Oilers Rookies 1, Flames Rookies 3
For the second consecutive rookie game, a meeting between Edmonton Oilers’ and Calgary Flames’ hopefuls turned into a goaltending duel, this one featuring two different stoppers from the three who took the first game into overtime at 0-0. Teenage ‘tenders Olivier Rodrigue and Dustin Wolf both went the distance, with Edmonton’s stpopper by far the busier of the two.
No shutouts to be had tonight, indeed the ice was broken just 36 seconds in, but Rodrigue responded to that early setback with an excellent night’s work, allowing just one more while holding his team in the game with 40 saves. For his part Calgary’s Dustin Wolf had a much quieter night but responded to the challenge on the handful of decent chances Edmonton was able to generate.
Overall, the visiting Oilers were the second best club on the ice by a fairly wide margin in a game that featured some interesting moments but not much excitement.
#32 Olivier Rodrigue, 7. Made a bad first impression when he was beaten from a bad angle by Calgary standout Glenn Gawdin on his very first shot just 36 seconds in. A great shot, but… He had little chance on the second tally, a well-executed deke and roof job by Adam Ruzicka who broke loose in the slot midway through the first. Slammed the door thereafter to keep Edmonton in the game at 0-2 down through 40 minutes despite a wide shot differential that included an 18-4 domination in the middle frame. His teammates did manage to halve the deficit early in the third, and Rodrigue continued to do his part to keep it close with 12 more stops in the final frame, but he was 100 feet away on the bench when the empty netter was scored to seal the deal. 42 shots, 40 saves, .952 save percentage.
#42 Cameron Hebig, 6. Stuffed by Wolf on Oilers first great chance just after Calgary’s second goal. (It was that kind of start for the Oil.) Hustled to the puck and went to the net front any time the chance presented itself.
#46 Steven Iacobellis, 5. Showed quick feet in more ways than one when he kicked a pass through to Safin, then burst into the rush to take the return pass and fiore a quick, accurate wrister that forced an outstanding save from Wolf.
#49 Tyler Benson, 5. Made a slick backhand feed to Marody for a half-chance. Made a strong play on the boards to protect the puck, then slid into the open ice for the return pass from Marody, but took a somewhat lame penalty for tapping the netminder’s glove. Was involved in some post-whistle action for the second game in a row, this time when he fired a high shot just after the offside whistle, drawing the ire of a nearby Flame. Also got into an off-the-puck battle with former Victoria Royals rival Matthew Phillips. His strong shot from the high slot that tested Wolf on a third period PP. Stood out for his feisty play but didn’t create enough.
#51 Jakob Stukel, 4. Made a terrific centring pass to a wide-open man in scoring position… only trouble was the grateful recipient was wearing red. Rodrigue had his back with a fine stop. Some OK moments but nothing of impact
#54 Beau Starrett, 5. College grad is getting a rough intro to pro hockey. Got decked by a booming check from Calgary’s Glenn Gawdin early, then coughed up a nasty turnover in his own end leading directly to the second Calgary goal. Drew a penalty on a nice shorthanded rush leading to Edmonton’s first PP. Made a sweet spinaround pass to Lavoie for a chance out of nowhere. His clean faceoff win led to Edmonton’s powerplay goal. He’s a big boy but doesn’t play a particularly physical style, something I expect his pro coaches will address.
#59 Ostap Safin, 5. Made a fine play in the middle of a give-and-go with Iacobellis for a rare Oilers scoring chance. Made another fine pass to Vesey on the doorstep leading to a Calgary penalty. Otherwise quiet.
#61 Liam Keeler, 4. OK defensively, created little.
#62 Raphael Lavoie, 6. Showed decent wheels carrying the disc through the neutral zone on a couple of occasions. Fired a terrific one-timer from a bad angle that tested Wolf. Had another decent look on a wrapawround in the final minute but couldn’t cash. Moved around the line-up as coach Jay Woodcroft looked for offensive chemistry.
#65 Cooper Marody, 6. Looked sharper on the puck, making a number of good short passes of the 5-to-10 foot variety. Made two slick passes on one sequence, first to Bouchard to key the breakout, then a backhand feed to Hebig busting in tight. Fired one good low shot on the PP, but then missed high on an even better look seconds later. Positionally sound for the most start, especially supporting the puck when his team had possession. Drew a penalty when he won a board battle and got crosschecked to the ice.
#68 Noan Vesey, 4. Had a semi-breakaway late in the first but cued the attempted backhand weakly into the boards. Had another half chance in the third but again, no finish. Broke out of his zone with speed to briefly end a stretch of Calgary pressure, only to turn the puck over at the red line whereafter it bungeed straight back into Oilers territory for a while.
#70 Ryan McLeod, 4. He and Maksimov were jointly burned for a great chance 5 seconds into the first PK on the night. Worked one puck into good shooting position by looking the defender off, but then proceeded to pass anyway (and miss). As good as his passing was in the first game, it was MIA in the second.
#72 Kirill Maksimov, 4. One powerful, accurate wrist shot from so far out it was a routine save, otherwise showed little.
#73 Vincent Desharnais, 5. Stood up at the blueline & crushed a would-be zone entrant with a stiff check. Was slow moving the puck and turned it over under pressure, leading to a point blank chance. Otherwise used his big frame to get in the way a lot.
#75 Evan Bouchard, 6. Had a few rough defensive moments in the first, allowing his man to sneak behind him for one chance, then getting walked by another. Later, he, Marody and Benson collectively lost both possession and position in their own zone to enable a down-low 2-on-1 that just missed. Lost his man again on a second period powerplay that resulted in a dangerous chance for a Calgary PKer. Later made a strong defensive stop of Luke Philp. For a man with supposedly “average” wheels I keep seeing rushes where he skates about 1% faster with the puck than his nearest opponent can without it, and he generally skates away from trouble rather than into it. Left one would-be checker in his exhaust with a quick turn up the boards and out. Scored Edmonton’s first goal when his point shot into traffic bounded into the cage off a defender. On the next, disjointed powerplay he made three consecutive slick defensive plays to put out possible fires, then fed Benson on a “play-action pass” late in the PP for a good look after first selling the shot from the point. There’s an element of deception to his game that will be a welcome element on Edmonton’s blue line whenever he makes the grade.
#78 Dmitri Samorukov, 5. Made a pair of good stops in rapid succession when he picked off a dangerous pass, then blocked a shot from centre slot. Stood up at the blueline and smoked Zagorodny with a great open-ice hit, but later got decked himself by Ruzicka. He was OK but “just” OK.
#80 Jaxon Bellamy, 4. Made his debut after sitting out Saturday, replacing Edmonton Oil Kings camp invite Ethan Cap. Had a tough shift when he was slow moving the puck and turned it over, then seconds later whiffed on a decent chance off a broken play at the other end. Later a lame clearing pass during a would-be line change sparked a grass fire in Oilers territory.
#85 Brendan De Jong, 4. A day late and a dollar short at the defensive net front a couple times, one of them a goal.
#90 Logan Day, 4. Was a hundred miles from anywhere on the second Flames goal, busting out of the Oilers zone while the forwards behind him (!) were coughing up the puck deep in their own territory. Turned out they coulda used a right defenceman on that sequence. Hit Vesey with a fine stretch pass to set the winger in free for a shot that missed. Got decked on a nasty blindside hit by Martin Pospisil that earned an Edmonton powerplay. Good with the puck on his stick, be it a couple of good clearances from the danger zone or some subtle but effective breakout passes. High event player who is fun to watch when he’s not actively driving you crazy.
Recently at the Cult of Hockey
Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy