October 01 2013 11:21PM
The Edmonton Oilers lost their season opener. In the process, they blew a two-goal lead at the halfway point of the game as the Jets tallied three consecutive markers. Despite that, there was as much to like as dislike about their season opener.
Not only did Ales Hemsky score a beautiful goal, but he spent a bunch of time on the penalty kill and had a pretty decent two-way game. Games like this one will go a long way toward putting that unpleasant summer of trade rumours in the past.
I keep waiting for Joensuu to slow down, but his red-hot preseason performance carried over at least to the first game of the regular season. The thing about Joensuu is he’s a welcome marriage of size and skill. On the latter point, he can skate and handle the puck at speed – two items that haven’t generally been found in the Oilers’ coke Machines. On the former point, not only is he big but he doesn’t back down. He jumped into scrums repeatedly over the course of the evening and went after guys that played his smaller linemates a little too roughly.
The fourth line had a rough night scoring chances-wise, but even so it was hard not to be thrilled for Luke Gazdic. The 24-year-old took an especially hard route to the NHL – being a crash-and-bang type who fights is a tough way to make a living – so his first NHL goal in his first NHL game was great to see (the goal is technically listed as Mike Brown’s at the moment, but watching the replay it seems probable it will be awarded to Gazdic as the puck seems to have been deflected by a Jets’ stick).
There was also a lot to like about how aggressive the Oilers were - particularly in how they won the shots battle. The Oilers out-shot the Jets 24-22 at even-strength despite spending much of the game with the lead (once teams get the lead, they tend to be out-shot). The power play got 13 shots off in just over six minutes of total time, which is a fantastic rate. It won't matter until they get goaltending, but assuming that Devan Dubnyk eventually rebounds to Devan Dubnyk form, these sorts of shot numbers will win the Oilers a bunch of games.
The Other Stuff
- Devan Dubnyk was flat-out bad. A number of those goals were on him tonight; if the Oilers had gotten even the goaltending Pavelec gave the Jets (and Pavelec is hardly the gold standard) they would have won this game. It's one game; this sort of thing happens. Dubnyk's resume suggests he's a better player than he showed tonight.
- The first line got out-chanced, and Taylor Hall in particular had more than his share of turnovers. That will happen to offensive players trying to make plays, but it couldn't have been the opening night Hall was hoping for at centre.
- As always, for both the good and the bad: it's one night. This was our first real look at the rebuilt Oilers; it's going to be fascinating to watch where they go from here.
Recently around the Nation Network
Brian Sutherby explains how to play StreakCred, a Nation-sponsored game with fantastic prizes and straight-forward mechanics that also helps local charities. Here's what the prizes look like right now:
New hockey memorabilia and prizing will be given to the champ each month. The main prize for October will be the coveted Streakcred trophy and the choice of a Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or Jamie Benn autographed jersey along with a pre-paid gift card. Prizes will also be given to the top 20 streaker’s each month, to the person with the most wins and to a couple lucky random draw winners just for playing. Over the course of the season the cupboard of available jerseys and memorabilia will only continue to grow.
Click the link above to check it out, or feel free to check out some of my recent stuff below: