Something weird happened today. In the Oilers first game of the regular season, the Oilers received two goals, including the game winner, from "third-liner" Dustin Penner.
What's weird about that? Both goals were even strength, something Penner is not known for. Last year, he scored less than half of his 23 goals at even strength (10). Penner excelled on the powerplay, positioning his 6'4 frame in front of opposing goalies, making it almost impossible to see.
With the addition of Erik Cole, however, Penner was moved down to the third line with those offensive stalwarts Fernando Pisani and Ethan Moreau, who have scored 20 goals in a season once between the two of them. Yet Penner still scored 2 goals, and made the line dangerous all night.
Now I understand the mentality of putting newcomer Cole with Hemsky at even strength because of Cole's speed, but why is Cole in front of the net on the powerplay instead of Penner? Sure, Penner's only 2 inches taller, but he's also 40 pounds heavier. Not only does it make it that much harder for the goalie to see a Sheldon Souray blast, but its also almost impossible to move Penner from in front of the net.
Penner was moved down to the third line because MacT didn't want to split up the kid line, and because Penner would be on the powerplay any way.
Now, if you really want to keep Cole on the powerplay with Hemsky, fine. But then put Penner out on the second unit with Gagner and Cogliano. Today, Penner logged a whopping 14 minutes, with 10 seconds of the that coming on the powerplay. Cole played 17 minutes, 3:40 on the powerplay, second only to Lubomir Visnovsky. The result: Penner scores two goals on 2 shots. Cole? no points and no shots on goal. Now imagine if Penner was on the powerplay.
It should also be noted that both of Penners goals came from deep in the zone in a situation he is used to being in on the powerplay. One a shot from just outside the crease that bounces of Budaj and in. The other a tip in off a point shot.
Now I know Cole needs time to adjust, and I am not trying to bash him, but Penner proved last year how good he is on the powerplay, and that he deserves to at least be on the powerplay, if not on the first unit.