Tonight the Oilers wrapped up the home portion of their preseason schedule as they played host to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Oilers once again iced a strong lineup in front of the hometown fans; a lineup that included seven forwards and two defensemen guaranteed - baring more injuries of course - to be in the lineup on opening night. The Coyotes for their part also threw a good group of players over the boards, certainly a stronger group than Vancouver iced a few days ago, probably the result of not having to save their best players for the home preseason games.
But while the NHL set rules regarding the number of veterans that need to dress for every pre season game it was the players barely old enough to even be in the league that made the difference for the Oilers tonight as they knocked off the Coyotes by a score of 3-2. For the first time Oiler fans got a chance to see Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle play together on a line and for a night they made us forget about the terrible management, shaky defense, and very suspect goaltending, and instead we dreamed of what might be.
The full replay courtesy of oilers.nhl.com.
The Oilers got off to, as they always do, a slow start. This is a trend that's carrying over from last season and it's something that needs to stop if the Oilers want to be a better team this season. A slow start is the kind of thing you get away with during the preseason but against actual NHL teams, this will kill you.
As the first period near it's conclusion the Oilers new "Kid Line" (please come up with a better nickname) came across the blueline at full speed, something that created problems for the Coyotes defense all night long. In this case Hall beat the defender to the outside, crashing into the post in the process. Hall wasn't successful on this rush but his rebiund laid in the slot for an easy tap in by Nugent-Hopkings for his first goal of the preseason.
The first period might have been about Nugen-Hopkins' first goal, but from there it was all Hall who scored twice in the second period. Not to be outdone, both times the first assist went to Nugent-Hopkins. The first goal came off a pass from Nugent-Hopkins near the goal line through the crease to Hall for the one-timer. On Hall's second of the night he was the recipient of a very nice backhand pass that left him in a good shooting position. Good news for Oiler fans, Hall doesn't miss chances like that.
Of course the Oilers, as they are know to do, made a three nothing game interesting by letting the Coyotes get one goal back in the second period from Ray Whitney and another goal from (should have been an Oiler) Shane Doan with just over five minutes left in the game. But try as they might the Coyotes could not get the equalizer past Nikolai Khabibulin who had a second solid start in a row following his disastrous three goals allowed on seven shot performance to start the pre season. But even a pessimist like me knows he could only go up from there.
News and notes:
- I'd be thrilled if Nugent-Hopkins played in Red Deer this season just to keep the Oilers from trying to shove too many prospect through the door in a very short time period but with three points tonight and the injury to Sam Gagner he will get at least nine games here and if Gagner's recovery is slow he will be here for the full season.
- No analysis needed, Hall is unreal. Since the plan for the site is that I'll write the majority of the post games you should get used to reading this. On an average night he does three things that I just can't believe. My man crush grows nightly.
- Having two players who consistently win faceoffs - Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger - is a real treat to watch. For all the good things Nugent-Hopkins does, winning faceoffs isn't one of them, but Belanger and Horcoff can be used to protect him when the need arises.
- The Oilers defense didn't include a single player from the CHL tonight and Ladislav Smid was the only one of the group who didn't play college hockey. For a team that has been recently beating the bushes for European talent I don't think they get enough credit for their scouting of college in years past.
- I though Taylor Fedun had another solid game playing 16:23. The points didn't come like they did on Sunday but I'm very interested to see how this guy fares over a much larger sample size. Considering he joined the Oilers as a free agent out of Princeton even a spot on the Barons should be seen as good work by the Oiler scouts.