The Oilers slid into town on a five game winning streak and easily defeated the Kings to make it six in a row. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not your Oilers team from the past 4 years. This is a team that is rapidly becoming a solid playoff team. Despite last night’s beatdown though, I would say they’re not there just yet. So, what’s for real with them and what’s just riding momentum? Let’s take a look.
The real deal:
-The star kids. You don’t draft first overall twice in a row and come away with nothing. The Oilers have 2 first overall picks on their squad and they deserve to be there. Taylor Hall already plays like a seasoned veteran and very well could have been your Calder winner last year if he didn’t go down to injury. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is proving he belong in the NHL and once he fills out some more he’ll be an even stronger player. Add in Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi and you’ve got a bevy of young talent.
-The old timer. As much as it pains me to say it, Ryan Smyth is playing like the Ryan Smyth of old again. He’s scoring weird goals, crashing the net and simply looking more comfortable. Good for him, but I hope the incessant booing last night showed him that Kings fans DO pay attention to hockey and DID notice his departure. A mullet like that doesn’t leave town without leaving an impression.
-The Bulin Wall’s Ability. Ability is in italics for a reason which I will get to later. The man hasn’t had the best of times in the past few years given injuries and arrests. However, many forget he has a cup to his name and is no doubt a starter in this league. On pure skill alone, Khabibulin trumps Dubnyk 7 days of the week.
-Chemistry. This team has some kind of mojo going and it’s clear they play well together, which is something I honestly can’t 100% say for the Kings as of yet. As long as that chemistry exists, they have a chance in any game.
Just hot for now:
-The rag-tag youngsters. Edmonton has quite a few first timers on their squad and a lot of them are contributing in a big way. However, the magic will fade on these guys and the season will take it’s toll on their inexperience and the road will get tougher. Maybe I’m wrong and they’ll surprise me, but it seems more often than not young plug-ins will start off strong then taper off as the season wears on. This gets filed under “wait and see”.
-The Bulin Wall’s streak. Khabibulin is on a disgustingly hot streak. While his ability dictates he can play this well, it won’t last forever and he’ll come back down to earth eventually. It would be nice for Khabibulin to remain the clear starter for the Oil all season, something they haven’t had in a while, but history with him says otherwise. If he stays healthy, ‘Bulin is the safe bet to keep the reins. I just don’t think he’ll stay as hot as he is right now.
Onto matters at home…
What’s working for the Kings:
-The skill. Obviously it’s there. The list of names for the Kings is impressive and they’re showing it on the ice, more or less.
-Quick. He’s a stud and the reason the Kings have a chance every night. He impresses me more every season and just when I think he’s reached max potential, he takes another stride. At this point in time I’m comfortable saying he will likely stay and Bernier will be dealt (later on, of course).
-The grinders. Clifford, Richardson, Moreau, Lewis, all of those guys bring it. I really like the spark and gristle Moreau showed last night against his former team. He’s looking like a stellar pick up. The other guys also bring the jam every night, which is good news for the Kings.
-The chemistry. Ten or so games in is not a ton, but the Kings should be further along in developing chemistry. Maybe it’s the constant juggling, the sporadic injuries, or maybe the newbies are just taking time to come along. Hopefully this is one of those self-solving problems.
-Doughty. I’m not sure if he’s still shaking off his injury or what, but he just doesn’t look like the real, dynamic Doughty yet. On the defensive end he doesn’t seem as tenacious as he used to. On the offensive end he seems hesitant to pull the trigger and I see Johnson and Martinez go end to end more often than him. The Kings need him to be at 100%.
-Penner. I know, I know, he’s taking a lot of flack for his play. The fact is, he’s not the player we thought he would be when we got him. We expected a 30/30 offensive threat, power-forward. What we got is Ponikarovsky from last season, except less effort. Poni came in and provided energy and physicality night in, night out but rarely hit the score sheet. Penner brings the effort some nights, other nights not so much. He also is not hitting the score sheet. Right now I think Murray has more confidence in Parse and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Penner regulated to 3rd line duty more often. Murray will continue to shuffle to try to get the big man going, but the chances will end somewhere.
Little rest for the weary, the Kings are back in action on Saturday against the Penguins. The Pens are the best team in the league at the moment and that’s without the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, on their roster. That, my friends, is a scary scary thought.
Puck drops at 7:30 pm PT on Saturday. Go Kings!
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney