Today was a day of celebrating hockey and both the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings fielded questions and partook in events leading up to the game. A solid opening and closing 10 minutes proved to be no match for the other 40 minutes as the Oilers scored the first goal and never looked back. Here are five takeaways:
- The Kids Are Alright. Michael Mersch (aka "Kevin Merch" as Sportsnet commentator Kevin Quinn insisted on calling him) didn't have his strongest game but he didn't harm the team while he was on the ice. Speaking of Kevins, Kevin Gravel had himself a game. He was making smart passes all night, rarely put his team in a bad position and was excellent in front of the net, disrupting passes and playing his position well. Paul LaDue, another defenseman vying for at least a cup of coffee, was impressive from start to finish. He was aggressive in the offensive zone when necessary and a general pain for the opposing team. Derek Forbort, much like the team, started off a little slow but got better over time. Still, he was probably outplayed by Gravel and LaDue, though all three of the "kids" grossly outplayed Tom Gilbert.
- Tale of Two Nic(k)s. With Nick Shore on the shelf for the time being, Nic Dowd may have a shot at the Denver native's spot on the third line come Oct 12. Dowd had another great night, pressuring plays and making good overall decisions. He probably set up more than his fair share of chances and would've been more noticeable if not for Jeff Carter.
- That 70s Line Reunion. Carter and his son Tyler Toffoli were just a dream. They make hockey fun and they make rooting for the Kings fun. From puck drop to the final horn, they were in midseason mode, using their speed and creativity to generate chances. Early in the first period, Toffoli had a shorthanded breakaway and probably could've had a shot on goal had Connor McDavid not swooped in and saved the day for the Oilers. Together, they combined for probably at least 90% of the team's chances and most of them were probably of the Grade A and B variety - so they were fairly dangerous. And while Tanner Pearson may be a passenger on the line, he was still a noticeable threat - until he got ejected, that is.
- Rebounds A Major Issue. Jack Campbell had a lot of trouble controlling his rebounds and more so, the team defense had trouble clearing them out of harm's way. Credit the Oilers for using their speed and skill to make life tough for the Kings. Jordan Eberle was quite the pest and set up the first two goals, the second of which came from several whacks at a rebound that Campbell couldn't quite get a handle on.
- Life Without Anze Kopitar Is Sad. This is an obvious one but with the roster being iced in Lumby, there wasn't much of a "top six" as it was the 70s line and a collection of bottom-sixers. Andrew Crescenzi was signed to a one-year NHL contract over the summer but barely saw any ice time. Trevor Lewis was used more as a center than one of the Ontario Reign's most valuable pivots. And I know it's only a preseason game, but the team really needed another line to get some of the offensive mojo going. The "real" game in November should be really fun and really interesting to see.