HOLEY KHABBY!!!

The fans at Rexall might have set a preseason record for the earliest BOOOOOOO of the season, when they voiced their displeasure after Nikolai Khabibulin allowed a 3rd goal only 18:35 into the first period. Khabibulin allowed three goals on seven shots, and while you can’t blame him on the first one, we’ve seen this horror movie before.

He needs to stop the puck.

You could point to a rookie pinch by Martin Marincin that gave the Wild a 2-on-1 that Pierre-Marc Bouchard roofed upstairs for the 3rd goal, but Khabibulin was way too deep in his crease on the shot. There are no excuses for how he played. His only saving grace was that it was a preseason game.

He looked rusty, but unlike previous years I’m not certain he will get the chance to play his way into tip-top shape. Devan Dubnyk is right behind, or right beside, him on the depth chart, and Tom Renney doesn’t have the luxury of allowing the Bulin Wall to get his game together brick-by-brick. Khabibulin needs to have his foundation in place during his next two preseason performances or he won’t, or shouldn’t, be starting on October 9th against the Penguins.

Khabibulin had the worst SV% of any starting goalie last year; an embarrassing .890% to go along with a pathetic 3.40 GAA. His SV% was even worse than Brian Elliott, Dan Ellis and Peter Budaj. Brian freaking Elliott was better than him.

Dubnyk played behind the same porous defense and inexperienced forwards, yet he managed a respectable .916 SV% and 2.71 GAA. Last night junior goalie, Tyler Bunz, relieved Khabibulin halfway through the second frame and stopped the first ten shots he faced. He stopped 10 of 11 and looked much more comfortable than Khabibulin.

You can say it was only a preseason game, but at what point does Renney stop waiting for Khabibulin to find his game. Maybe he can’t find it? Maybe he doesn’t have it anymore? 

It sounds like Yann Danis and David LeNeveu will split the game on Thursday, so that leaves five more preseason tilts. Will the Oilers give Khabibulin three full starts and Dubnyk two? Dubnyk said he was hoping to start one game this coming weekend and then one next weekend, but if he is playing better maybe he gets the extra start?

I’ve always said you can’t take too much out of the first preseason game, but normally I’m talking about some young rookie who scored two goals and people think he’s ready for the Show. In Khabibulin’s case, we’ve all seen two years of sub-par hockey from him, and last night’s effort only increased the doubt in the mind of Oiler fans.

I wonder if that same doubt is creeping into the psyche of the coaching staff?

SWEDES SHINE 

While Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander and Linus Omark didn’t look this good last night, the "Tre Kroner Konnection" had a great first game together. They combined for two goals, three assists, ten shots, three hits, three takeaways and they averaged 19:15 of icetime. They all looked dangerous at different times, and I’m sure Renney would like to give them another chance to play together very soon.

Paajarvi and Lander were clearly the best of the three, and what I liked most about Lander was his post-game reaction. He was legitimately annoyed that they lost. He hates losing and he couldn’t hide it. It’s nice to see a guy who cares that much. Paajarvi told me that Lander hates losing more than anyone he’s ever played with, and that’s the exact type of attitude the Oilers need.

I still think Lander will start the season in the AHL, but if he play like this when the opposition ices a veteran team then he might force Renney to make a tough decision.

I also like Antti Tyrvainen’s game. He only played 8:54, but I noticed him often. He showed a nice touch on his goal and he isn’t afraid to go in the corners. He’s another guy who needs to keep getting noticed as the games become more competitive, but so far so good.

I thought Kirill Tulupov played okay, considering his young D partner, Martin Marincin, really struggled early. Tulupov might earn himself a two-way contract in the next few weeks. Marincin is not strong enough to play in the AHL this year. He didn’t gain enough strength this off-season, and I won’t be surprised if the Oiler elect to have him train in Edmonton rather than back home in the Czech next summer. I don’t think he was able to train enough, or get the proper guidance necessary to gain muscle and strength properly.

Sending Marincin back to junior means his contract won’t count towards the 50 contract cap, and that could open up a spot for Tulupov.

SASKATOON

The feed for the Oilers/Hawks game kept buffering every three seconds so I wasn’t able to watch it, but I got some reports from guys there and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked more than comfortable in his first preseason game. He assisted on Ryan Smyth’s opening goal, missed an open net and generated quite a few chances. One person within the organization gave him a B+ ranking.

Smyth played like it was 2007 and mixed in a few saucer passes for fun. He told me at the morning skate he hadn’t been this excited for a preseason game in a decade, and, despite his age, he wants to show Renney he can still be a go-to guy.

Josh Green potted a pair of goals, and while he’s destined to start the season in OKC, more for his leadership than anything, he clearly doesn’t want to get sent down without a fight. I’m guessing we see Green re-called as an injury replacement at some point during the season. He could fill a void for five to ten games.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers will keep at least 15 D-men until Saturday, unless Renney wants to play a guy in three straight games. Ryan Whitney, Colten Teubert and Andy Sutton are in camp, but none are likely to play until Sunday at the earliest. There will be some cuts tomorrow, because they only have two ice slots scheduled. They won’t cram 27 or 28 guys into each session.
     
  • I thought Bunz looked solid once again, and if he goes back to Medicine Hat and doesn’t have a slow start I’m certain he’ll suit up for Canada at the WJC in Edmonton/Calgary this Christmas.
     
  • Hopefully on Saturday night the Internet feed for the Oilers/Flames game won’t be as inconsistent as it was last night. You can watch Thursday’s game on TSN and Sunday’s game in Calgary on Sportsnet.
     
  • Which players did you like last night? Who didn’t you like?  
  • I am not surprised Khabi struggled. A guy his age has to train hard in the off season to stay competitive, especially an oft-injured guy.

    Seems like he might have been otherwise occupied.

    Dubs is going to have to carry the load methinks. I am sure he will do fine.

  • smiliegirl15

    Love for Lander!!!

    I was at the game last night. Lander worked hard all night. Omark worked pretty hard to get the puck and keep it in the Wild’s zone. The three of them were a great line together. I love how after the game Paajarvi said it didn’t matter that Lander’s english wasn’t so good out on the ice because he speaks hockey.

    I will have to see RNH and Lander on the same team before I say Lander should stay over RNH, but Lander made a pretty solid case last night.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    I didn’t get a chance to watch the game. I got ice-level tickets to the Jets game at the last minute. The praise for the Swedes is really encouraging! Even if Lander plays his ass off and lands in the A, it never hurts to give the other bubble players (higher up on the depth chart) a little bit of a scare as far as job security is concerned.

  • It’s killing me that I didnt get to watch either game. Killing me.

    Omark will still be my goat this year, even if he makes me work at hating on him.

    The battle between RNH and Lander could be epic this year, but the implications for how good this team could be down the road are welcomed to think about.

  • The Saint

    “Khabibulin was way too deep in his crease on the shot”…

    Maybe Khabby wasn’t comfortable stepping outside of a confined space that looks and feels a little like a cell…..still too soon? 😉

    Center position looks promising with RNH & Lander.

    Love how upset Lander was after the game, can’t wait to see this kid grow with the organization and become a leader on the team.

  • Lets assume for a minute the NK gets a mulligan for the performance he put on last night. At what point does Renny stop offering NK the chance to cut our throats with a .890% goaltending? At game 10? at game 20? At game 40? Is is likely that NK will be sent to OKC for a reconditioning stint? I would almost bet on it. Amidst all the positives I think NK is our biggest negative. Is he done? We’ll see by the end of the preseason.I give Bulin 4 more starts and let him play with atleast 60% of the D in each game that you think will start the season and see what he gives you then. Its not even so much as he lets goals in that bothers me is the when he lets those goal in. Grant Fuhr used to have a 4.00+ GAA most seasons. But he never gave you the goal that killed you. Bulin always it seems (IMO) gives up the goal that kills us. Timing is half the issue. he gets a mulligan for lat night. But he only has one or two more of those left before I see him packing his bags for OKC.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    I was at in the game in Saskatoon, and I have to say that Dubnyk was awesome. I also really liked Lennart Petrell and Ryan O’Marra’s game. They were working hard all night long.

  • Zed

    I believe Khabby will have a Roli-esque year.

    This believe is from the same part of my brain that says I’m a millionare with 6 playboy bunnies living with me.

  • Baker impressed. Seemed very calm and controlled. He might not put out big points this year but if he helps stabilize the back end then it has to be considered a success. If Musil continues playing like this he has to be given a chance to play on the big team instead of being sent to back to junior. He hasn’t looked out if place yet and sure doesn’t play like an 18 year old.

    Didn’t watch the Chicago game but those two gave me some hope about the defense.

  • Clyde Frog

    Eberle’s shot was a rocket right to the inner post from a stick angle that froze the goalie straight-up.

    If he can continue shooting lasers with that quick release I expect his production to take a nice step forward this year.

    Of course its preseason, but it was just nice to see the Oiler’s developing players that score with one shot off the rush.

    Also is not sad that illegal internet TV streamers can get smoother and prettier streams up than the NHL?

  • Martindale and Hartikinaen also stood out as players that did well for the amount of ice they got. Their forechecking cause plenty of turn overs. Was disappointed in hamilton’s play. Would like to see a pitlick – martindale – Hamilton line combo as the third.

    GXL

  • paul wodehouse

    didn’t watch the edmonton feed, was more interested in watching RNH.

    his puck pursuit was terrfic. he did not look out of place at all in his first pre-season game.

  • paul wodehouse

    …holy buffering batman that was one difficult way to watch two pre-season hockey games…almost as difficult as watching our goalie and hearing the boo-birds too…he’ll get the v. Penguins start with the ‘real’ team in front of him BUT…

    more importantly…can Lander stay up? should he stay up? that would put RNH back in junior right now and create a problem for Horcoff AND Brule … 67 played well … i saw him win a few faceoffs through the buffering nightmare …can he? could he start in OKC ? is there a rule /reason why he can’t ?

    if he can he can become interchangeable with Lander as time dictates or injuries happen…Lander has a skill set that i’m surprised at (not really) but he’s been playing serious hockey with men for quite some time, he’s been a 19 year old captain of his SEL team…it was only the small ice and north american game style that i was concerned with that he might need to learn more about but he looks comfortable, not out of place at all so why would you break up that line now …

    p.s. what’s with the brunette in the line of swedish dames anyway … was that one of those “what’s wrong with this picture” things?

  • I can’t see Khabby being the Oiler’s starter. If the Oiler’s management and coach’s are as serious about winning as they say they are, then we will know opening day.

    I never got to watch the game in Saskatoon, but Eberle,Smyth and RNH in there post game interviews all say they have some good chemistry going on.

    I hope politics don’t play a part in this years Oiler’s team. If Lander is good enough to make the team then he should, as well as RNH.

    If it means dealing Hemsky and moving Gagner to the wing because Hopkins or Lander are better, then the Oilers should do it. IMO

  • Petry looked incredible in the first half of the game in Toon Town. Played in the first period predominantly with Chorney, and was an absolute force. He was covering his side of the ice incredibly well, throwing the body, moving the puck with ease, and when a centre allowed him to, often shifting over to help out Chorney, who was clearly struggling in his own end.

  • Starving Student

    The Swedish Connection was amazing, Omark pushed on the forecheck and drove the net hard. Paajarvi looked just as fast as ever and Lander looked great (wouldn’t hesitate to get his name crested on my white retro if he was a lock).

    Taylor Fedun looked good, another great player coming out of the NCAA route (Petry lite?).

    I really liked Barker’s willingness to let bombs fly from the point; however at one point in the third, the Swedes were being crowded and Barker was no where to be found. I’d expect someone with a chip on his shoulder to step up against his former team.

    Thank god for Belanger, a center who can finally win draws.

    Jonesy looked like he was out of place playing along side Hall.

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    I like Khabby, he played a HUGE part in helping us watch Hall and Nugent-Hopkins play for the oil over the next twenty years. Paajarvi….. looked…..UNREAL.