by Lisa Brown on 09/23/11 at 02:29 AM ET
Oilers fall to Canucks 2-1
This wasn’t the game that Oilers fans were expecting. As the day progressed, excitement built. This was the first televised game of the 2011 pre-season, and on TSN no less. The Oilers’ roster was announced and there were very few surprises. Once the Canucks roster was announced, people clamored to look up NHL rules; don’t teams have to dress a certain number of veterans?
The rules do speak of how many veterans must be played and it goes something like this:
“A Club shall be permitted to dress a minimum of eight (8) veterans for any Exhibition Game. For purposes of this Section, a veteran shall constitute either: (1) a forward or defenseman who played in thirty (30) NHL Games during the previous season, (2) a goaltender who either dressed in fifty (50) or more NHL Games or played in thirty (30) or more NHL Games in the previous season, (3) a first round draft choice from the most recent year’s Entry Draft or (4) any Player who has played one-hundred (100) or more career NHL Games.”
After looking up many of the players listed it seems as though the Canucks made it work. So, it looked as though most of the Oilers’ opening night roster would host the Chicago Wolves, the AHL team of the Vancouver Canucks. People who paid full price for their pre-season tickets may not have been happy with the ticket price they paid. But, perhaps Ryan Smyth and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Oilers jerseys on Rexall ice made up for everything else.
Thankfully this is just pre-season, but either the Oilers underestimated their competition, or the Canucks have great prospect depth, or again, it’s pre-season hockey and shouldn’t be read into that much.
The Oilers didn’t have the greatest start to this game; they came out flat and quickly fell behind by two goals in the opening period. The Oilers were slow to find the scoreboard, but quick to find the penalty box.
The first penalties were for fighting. Everyone expected a physical match, and that is exactly what they got. With fights from Theo Peckham 58 seconds in, Darcy Hordichuk with his first of two fights for the night and Alex Plante in the first half of the first period followed by a tripping call to Taylor Hall, a high sticking to Tom Gilbert, and holding to Jeff Petry, the Oilers never quite gave themselves the opportunity to catch up.
The period ended with more pushing and shoving. Mike Duco was looking to start something with Taylor Hall, but Ryan Smyth would have none of that and took the winger to the ground. Theo Peckham knew that Ryan Smyth should not be “messed with” either and quickly dove in to separate Smyth from Duco. The move by Peckham earned him a 10 minute misconduct unfortunately.
The second period saw the end of the game’s scoring, but not until the clock had nearly expired. Mike Duco scored for the Canucks, and 17 seconds later Jordan Eberle scored with a backhand from a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins feed. Trailing by one the Oilers had an opportunity to put themselves back in the game.
The third period saw chances for both teams, but no further scoring. There was however another fight from Darcy Hordichuk, this time against Todd Fedoruk
Coach Tom Renney didn’t seem overly concerned or disappointed with his team’s pre-season results against a division rival. “Everyone’s looking so glum. It’s just a little exhibition game.” Renney thought that this game was more disorganized and therefore in some ways more difficult than a game would have been against the NHL Vancouver Canucks. “Some of it’s just, you know, it’s preseason and I accept that. I’m not going to kill anyone because it’s just one of those nights.”
Magnus Paajarvi played a great game, and stood out for his smart plays and speed. The media made sure to ask Renney what he thought of Lander’s performance on the night. “I think Magnus is going to show that he is a year older, a year more experienced. I think he knows what his assets are. To play in the NHL, I think he knows to use his speed. He’s got a good shot and because of that, certainly the speed part of it, he will be a good two way player for us. I’m not against looking at him as a power play guy on the point maybe. I think it’s year two of these guys in the league and I expect that they will have gone through a lot of growing pains last year and I don’t expect to see as much of that this year. I have high expectations for him; I hope he does for himself.”
Renney is good for calling it like it is, but at the same time making things sound optimistic; he does his job essentially. On the game overall, Renney said he found the “First half of the game not really too inspired by it all quite honestly. It was a tough lineup to coach against quite honestly. That being said, I thought that we found our legs a little better in the second half of the second period. I thought we were a pretty good team in the third, playing like how I think we’ve got to play in order to be successful. “
In the third period, when the Oilers stopped taking as many penalties and were starting to mesh better, there were moments when it seemed as though the team could turn things around. Overall, Renney summarized the game well by saying “The movement of the puck was something that was a little disappointing because we had spent the past two days doing nothing but that.”
Darcy Hordichuk had a great game, he did everything as Renney said, “He did what he had to do out there.” Hordichuk did engage in what some would call scripted fights, but he played the role that the Oilers were looking for. The Oilers want to be tougher to play against than they were in the past; they wanted to add more size and grit to help protect the smaller skilled players.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked a little timid at times, but overall didn’t appear as though he didn’t belong on the ice. Nugent-Hopkins continues to display good hockey sense, great vision of the play and most importantly skates with his head up. The decision on Nugent-Hopkins is far from done, but there is still plenty of time and opportunities to see how well Nugent-Hopkins will stand up against the pressure and the play.
The cuts Wednesday were more junior players, and although the Oilers have back to back games this weekend, there may be more cuts shortly. “I want to make sure whoever opens the season October 9th is healthy and ready to go. I didn’t have a lot of opportunity with the exhibition schedule. I’m hoping that in the future I do. That being said, we will send some players tomorrow. I don’t know how many to be honest with you. We’ll pare it down again, and we’ll just chip away.”
So, stay tuned for more player assignments. Unfortunately for defenceman Alex Plante, he looked outmatched and out of his league. Plante will likely be in Oklahoma City for their pre-season opener September 26th. Otherwise, it is still difficult to say which players will be sent down. Ultimately you have a good idea of who may play where, but the order in which they get sent down can depend on the team will play and who the coaching staff feel they may want to call up at some point in the season. Also, new addition to the Oiler family Andy Sutton has yet to play. So, Renney and the rest of his coaching staff have many players and decisions to consider.
Speaking of Oilers’ coaches, rumour broke on twitter tonight that Jason Strudwick has been offered a position with the Oilers. The Team 1260’s Jason Gregor was quick to dispel these rumours: “I just spoke with @struddles43 and the Oilers never offered him a job. He never asked for one either. Just another bogus rumour. #fact”
Next up, the Oilers take on the Calgary Flames at home. This game will be broadcast on the Oilers’ website.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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