Everything comes up Oilers

Edmonton Oiler Kurtis Foster checks Calgary Flame Niklas Hagman. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

Edmonton Oiler Kurtis Foster checks Calgary Flame Niklas Hagman. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:53 PM ET

They couldn't have scripted the re-launch any better if they tried.

Nikolai Khabibulin: Shutout.

Edmonton Oilers: Blowout.

Steve MacIntyre: Knockout.

After a season in which everything that could go wrong pretty much ended up in a train wreck, holy cow! Everything went right.

"I have a smile on my face, still," Gilbert Brule said Friday. He scored the first goal of the new era, the eventual game winner in Thursday's 4-0 opening night win over the windburned Calgary Flames. "The whole game I was so happy just to see our team playing like that. It's been a long time since I've seen our team have that much energy and chemistry."

It spread throughout the building in an instant. The Oilers faithful sounded like they've finally been given hope after two decades of frustration ... mainly because they've finally been given hope after two decades of frustration.

"The biggest thing that I noticed were the fans," said Shawn Horcoff. "I haven't seen it like that since the playoffs, really. At the end of the game when we saluted then, that was LOUD.

"Good on them. As hard as it's been on maybe me, Hemmer and a couple of the older guys around here the last three or four years, it's been equally hard on the fans.

"That's not to say we're going to run away and win 82 games, but I think they'll be a lot more patient now that they see what the potential is, what the future can hold."

The Future could sense the buzz in the pre-game warm-up and couldn't believe his ears by the end of a wild first night.

"You could feel it before the game," said 18-year-old Taylor Hall. "There was this level of excitement. And throughout the course of the game they just got louder and louder. That was a tremendous atmosphere. Eberle scores, Mac knocks out that guy.

"I don't think you could have asked for a better first game. It was a great win against a team we wanted to set the tone against pretty early. And we did, it's a great feeling when that happens."

They won't all be like Game 1, but if some are, and the rest are half as good, fasten your seatbelts.

"That was raw footage of what the Edmonton Oilers can be," said Dustin Penner, who had a feeling that the mix of healthy, re-energized veterans, high-end rookies and solid netminding could add up to something like this. "I felt that if we came out the way we could, with the pieces we had, if they all lined up and came together immediately, we could be this kind of team.

"Having a win like that is huge for everybody's confidence, especially the young guys."

The big three saw that they can be effective in this league, and, perhaps just as importantly, the rest of the team saw it, too.

"It was a definite confidence builder to know you're doing some high-skilled things out there and they're working," said Hall.

Part of a coach's job is to temper the excitement, let the troops know that 1-0 is nothing more than 1-0, but when a team has waited this long to feel good about itself, Tom Renney isn't about to spoil the fun even if the second period needed a lot of work.

"One of the things coaches can get in the way of is allowing players to celebrate the good things," he said. "It's OK to have fun and enjoy the great things that can happen in a game. Certainly the fans did."

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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