Sunday, October 09, 2011

Game 1: Edmonton 2 Pittsburgh 1 (SO)

The Edmonton Oilers started off their 2011-2012 campaign in dramatic finish, earning a come from behind 2-1 shootout victory against the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Penguins.

Led by an outstanding goaltending performance by Devan Dubnyk and a late third period goal from rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers forced the game into overtime. After both teams hit the goal post in OT, they were forced to decide things via the shootout. Oilers forwards Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky both scored in the skills competition while Dubnyk stopped two of the three Penguins shooters, to earn the Oilers an opening night victory.

The undermanned Pens were already playing their third game of the young season and were missing both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who was a late scratch with a sore ankle. Pittsburgh also gave starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury the night off but backup netminder Brent Johnson was fantastic in his season debut.

The Good
  • Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Hemsky looked good at times but you could see the lack of cohesion from not a playing much with each other. That being said, by the third if was apparent that they just might be starting something special. Hall does have to simplifiy things with those two and learn to just stay out of their way and just find open space. Those two will find him.
  • The power play movment was much better which was nice to see. They didn't find the back of the net on the PP but that was more due to Brent Johnson being solid in the Penguins goal.
  • When the fourth line saw the ice, they looked good and Anton Lander needs to see more time.
  • PK was outstanding and they did decide to go with three units as mentioned in, "Penalty Killing Options Upfront". With Lennart Petrell out of the fold they mixed up the units and I was surprised to see Magnus Paajarvi on the top unit with Shawn Horcoff. It kept them all fresh and good thing with the late major to Smyth.
  • Outside of not playing the Letang goal particularly well, Dubnyk was a wall. Made huge saves throughout the game and gave his teammates a chance to the tie the game up and then win it. Stepped up to the challenge of starting on opening night.
  • On a non-Oiler note, Kris Letang is an absolute joy to watch...the guy seems to never leave the ice.

The Bad
  • Not having Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Hemsky out on the 5-on-3. They were buzzing and drew the second penalty but they were then taken off the ice. Second unit had chances but that's not the point. The big boys need to be out in that situation and it was a huge swing in the game.
  • Theo Peckham was brutal 5-on-5, making poor decisions all game long. I don't remember him making a good pass at any point during the game. It seemed whenever #24 was on the ice the Pens had Edmonton pinned in their end. Peckham was bad most of the pre-season and his game has to get better immediately.
  • The second and third lines look disjointed most of the night and outside of a shift or two, the lines remained intact. Swapping the bottom three centres seemed the most logical thing to do but they refused to do it. If nothing else, Horcoff should have seen some time with Eberle and Smyth because they were invisible at even strength.
  • The five minute major call on Ryan Smyth is a joke in my mind. A penalty yes but if that is a five minute major, this league has issues.

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