As an Edmonton Oilers fan you might be torn. It was Dustin Penner's return to Rexall Place as a member of the Los Angeles Kings and Rod Phillips' final game calling for the Oilers. You were likely elated that Dustin Penner did not score a hat-trick, but disappointed that after 37 years of Oilers ups and downs, of being the Oilers biggest fan, Phillips was denied the opportunity to call "SCORES!" one last time. How could those Oilers do that to Rod? In the early days of the Oilers, before TSN in high definition and sportsnet with their 8 channels (or whatever it is) the Edmonton Oilers were only occasionally on Hockey Night in Canada and were sometimes on Itv during the week in the regular season. It wouldn't be until playoffs that you could watch more Oilers games. What that meant is that many people listened to many games all called by Rod Phillips. Rod will surely be missed in the same way that fans miss Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and now Dustin Penner. In short, although the Oilers gave Rod a stanley cup ring from their first win, Rod deserved a better ending to his 37 year career.
Dustin Penner talked to TSN, and very frankly, in an interview that was shown before the game. One of the more memorable parts was when Penner said that it was difficult to put the negativity of the situation out of your mind. He said he was reminded of the state of things when getting gas or at Tim Hortons. "Here's your double double, and you guys went oh for 8 on the power play last night huh?" Unsurprisingly Penner said that that was something he could leave behind him. You know what else was unsurprising? The fact that the Oilers took the first three penalties of the game. Andrew Cogliano took the first call for tripping, Ladislav Smid for hooking and then Tom Gilbert with a hooking call of his own. What was surprising was that the Oilers successfully killed all three penalties.
The Kings took the next two penalties, Dustin Brown for holding the stick and Michal Handzus for tripping. The Oilers went 0 for 2 in the first period and due to the fact that they were on the penalty kill and playing against a team who is worried about their playoff chances while missing their best player for the rest of the year due to ankle surgery it shouldn't surprise you that the Oilers fell behind 7-18 for shots in the first period.
The second period was far more disciplined in the sense that neither team took penalties. The Oilers let their defensive play falter however, allowing Dustin Brown two goals. The first goal game at approximately five minutes in. With both Nikolai Khabibulin and Smid committed to one side, the other side of the net was left completely open, 1-0 Kings. The second goal beat Khabibulin on his right, he just couldn't block the entire side of the net or move fast enough, 2-0 Kings. The second goal was due to a poor clearing attempt by Theo Peckham and Jason Strudwick. The Kings were able to capitalise and the Oilers were once again schooled by a team higher above them in the standings.
The Oilers outshot the Kings 13-10, but clearly the Kings out-chanced the Oilers. Still no audible boos for Dustin Penner, or cheers. Usually you can hear on your television when an old fan favourite or hated player (Pronger, Comrie) touched the puck.
If you found the first 40 minutes less than exciting, you were falling asleep for most of the third period. Ryan Jones was called for hooking on Matt Greene, and Andrew Colgiano made a great short handed attempt. The next almost goal was the Oilers' best of the night. Teemu Hartikainen, all alone from the defensive zone, wove his way down the ice and to the front of the net, releasing and ringing it off the post. Finally something audible from the crowds at Rexall in the "awww" that followed.
Otherwise, the Oilers looked fairly flat. Shots were 12-5 for the Oilers, so really the Kings didn't look all that much better themselves.
Fans will be upset facing the Kings, every time. One of the many reasons is the fact that Stoll seemingly won every single faceoff when in fact Stoll only went 16/23 or 70%. The sad thing is at the time, it looked like it was a trade that needed to be made. Stoll was dating a Hollywood starlette (I guess? I don't really know what to call her or why she's famous) and he just didn't look the same after his concussion. Looking back now, it sure would be a dream to have a centreman who can win faceoffs like that. Overall, the Oilers did fairly well though. The Oilers won 52% of their faceoffs.
Ryan O`Marra didn't receive rave reviews from many fans on the night, but he was fairly successful in terms of faceoff wins. O'marra won 10 of his 14 attempts, 71%. When asked about O'Marra's good night on the dot coach Tom Renney commented "Some days your lights out and sometimes you're not." He commented that O'Marra is strong and has the size, but that it's just one of those nights.
Chris VandeVelde is taking advantage of his opportunity to play in the NHL, Renney commented that VandeVelde has been reliable and that he has done well. Renney further stated that this is an opportunity for guys like Chris to show what they've got, that's a obvious one. Games like this will not only show the game the players have, but also their character, loss after devastating loss. VandeVelde is familiar playing with Hartikainen and says that anyone can play with Jordan Eberle. In the meantime he is "still looking forward to my first goal, and hopefully it will happen soon." Yes indeed VV, especially if it will prevent another Oilers shutout.
The Oilers failed to keep up with the Kings through the first period and never seemed to recover for the rest of the game. It was clear which team was heading for the post season. The Oilers could really use a win, at any point now before the end of the season and this would have been a great win for Rod and for Oilers fans, heck even the Oilers would have benefited from beating a former teammate.
Teemu Hartikainen has captured the attention of the radio folks, the TSN crew and even any Oilers fans that weren't aware of this recent callup. Hartikainen is definitely turning out to be an excellent sixth round pick and turning heads. I know you've heard it before, but some of these Oilers will be really great one day, hopefully with the Oilers.
The Oilers could really use some goals now, but their next game Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild will not be any easier than it has been so far this year. Winnless in their last ten and goalless in two of their last three, Oilers fans could use a little something, any time now.
The Copper & Blue Three Stars:
★★★ - Magnus Paajarvi
★★ - Chris VandeVelde
★ - Teemu Hartikainen