I guess the coaching staff was more nervous than all the rookies prior to the game, because they filled out the starting lineup wrong so Dustin Penner lined up in place of Ales Hemsky along with Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall. Luckily for Oiler fans, it wasn’t a sign of how the game would go.
Taylor Hall almost had the story book start when on his second shift he flew down the left side and ripped one off the far post. And immediately some fans had visions of Mark Messier flying down the wing and letting one fly. Hall had another great chance in the first on a nifty pass from Gagner, but the fans didn’t have to wait too long until he lit the lamp.
One game doesn’t make a career, or even a year, but Magnus Paajarvi had a great preseason debut with a highlight reel goal to tie the game at one. His goal would have had Dan Ellis tweeting, " I’m more worried about my fivehole now than I was in college." He then started a nice tic-tac-goal that went Paajarvi-Foster-to-Cogliano. Then he ripped a one-timer from Dustin Penner for his 2nd goal of the night and the game wasn’t even 27 minutes old. He wasn’t finished.
FIRST PERIOD NOTES
- After watching Ryan Whitney put on a passing display in Vancouver, Tom Gilbert wasn’t able to match it. He missed Kurtis Foster coming out of the penalty box, and looked a bit rusty passing the puck. He will get better.
- Tom Renney wants to see if guys like Hemsky, Gagner and Cogliano can kill penalties. I suspect Cogliano, Horcoff, Fraser, Penner and either Reddox/Jones will be the top five penalty killers.
- Good to see Marc Pouliot is the same player. Gets knocked off the puck, falls down at his blueline and the Oilers get a two-on-one.
- Colin Fraser had a solid first period with a hit, good scoring chance and was strong on the PK, however, he was 0-4 in the faceoff dot. He will need to be much better in that area. As a team the Oilers were 42% in the draw, got out shot 14-11, but they out hit the Bolts 10-4.
- Linus Omark’s release is lightning fast. He doesn’t shy away from contact, is creative and if he can control the puck a bit better along the boards he’ll be a factor for this organization at some point.
- Tyler Pitlick didn’t look out of place. The kid will benefit from a year in junior, but he likes to hit and once he fills out a bit more he could be that big, strong centre the Oilers have lacked since the days of Jason Arnott.
Ran into former Oiler dressing room icon, Barry Stafford, up in the pressbox in the first intermission. "I’ve never watched a game from up here in 29 years. I see why you guys think the game is so easy from up here, the mistakes really stand out," he laughed. Stafford is really enjoying his new role with the Oilers. He has been in charge of setting up the dressing room in OKC since January. He will make sure that is one of the best dressing rooms, and most efficient, in the AHL. Good to see he is doing well and is happy.
SECOND PERIOD NOTES
- I’m sick of all the scrums. Either drop the gloves or stop all the lame pushing and shoving.
- Smid and Foster are a decent pair. Foster isn’t that physical but his wingspan makes him hard to beat wide and Smid never shies away from a hit. Smid has played 4:20 on the PP. He played all of 8:42 on the PP last year.
- OKC will have a very good defence core. Richard Petiot and Alex Plante played well. I wonder if Bob Stauffer thinks Petiot has as much upside as Shawn Belle? Belle has played well, but Petiot has been great so far.
- Paajarvi’s 2nd goal was a great shot. I think Penner’s passing skills are underrated, especially for a big man.
- Devan Dubnyk stopped 19 of 20 shots and was solid throughout. He had no chance on Randy Jones’ first period goal. Rebounded nicely after an average night in Vancouver yesterday.
- Jeff Deslauriers comes in and only faced two shots in 10:31. I’m sure he’d like to get a bit more rubber.
- It is only 40 minutes, but Cogliano is 0-4 in the dot. The rest of his game has been good, and he seems to have more confidence with the puck, but he has to improve his faceoffs. ***I know, thanks Captain Obvious***
- Omark and Pitlick have only played 5:08 and 4:10 respectively, but they’ve been noticeable.
THIRD PERIOD NOTES
- Smid and Steve Downie mix it up early and get roughing penalties. They kept yapping at each other in the sin bin for another minute afterwards. I hope something more comes from it later this period.
- There were some sloppy line changes. The Oilers could have been whistled for too many men at least twice this period.
- If you get on the Smooch Cam don’t pretend you are a Hollywood actor or actress. Big open mouth kisses aren’t good for anyone to watch on the Cam.
- Two minutes after the Oilers get away with some sloppy changes the Lightning get busted for too many men.
- At 7:58 of the 3rd period the crowd erupts when Hall knocks down a horrible clearing attempt by Ellis, walks in and softly backhands one into an empty net. It is clear the crowd is in love with Hall. The roar for his goal was twice as loud as Paajarvi’s. I wonder if that will even out long term. Both kids look to be pretty special.
- I wonder if Ellis is more worried about his fivehole or his puckhandling skills now. To bad he quit twitter.
- Well I guess I got my answer regarding the fans. Two minutes later, while shorthanded, Paajarvi skates down the right side and rips one far side past Ellis. He has a PP, SH and EV goal now. I guess it might be too much to ask for him to get a penalty shot goal and empty netter to match Mario Lemieux’s five different type of goals in a game. When they announced his hat trick goal the roar was just as loud as Hall’s, or maybe louder.
- Stu "The Magnificent Bastard" MacGregor has to be fist pumping somewhere. His last two first found picks, along with Pitlick and Omark all looked good tonight.
- The entire building held their breath as 6’8", 246 Vladimir Mihalik had Hall lined up against the boards. You could hear the Oiler bench yell, "Heads up," and Hall was able to avoid a solid collision. As the play continued Renney sent MacIntyre out. MacIntyre charged Blair Jones after the whistle and then punched him in the face. The game is 5-1, and Renney won’t be mad about a double minor at that point. MacIntyre made his point.
- Carter Ashton, son of former NHL suitcase, Brent Ashton, bangs home a PP goal from a sharp angle late in the 3rd. Not much Deslauriers could do. Ashton had three whacks at it before finally sliding it home.
It was a fun night for Oiler fans, and even though it was only a preseason game, even the most pessimistic fan must have had a smile on their face. The announced three stars were Dubnyk (3rd), Hall (2nd) and Paajarvi (1st). I understand why they choose Hall, because that is who the fans wanted, but he probably wasnt’ the 2nd best player tonight.
Penner had a solid game, and made some great passes, but I thought Petiot was exceptional on the blueline. He had a big hit, wasn’t afraid to shoot and moved the puck very well.
Cogliano finished 0-9 in the dot tonight. He played well, but he will need to focus more in the dot. It was preseason, and maybe he was trying some new things, but he has to be better. As a team the Oilers were only 39%. Gilbert Brule was the best Oiler going 4-1. If Brule plays on Cogliano’s wing then maybe he can take the faceoffs?
The Oilers will have two practices tomorrow. The guys who played in Vancouver will practice at 9:15, and tonight’s group will hit the ice at 11:15. Expect Renney to make some cuts after practice or first thing Saturday morning.