We’re only three games into the Oilers shortened NHL season, so it’s awfully pre-mature to draw conclusions about the team in such a short amount of time. That being said, there’s been a lot of things to smile about, and of course, some worrying trends as well. I’ll leave those for later for on in the post for now. But, just how fun has it been this year? Outside of a simply atrocious 1st period against San Jose in the home opener, it’s been incredible to watch the Oilers play, and play in a way that we’ve not seen since, 2006? (Temper the expectations though, season’s still quite young.) Out-chancing both Vancouver and the LA Kings? It’s not that we haven’t won games against those teams in the past few years, but it was more often that not out of luck, managing to capitalize on the fewer opportunities and hanging in there besides getting massively out-chanced and out-shot.
Normally, I’d be worried that despite being 2-1-0, we had yet to hold a lead through nine regulation periods. It’s not a trend I’d like to see continue, but if the Oilers and their new found ability to not only carry, but drive the play, continue to play at this level, that trend should quickly disappear.
Now for an early look at how various Oilers have been performing.
A quick glance at Dubnyk’s stats shows a rather cringe worthy 3.70 GAA and .883 Save Percentage, certainly not what 3 and half million dollars should be getting you in the pipe. Context is crucial; it’s only been three games and his stat line has been ruined by that aforementioned period against the Sharks. Could he have had a few of those goals back in the San Jose game? Sure, but when the Oilers are leaving Patrick Marleau alone in the slot, on a Sharks PP? I’m not blaming the goaltender. Outside of that period, he’s been extremely solid. Anyone blaming him on the Edler goal when Potter decided to do nothing but act as a screen, neither standing up Edler at the line or forcing him wide, is doing it wrong.
Justin Schultz has looked much like any promising rookie offensive-minded defenceman does in their first NHL action. At times he’s been all over the place, made questionable decisions at the offensive blue-line, joined the rush, made great passes and likewise, has made some brutal turnovers. He’s a rookie, this is to be expected, and he’s neither been as good or as bad and some people might have hoped/feared. Again, small sample size alert, but he is tied with three others for the team lead in scoring.
I’m one of those that’s in the “regression to the mean” camp. I don’t think he’ll have quite the year he did last year, in terms of goal scoring. Still, there’s no denying the kid has amazing hand-eye and a sneakily explosive first step, and then there’s his love for opening night theatrics:
I’m guessing he’s paying for Edler’s shiny new contract, because based on that game, he owns him.
The Pairing of Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry
Can we clone these guys, seriously? Hands down our best defensive pairing, and yes I do agree that’s perhaps not the most difficult thing to accomplish on the Oilers. Still, it’s been reassuring to see Petry pick up where he had left off last year, quietly developing into a very well-rounded defenceman, while Smid, due to having no semblance of an offensive game whatsoever, remains one of Edmonton’s best kept secrets. Just, uh, Smid? Given that you’re our top defensive guy on the blue-line, do you mind leaving the 23 PIM in a period performances to someone like Fistric, or Eager? We need you out there, buddy.
He’s back, baby.
Seriously, I’m pretty sure everyone in my apartment complex heard me scream at that goal. The release on that goal, the man is a wizard.
And then, of course, there’s this:
Pure unbridled enthusiasm. Had this been a goal that puts the Oilers up by 4 or 5? Okay then, maybe you’ve got a case for calling it show-boating, though I personally couldn’t care less. Don’t want someone to celebrate after a goal? Don’t let him score then. But here’s the context, after a terrible, screw-job of a call takes away Nugent-Hopkins game tying goal earlier, sending Rexall into chants of “Refs you suck” and garbage thrown onto the ice, it seemed like the Oilers were headed for a loss an a 1-2-0 record to start the year. Enter Nail Yakupov batting in Taylor Hall’s rebound with 5 seconds left. He’s 18, he’s just scored his first big goal in the NHL, sending a game to over-time. Let him celebrate, hockey needs more passion like this, not more cliche’s and bland soundbites.
Here’s hoping the next three games are just as fun, and the three after that, and so on and so forth. Here come the Oilers.
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