It's hard to get excited about split-squad games, but The Joey Moss Cup is different. Not only does the team do Joey the honor of making him the Commissioner and give him the opportunity to present the Cup, but they also give fans a chance to see everyone who isn't injured open it up in a game situation for the first time.
The game is not *REAL* hockey, it's more of a modified shinny match, but there are certainly real NHL players on the ice, and the speed is a huge step up from the prospects tournament in Penticton. Team Blue won the game 4-3 (plus an empty net goal) in a bit of an upset, especially considering Team White seemed to have the better roster. Some thoughts from the game after the jump.
- The opening puck drop was tremendous. Ryan Smyth, Tom Gilbert and Joey Moss at center ice. It was essentially a compendium of all of the adhesive that's held the organization together for the last 26 years. Moss, who has been there longer than anyone, Smyth, the man who held the little team that could and the Stanley Cup finalists together and Gilbert, the ironman who has done everything asked of him since Smyth left.
- Tyler Pitlick and Anton Lander move much better than I've come to expect. All eyes were on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but during one sequence in the first period Team Blue's top line had the puck in the offensive end for a couple of cycles, yet Lander easily marked Nugent-Hopkins. He didn't lose his mark during the entire sequence. It was eyebrow-raising. As for Pitlick, he was involved in two sequences in the second period in which he rolled off of the boards and to the center of the ice - both times he did so without much effort, but got there much more quickly than the defender had planned for. His physical gifts remain apparent on each shift.
- Without the ability to hit the forwards and lay the body in front and in the lanes, the defense struggled throughout this one. However, the inability to hit showcased the guys who could use their feet and play well positionally. Guys like Brandon Davidson, Martin Gernat, and especially Alex Plante were being spun like propellers, while Jeff Petry, and to a lesser extent, Taylor Fedun were getting to pucks and spots well ahead of the play.
- Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall were obviously not operating at top speed, but they still held the game in the palm of their hands. It was interesting to see how much room the two of them had. The defense was backing off as fast as possible when either got the puck in the zone.
- According to Andy Grabia, Smyth received an enormous cheer when he stepped onto the ice for warmups and the cheers continued into the second period each time he touched the puck. His reputation on Long Island and in Los Angeles isn't the greatest, but Smyth is such a meaningful player for the Oilers. I'm glad he forced his way back to Edmonton this summer.
- Petry made a great play on his goal to set himself up to take the pass. As Martindale broke in on the right wing, Petry got to the bottom of the slot and then pivoted on his left foot, opening his body to receive the pass and make the one-timer. The Oilers power play could really use that kind of play on the weak side opposite Ryan Whitney.
- In a game without contact, Teemu Hartikainen makes things a bit unfair. He didn't ease up at all. He played his style, barging to the net from the right wing over and over and he eventually pulled off a deke from NHL 94 for his goal. Bruce McCurdy noticed how effective Teemu was from the wrong-handed wing and commented that he liked Hartikainen on the right side. I reminded him of one of my favorite Hartikainen quotes: "My natural position is forward..."
- This kind of game does not set up well for Lennart Petrell. A defensive-minded bottom line left wing is going to be swept under in a game when no one else is playing defense. I'm still looking forward to his play in the upcoming split squad games against Chicago and Minnesota.
- Antti Tyrvainen had a few issues keeping his game in check. He started jawing with Theo Peckham and I think he exchanged words with Tanner House at one point. I don't mind the annoying part of his game, I just hope he can keep the dirty stuff under wraps.
- I have to admit, I really enjoyed Jack Michaels' call of the action. I almost never listen to the Oilers' radio call, but Michaels was excellent in this one. He was a welcome change from the typical Sportsnet crew, except for one slip up when he called the game the David Moss Cup. I know the Calgary center is a really underrated guy, but I don't think the Oilers are dedicating a game to him just yet.
- In the post-game, Tom Renney said "There's a chance we'll assign some guys tomorrow." I suspect some guys will be Jeremie Blain, Martin Gernat, and Tobias Rieder.