Coming out of the first weekend in the NHL the Oilers are one of only six teams to start the season a perfect 2-0. You know it is early considering, Dallas, St.Louis, Toronto, Carolina and Detroit are the others. Five of these teams missed the playoffs last year, so don’t get to excited.
The Oilers played a perfect game v. Calgary last Thursday, and then were perfectly ineffective against Florida, but they won. Nikolai Khabibulin was superb in both games, and only Roberto Luongo has a better SV% amongst goalies who have played two games. Luongo sits at .973% while Khabibulin is at .969%.
Tom Renney wasn’t happy after Sunday’s win and he was questioning the energy/jump of his team. Renney will not allow this team to be comfortable at any point this season, and while he wasn’t impressed on Sunday he didn’t finger any specific players. He made it clear his team needs to work harder and with more energy if they want to keep winning.
Here’s a few other observations through the first two games:
- Shawn Horcoff has two goals and neither has come off his stick. He couldn’t buy a break last year, and you wonder if this is a sign he might get some bounces this year. Players don’t care how the goals go in, as long as they score, and despite the fluky goals Horcoff’s confidence is pretty high right now.
- Theo Peckham has blocked 11 shots in two games. Dennis Seidenberg led the league with 215 last year, so obviously Peckham won’t maintain this pace, but he has been solid through two games. He’s been physical, moved the puck decently well and hasn’t made any glaring giveaways. His D partner, Jim Vandermeer has struggled moving the puck out of the zone, and he will need to settle down.
- The Oilers are a perfect nine for nine on the PK so far. The big difference is their less-aggressive system. Last year, their aggressiveness got them in trouble and out of position . Khabibulin has been their best penalty killer, but so far the Oilers have done a good job keeping teams to the outside and staying in the shooting lanes.
- Their most glaring weakness has been their faceoffs; Again. Shawn Horcoff and Colin Fraser were supposed to be good, but they are 40% and 42.3% respectively. Gilbert Brule is 70% on the ten draws he has taken, and you wonder if Renney will start to use him more. They were awful against Florida, 33%, and that was a big reason why the Panthers always seemed to have the puck. It is early, but Renney admitted he is concerned, so I’ll be curious to see what he does to improve it.
- Kurtis Foster only has one shot in two games, and hasn’t been involveds offensively at all. He needs to use his size more and he needs to start shooting the puck.
- I’ve really liked how aggressive Renney and Ralph Krueger want their D-men to be when joining the rush. There has been a strong onus on jumping up in the play and so far they haven’t given up a lot of odd-man rushes. It has made the games more exciting to watch.
- Renney spent a lot of time on breakouts this morning. They struggled making a two-foot pass on Sunday and they spent a good 20-25 minutes on basic breakouts schemes.
- They also worked on one-on-one, two-on-one and two-on-two drills down low in the offensive zone. They didn’t cycle the puck very well in either game, according to the coaches, and they want more scoring chances from in close.
- Tom Gilbert has yet to win a game in Minnesota as an Oiler. He will try again on Thursday. The entire Gilbert clan has sat at the Excel Energy Centre for every game Gilbert has played there and he is yet to meet them after a victory. They lost in OT in his first game there, and he is hoping the streak ends Thursday.
- The Oilers will travel a bit differently this year. They will practice in Edmonton tomorrow. Clear customs in Edmonton, and then fly to Minnesota. Last year they would fly and practice after they landed. The players and Renney feel the new sched will allow them to be more productive in practice feel more refreshed when they land.