Ottawa Senators:4 (SO)
The Oilers lost the game, but despite that I’m happy with their effort. Frankly, they deserved the win, both outplaying and outshooting the Senators over the course of the game, and they had the best player on the ice for either team in Dustin Penner.
The Oilers Three Stars, According To Me
1. Dustin Penner. As I said in the introduction, Penner was the best player on the ice for either team. He scored an odd crease-crashing variant of goal in the first period (Steve Staios shot the puck, it bounced off Penner’s body, and Pascal Leclaire pushed it over the goal line). He didn’t finish in the third, but he was flat out dangerous.
2. Steve Staios. Aside from one head-scratching play with the puck, I was really happy with Staios’ game. He had two assists, finished plus-3 on the night, and was second on the Oilers in ice-time with 22:44. I was tempted to write him off after last season, but it looks like there’s still something left in the tank of one of the most fearless players on the team.
3. Andrew Cogliano. A strong game from the young forward, who hasn’t looked especially good for most of the season. He outbattled the much larger Milan Michalek at one point, pushing him right off the puck, and he created chances all evening. He was sandwiched between two Senators but still got the puck to Ethan Moreau for the latter’s goal near the end of the first period. Oh, and remember all those "Todd Marchant, but with hands" scouting reports? They looked half-right tonight.
The play-by-play crew was fairly positive towards Jeff Deslauriers for most of the night, but the fact was that he was one of the weak links on the team. His adventures outside of his crease were cringe-inducing, he mishandled the puck, and frankly he came very close to letting a couple of other goals in (recall the puck that slid through his legs in the first only to drift wide, the post, and that point-blank shot at an empty net after Deslauriers cleared the puck that somehow didn’t cross the line). He’s been good in his other starts, so hopefully it’s just an off night.
Speaking of off nights, that was an uncharacteristically weak game from Lubomir Visnovsky, who has easily been the Oilers’ best defenceman in the absence of Sheldon Souray. The Cheechoo goal in particular was a display of atrocious decision making.
Ethan Moreau had a strong game and a goal, and although he made a couple of boneheaded plays I was impressed with the captain. The play-by-play crew repeatedly referred to his (surprisingly effective) line with Stortini and Cogliano as the fourth unit, but it was obvious they were in fact the third line, with the O’Marra/Brule/Comrie line getting bottom billing.
What was up between Stortini and Ottawa’s Chris Neil? I expected them to fight given the sheer amount of chirping between the two, and the two nasty hits Neil landed, but the only sign of combat was a brief shoving match between Neil and Jason Strudwick.
Speaking of chirping and Chris Neil, did anyone read Pat Quinn’s lips after Ottawa scored the go-ahead goal in the third period? He wasn’t saying "rubbydub" or "Sega Genesis". He also brought that goal up in his post-game, saying that not only was it goaltender interference, but the play was offside to begin with.
Ryan O’Marra’s first NHL game wasn’t too bad; there were some issues but one the positive side he finished every check he got. A shift-by-shift examination of his first game can be found here.
Based on the trust Quinn put in call-ups Ryan Potulny and Liam Reddox, they might be here a while. The two combined for more than 33 minutes of ice-time, and while Reddox was the energetic, hard-working forward we remember from last year, the real surprise to me was Potulny, who looked very smart centring the checking line between Reddox and Fernando Pisani. Quinn seemed to be more into line matching than he has in previous contests; whenever the Alfredsson line was on the ice, it was either the Gagner unit or the Potulny unit on against them. Potulny even saw spot duty on the top line at one point, and he’s done more to secure a roster spot in two games than Robert Nilsson has all year. It’s still early, but the returns so far are good.
That’s what I thought, what was everyone else’s impression?