While it’s only one game, the Oilers’ season opener was consistent with their pre-season games: Get out-shot, get better goaltending and lose more faceoffs. Obviously, they’d like the goaltending trend to remain but want to improve those other two facets.
Directing shots on goal will be easier than becoming a dominant team in the dot.
The Oilers won a paltry 28 per cent of the faceoffs vs Colorado. Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny were very good winning combining to win 29 of 41 draws for 66 per cent.
And they both dominated the Oilers’ best faceoff man. Shawn Horcoff, a career 54 per cent in the dot, won only five of 18 draws against those two, and he finished the game only six of 22 in the circle.
Last season Horcoff tore his labrum in game two and aggravated it the most when he took draws in the next 51 games. He admitted that his lack of success on Sunday was more mental than physical.
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“My shoulder feels fine. If anything, I think it was more mental. I never got in sync in the dot, and I think I was hesitant. But I was awful the first five games last season, so I’m not concerned.”
While one could understand Horcoff being a bit hesitant in the draws, I was surprised when I looked at his faceoff success in those five games.

Game one vs San Jose

Horcoff won 13 of 20, for 65 per cent.
Win – Loss – Opponent
2 – 0 – Joe Pavelski
4 – 1 – Marcel Goc
5 – 0 – Torrey Mitchell
2 – 6 – Joe Thornton
Thornton dominated Horcoff, but other than that he was almost perfect.

Game two vs Philly

Horcoff won 13 of 20, for 65 per cent.
W – L – Opp
4 – 2 – Jeff Carter
2 – 2 – Mike Richards
1 – 0 – Mike Knuble
6 – 3 – Daniel Briere
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Horcoff was more focused in the offensive and defensive zones, as he lost four of seven in the neutral zone. If you lose a draw, the neutral zone is the place to do it.

Game three vs Detroit (Road game)

Horcoff won six of 17, for 35 per cent.
W – L – Opp
0 – 1 – Dallas Drake
1 – 4 – Kris Draper
5 – 12 – Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg completely dominated Horcoff in this game, but in the next two meetings Horcoff rebounded to win eight of 12.

Game four vs Minnesota (Road game)

Horcoff won 11 of 22, for 50 per cent
W – L – Opp
8 – 4 – Mikko Koivu
3 – 2 – Eric Belanger
0 – 2 – Wes Walz
0 – 3 – Pavol Demitra
Horcoff was best in the offensive zone winning 63 per cent of those draws.

Game five versus Canucks (Home game)

Horcoff won 13 of 17, for 76 per cent
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W – L – Opp
1 – 0 – Alex Burrows
4 – 0 – Ryan Kesler
5 – 3 – Henrik Sedin
3 – 1 – Rick Rypien
Horcoff dominated this game, but was extra good in the offensive zone winning six of eight.
Clearly, Horcoff wasn’t bad at all. In fact, he was really good combining to win 71 per cent of his draws. Horcoff will need to be better starting tonight in Anaheim, because the Oilers can’t realistically expect Andrew Cogliano or Fernando Pisani to improve overnight. Cogliano won only 39 per cent of his draws last season, and only won one of seven against Colorado.
If the Oilers want to control the puck, Horcoff—along with Kyle Brodziak (four of six in game one)—will have to carry the load in the faceoff dot. If not, the Oilers will need Mathieu Garon to stand on his head once again.
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—Listen to Jason Gregor every weekday between 3 and 6pm on Just a Game on the Team 1260.