM
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@Jay Gray

Ya I know. With Cirque Du Soleil (sp?) you would think they would have had a women doing the same thing with the same outfit as well...maybe the tat could have been on the front...

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#28 aguy
October 04 2009, 02:09PM
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Oilers are spelt are wrong

As everyone here knows, I’m not a believer in Khabibulin; his track record in three of the last four years, along with his propensity towards lower body injuries are the two biggest reasons I’d hoped the Oielrs had pursued someone else.

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#29 AlbertaRanger
October 04 2009, 02:10PM
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The PK stats last night didn't tell the story of the Edmonton Oilers. If you looked at the kind of goals that were scored against Edmonton in both of those chances, I thought they were tip-ins or garbage goals.

I mean, c'mon. A puck rebounded off of Ladislav Smid in that one PP goal for the Flames.

It's just one game people. I thought there were a lot of positives in this game, especially how the copper and blue set a physical tone to the game, even when trailing 3-1.

The Oilers dug in the corners, they went hard to the net, and they were winning the faceoffs. What a difference than most of last season, but then again, it's only one game.

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#30 AlbertaRanger
October 04 2009, 02:14PM
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@Bingofuel

I love the site and I am looking forward to the party at the Pint on Tuesday.

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#31 RossCreekNation
October 04 2009, 02:20PM
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@AlbertaRanger

Sam Ganger? Check your star spelling ;-)

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#32 common sense
October 04 2009, 02:24PM
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The Oilers backend is clearly overrated. We're gonna have to trade one of those overpriced guys for some help up front.

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#33 RossCreekNation
October 04 2009, 02:27PM
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Jay Gray wrote:

Kind of gay?!?!? That may have been one of the gayest things I've ever seen at a hockey game. I would've guessed that kind of display coming out of California or Florida, not Edmonton...just found it weird.

And Calgary fans have to put up with "brokeback mountain" taunts? After that, peeps may want to hold off on those comments. Maybe stick to the clever "cowboy" taunts instead ~they're MUCH better~

LOLZ

~all Flames fans are cowboys~

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#34 AlbertaRanger
October 04 2009, 02:50PM
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@RossCreek Thanks for the catch :-)

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#35 BarryS
October 04 2009, 02:52PM
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Now I have had time to consider it, a couple of things. On the good side, the third and fourth lines scored. Aso, for the most part the Oilers played good agressive physical hockey. On the bad side, the first and second didn't. On the last goal Khabby made a bad play, no denying, but there were no other Oilers in the picture until after Souray cane sliding into the net after the goal was scored. So the question has to be asked, were were all the great Skating defenceman we are supposed to have? Seems to me tbey got out skated on the first goal as well.

Also, bad bounces tend to even out. I would be more worried in Calgary about their self proclaimed vaulted defence getting seriously outplayed two games in a row.

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#36 BarryS
October 04 2009, 03:23PM
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Cool site. This old dog even figured out how to add a picture of himself as someone else.

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#37 RossCreekNation
October 04 2009, 03:29PM
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@BarryS

Everyone in Calgary said it may take a few games to get everything wrinkled out. Just as 1 game for the Oil is nothing to get too down about, 2 games for the Flames in not cause for concern. Have they looked great - no.

Both teams have new coaching staff's with new systems, so the first 10 or so games are gonna see some kinks unfold. If after 10 games, the Flames still look like this, then yes, there's cause for concern. But, they have 4 points without looking great. Keep in mind, Iginla & Jokinen have done sweet F-all, Regher has looked just ok, and the supposed defence-first mentality has yet to kick in (at least thats what being outshot badly in both games tells me.

The team that may have a bit more to worry about (yes, its way too early to really say this, but I'm gonna anyways) is the Canucks. What's their excuse? Same coach. Same goalie.

All in all, I'm not too worried as a Flames fan, and I wouldn't be too down if I were an Oiler fan. A month from now, that may be a completely different story.

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#38 RossCreekNation
October 04 2009, 03:38PM
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@AlbertaRanger

No prob. Hopefully didn't come across as dicish pointing out a spelling mistake. Figured that was one you might wanna fix.

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#39 RossCreekNation
October 04 2009, 03:39PM
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@AlbertaRanger

You know i meant in your user profile, right?

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#40 Eddie Shore
October 04 2009, 03:45PM
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On a side note..Arsenal kicked the sh*t out of Blackburn today. At least one of my teams won this weekend. Bring on the Stars!

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#41 Eddie Shore
October 04 2009, 03:50PM
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Gregor your Dolphins look good today, no?

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#42 Senator Theo
October 04 2009, 04:04PM
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For any Bell Expressvu customers out there: The EDM/DAL game on Tuesday night comes up on the centre ice free preview on the guide. Normally, if the game in unavailable to me they won't let me set the PVR to record, but for this game I was able to set it up with no problem.

I'm not sure if this is an end-run around the PPV or not, but it's worth a try at least.

Also, I share the feelings around here that people are generally happy with the effort last night, if not the results. While I agree that 1 game is not enough to pass judgment yet, I'm encouraged by the work by Horc, Comrie and Brule in the faceoff circle, as well as the general level of compete.

Looking forward to Tuesday, to see if they can keep up this effort.

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#43 Jason Gregor
October 04 2009, 04:06PM
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Eddie Shore wrote:

Gregor your Dolphins look good today, no?

They are turning it around. Henne will be an upgrade on Pennington...look for a winning streak...

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#44 BarryS
October 04 2009, 04:41PM
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@RossCreekNation

Have to say I agree about vancouver.

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#45 Wanye
October 04 2009, 04:44PM
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Holy Crap it took me about 11 hours to sign on to this site. Why do things need to be so complicated?!

Oh and by the way that goal last night killed something in my soul. Something way to important to die this early in the season.

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#46 Phil
October 04 2009, 04:50PM
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@Jason Gregor

LoL.

The force is strong with this one.

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#47 Citizen Alpha
October 04 2009, 05:04PM
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@Wanye

Quit yer bellyaching and sing me a rap already, playa.

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#48 Librarian Mike
October 04 2009, 05:06PM
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Wanye wrote:

Holy Crap it took me about 11 hours to sign on to this site. Why do things need to be so complicated?!

Oh and by the way that goal last night killed something in my soul. Something way to important to die this early in the season.

DKNY (Dump Khabibulin Now Yo)?

Seriously though, as embarrassing as that loss was, it's better for that to have happened in game 1 than in late March when they're (inevitably) fighting for 8th place.

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#49 Wanye
October 04 2009, 05:12PM
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@Citizen Alpha

You have done a wonderful job. Most of the time that I spent signing up was looking at Lil Wayne pictures.

*swoon*

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#50 AlbertaRanger
October 04 2009, 05:23PM
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@RossCreek LOL! Now I do. I had too many of those pumpkin-flavoured Alley Cat beers when I registered my Oilers Nation account last night.

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