Monday, 10 October 2011
10/10/11 Breaking the Ice
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins refuses to let himself not be the story. With his first NHL game, goal, and the Oilers' opener out of the way, the ice has been broken. Here are some notes about the game:
David Staples at Cult of Hockey liked Nugent-Hopkins' game so much that he gave him a score of 9 out of 10, or very nearly a perfect game in Staples' view. He certainly was dominant for stretches and created a load of scoring chances. Even better, he managed to score his first NHL goal with three defenders draped on and around him, which puts another nail in the coffin of the belief that he's too small.
However, there was one area where Nugent-Hopkins will need to be much better: the faceoff. RNH won just 2 of the 15 draws he took last night, or 13.3%, and just 1 of 4 on the powerplay. Having said that, faceoffs were perhaps his only weakness, which is fantastic for an 18 year old in his first NHL game.
- Anton Lander will need to be better on draws as well, having won 3 of the 9 he took. With the way Nugent-Hopkins is playing, it's almost certain that Lander will be sent down to Oklahoma City when Gagner comes back. That's probably the best thing for him, considering that he played just 9:20 last night, the least of any Oiler save for Darcy Hordichuk who was on the ice for 59 seconds in total.
- On the bright side of the faceoff equation, Shawn Horcoff won 17 of 26, good for 65.4%; while Eric Belanger was 9 for 18 in the dot. These two pivots will make for very good 3rd and 4th line centers when Gagner returns.
- Jeff Petry played 21:34 in this game, second only to Tom Gilbert's 26:33. Petry was a plus-1, had 4 shots on goal - one of which was very nearly the game winner - and looked comfortable in this large role.
- The penalty kill looked much improved over last year (but beware small sample sizes), despite allowing one goal against in 8 opportunities. That's thanks in large part to the work of Theo Peckham, Ladislav Smid and Shawn Horcoff, who played 9:43, 9:49 and 8:27 of PK time respectively. This accounted for nearly half the total ice time of Smid and Horcoff and more than half of Peckham's.
- In other news, the Barons lost their first game of the season 7-0 last night. At OilersNation, Lowetide discussed the inexperience of the Barons' blueline. Acting quickly, the Oilers placed Taylor Chorney on waivers today for the purpose of assigning him to the farm team. His 146 games of AHL experience and 56 in the NHL will make him the second most experienced player on the Barons' backend. Needless to say, that's a problem. Chorney may help, but he's collected a minus-60 rating over his time in the AHL. The loss of Fedun is already being felt in OKC. The Oilers will likely make a minor league trade for an experienced defenseman in the near future.