It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the young Oilers deserve a lot of credit for battling back from a 2-0 deficit to win their season opener 3-2 in a shoot out.
The Oilers looked like a team playing their first game of the season. They shot wide on many of the best scoring chances, and I’d attribute that to a bit of rust. They took too many penalties, but their penalty killers were solid. Overall there were way more positives than negatives.
- It is only one game, but right now there are more questions surrounding Cory Schneider than Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk might want the Edler bomb of a shot back, but being partially screened I didn’t think it was an awful goal. After that he was very solid and didn’t give many second chances by kicking out juicy rebounds. Canucks fans will be livid after the weekend and they might have a full-scale goaltender controversy on their hands already. Something tells me Oiler fans love this.
- Ales Hemsky had an excellent game. He used his speed to back off defenders and created numerous scoring chances. With the top line likely to face the opposing #1 defence pairing most games, Hemsky/Gagner/Yakupov could have a big year. Hemsky is healthy for the first time in three years and if he stays healthy he could pot 35-39 points.
- If the Oilers keep taking that many penalties Krueger will have to find another duo of forwards who can kill penalties. Horcoff/Smyth and Belanger/Petrell were very good, but he’ll need more than just four forwards. He did mention he plans on letting the young guys get some PK time as the season progresses.
- If you look at the overall icetime of his bench, I think Krueger did exactly what he wanted, excluding Teemu Hartikainen who only played 6:10. He wasn’t on the PK or PP so it was hard for him to mix him in. Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins all played over 21 minutes. 15 of the 18 skaters had at least 21 shifts.
- Jeff Petry was very good. He continued very he left off last season, and he’s shown a willingness and ability to deliver some solid body checks.
- Eric Belanger got ripped endlessly last season, so it’s only fair to point out how solid he played tonight. He was good on draws, 56%; very good on the PK and the 4th line was effective five-on-five.
- Nick Schultz blocked nine shots and played his usual mistake-free game. I know many didn’t like the Gilbert/Schultz trade, but Schultz is a better pure defender and that’s why they made the deal. You can debate forever who is a better player straight up, but on this team he fills the defensive D-man role better than Gilbert.
- Just for fun, Jordan Eberle’s shooting percentage is 20%. And he did that on five shots, which is well above his average of the past two years.
- The Oilers were 56% in faceoffs. RNH and Gagner were both 50% (7 wins, 7 losses), while Horcoff won 10 of 16 and Belanger won 9 of 16.
- I thought RNH was a bit off tonight. He missed a few passes that he usually makes in his sleep. He got better as the game went on, and I think the Oilers overall passing will be much crisper on Tuesday.
- After the Sedins the Canucks don’t have many forwards who scare you. They could struggle to score goals this season.
- I liked Krueger’s strategy late in the game. In the final few minutes he used Petrell in Yakupov’s spot. Some might say he was coaching not to lose, but I don’t blame him for wanting to get a point. He clearly coached to win by starting OT with Eberle/RNH, then going with Yakupov/Hall and back to RNH/Eberle before going to Hemsky/Gagner. I don’t call that coaching not to lose. Yakupov is a rookie and Krueger wants to put him in positions to succeed. As Yakupov gets more comfortable I’m sure you will see Krueger give him more responsibility, but there is no point in doing it in the first game of the season.
- That was a big win for the Oilers, and overall I thought they played pretty well.
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