Depending on who's asking, I have different reasons for driving home to Edmonton today. If you happen to be my Grandmother (ma Grandmère), I drove home to have Thanksgiving dinner with my loving family. If you are pretty much anyone else, I was hoping to be at the game where Taylor Hall or Magnus Paajarvi scored their first NHL goal. You know, either way works right? I truly do not believe that I was the only one to have that second reason be the driving force that got them to Rexall Place. As I walked into Rexall Place, the atmosphere was completely different from that of the Saddledomeone week ago today. No, for this game, the crowd was buzzing, people were smiling and the stores were absolutely PACKED! All around were kids with smiling parents. I stopped a few families to ask why they brought their families to the game today. For many it was because this is an exciting time to be an Oilers fan in Edmonton, for others it was hoping to see a repeat of the Jordan Eberle theatrics or even to see what else the Oilers would pull out of their sleeves. Either way, the excitement was there, and I was just excited to be a part of it.
The other driving forces for this game must have been that this was a game against the Florida Panthers, this is an obvious win right? The old Oilers would have lost this game 12-2, but these are the new Oilers, right? Right? Whatever it was I haven't been to a game like this for a very long time. Before the lights when down for the opening video and singing of the anthems nearly every person was already in their seats, waiting for the game. No one seemed willing to risk missing anything. I asked the season ticket holders sitting next to me what it was like to be at the home opener on Thursday. The woman's face lit up like a Christmas tree, she just said "amazing, like a playoff game." She told me that it was so loud that she brought ear protection for tonight in case it should be as loud. Can you imagine such a thing? I looked around the rink and saw that some had even brought their '06 playoff pom poms. In Edmonton, we are a whole other kind of hockey fan aren't we?
The game itself was extremely slow to get going, and I forgot my notebook in Calgary, so we will be having a look at this game from what I remember seeing on the ice and what I saw in the stands. Like I said, what a slllllooooooowwww moving first period. No scoring, no fighting, but there were some fantastic giveaways for the Oilers, 12 in the first period alone, and as a team they went 4 for 14 for face-offs, and 11-3 for shots. Super! The first period essentially came down to Khabibulin who received a very warm welcome. The fans seem to be behind him, even if there were some names like "Khabiboozin" thrown out once in a while. The only other player out there that didn't look too terrible was Ryan Jones. I think it was that fabulous hockey hair of his. He liked it when I told him that I thought he had amazing hockey hair after the game. Otherwise, I like many fans out there, and not seeing much chemistry on the Cogliano, Paajarvi and Brule line. I would assume that there will be a lot more shuffling in the games to come. The best scoring chance of the period came from Panthers forward Higgins. Since he didn't score, we don't need to give it much more thought.
Second period, well at least here is where things got interesting. No, no fights, but we final saw the goal lights go on, and there were a few penalties. The first of the game and the season was a goal by Dustin Penner and his 200th career NHL point which reallygot the cheers going, what can I say? We all got a tad bored during the first period, a goal will definitely turn things around though. Four minutes later, the man with the amazing hockey hair, Ryan Jones scored his first goal of the season and he reacted just as anyone would hope; full of excitement! You could tell from anywhere in the arena that this man was on top of the world. He said he scored that goal for his wife, what a Thanksgiving gift!
The third goal of the second period was all Marty Sakic, I mean Marty Reasoner. Yes, the same Marty Reasoner that used to make you laugh during post game interviews, or any interview or public event, the man who couldn't seem to take a good photograph, and the Marty Reasoner that now plays for the Florida Panthers. Fans were excited and standing to cheer for him. i saw several Reasoner jerseys in the crowd; I love Edmonton and its fans.
The next goal was a little more questionable, and came after the Oilers lived through something I don't remember seeing them do much of last year, yup, they survived a five on three powerplay. This one was very short, but I would be lying if I said my heart didn't leap into my throat all the same. Shawn Horcof scored his second of the season, so why not get excited about this? He's on pace for 82! Ok, I do remember promising to try to take the excitement levels down a couple of notches, let's say he's on pace for 80 goals. There, I think that's a number we can all be happy with. Time will tell though, anything is possible. The other very notable thing about Shawn Horcoff's goal is where the assists came from. That's right, your pal Lisa was at the game where Taylor Hall got his first NHL point, and you weren't. Ok, maybe you were there, and even if you weren't, it was absolutely amazing, and I doubt I will remember by the end of the season who scored the actual goal. The main point to this mini story was that we can all hope to see a lot more scoring from Taylor Hall and Shawn Horcoff.
Just as some fans were getting up to beat the lines for the bathroom and the beer vendors, another goal! And who was it by? MARTY REASONER! Why did we ever let this guy go? Ok, don't get upset with me, I know a few reasons, but honestly he could kill penalties and win face-offs. The latter being something that the Oilershave really been struggling with the past few years. Anyways, I digress. Reasoner scores and the crowd erupts! More standing, more cheering, but also some boos suddenly. One man in my section called out "Reasoner we want you back on our team." We all smiled and most got a little chuckle out of that.
The third period, well its a good thing that the second period had so much to talk about, because for hte final 20 minutes, there wasn't a whole lot happening. Cogliano had the best scoring chance, but as you all know the final score was 3-2 for the Oilers, you know that he didn't score. I was hoping that Reasoner would be out for the final few minutes of the game, but no. I did want Reasoner to score his hat trick, but I also wanted the Oilers to score another couple first.
So the main stories of the night:
- Khabibulin played well, he kept the Oilers in the game during the first period
- Penner scored his 200th career NHL point
- Taylor Hall scored his first NHL point
- Horcoff is a scoring machine right now
- Marty Reasoner is still much loved and missed in Oil Country
The three stars for the most part were very much expected, but the third star did catch me off guard. Theo Peckham received the third star of the night. He did make some pretty good plays tonight, one even leading to the Shawn Horcoff goal. Peckham was good defensively on the Oilers PK, and did make some pretty important plays in the third to keep the Oilers ahead so really I can understand this decision. The second star was of course Marty Reasoner, he did get some boos for that, but also a lot of cheers and smiles. First star of the night, Khabibulin, and really isn't that the best end to this story that we could be hoping for? For a rebuilding team like the Oilers, they really need some solid goaltending. Khabibulin is a guy that is said to be well liked in the locker room, and so far is doing alright between the pipes. So, there you have it, your Thanksgiving Oilers story. I for one am thankful for this ugly Oilers win and another opportunity to enjoy hockey in Edmonton.