The Oilers played host to the Winnipeg Jets tonight, and won 3-2 to continue on their undefeated march toward Stanley Cup greatness. Here's how it went down:
The first period was difficult to assess given all the penalties. Both teams struggled to find any rhythm to their play. Passes weren’t especially crisp, and neither side was able to enjoy sustained offensive pressure. Most of the chances were from the outside, other than a couple of great saves by Talbot in the slot after some suspect Oilers defending. No kidding.
Both teams enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play in the first, with the Oilers’ coming early and the Jets’ coming late. Justin Schultz finished off a nice, if simple, passing play on the Oilers’ two-man advantage. Klefbom worked the puck to Schultz, who found RNH in the right corner, then RNH hit a creeping Schultz for a sweet one-timer. The Jets, on the other hand, weren’t able to get their PP set up for most of the period. They did eventually find some kind of rhythm thanks to the Oilers’ lack of discipline, but couldn’t beat Talbot on their own 5-on-3.
Winnipeg did grow to be the more assertive team by the end of the period, and started to funnel some more shots at the Oilers net. No real ten-bell chances, and mostly from outside, but the Jets did outshoot the Oilers 16-10 (23-18 Corsi) after 20 minutes.
The second period saw the Oilers push back immediately, with the home team seeing the better of the chances. Edmonton was in complete control of the game for about 10 minutes, until the Jets woke up and clawed their way back. Both teams traded chances at 5v5, with the Yakupov-Lander-Draisaitl line creating havoc in the offensive zone. Bob and Jack attributed all of this line’s success to Draisaitl but I didn’t see it that way. I thought Yakupov was his usual springy self, that Lander looked every bit like an NHL center, and that Draisaitl was a bit sluggish. Not in his own movement, but in his movement of the puck. But what do I know?
Nurse is consistently exciting when he bursts up the ice with speed, but he does it quite a bit. I think it’s apparent that he really is trying to do everything to make the team, and that he’d be better served with a less is more approach. That said, the tools are obviously there, and it seems more a matter of when than if with him.
Talbot again looked solid in this period but his puck handling skills are a bit, Scrivensy. One moment in particular could have burnt the Oilers if not for a hero play by RNH in front of the net. He showed great positioning and a great stick to prevent a tap-in for some loser Jet. I’ll never name them, because I don’t care about them.
At the end of the second, the Jets were outshooting the Oilers 24-22, but the Oilers had the Corsi edge at 39-38.
The Yakupov line spent the bulk of their first shift in the period keeping the Jets from breaking out. It was a nice bit of forechecking. Shortly after, Hendricks created a turnover and drew a penalty in transition. The Oilers made the Jets pay on the ensuing power play, with Eberle tucking home his own rebound off of a nice RNH entry pass.
The Oilers kept coming for a few minutes, with Pouliot seeing time on Letestu’s wing and doing some good work in the Jets’ zone. Not long after though, Winnipeg found a way back into the game. A Jet scored after some sustained offensive zone pressure. One-timer from pretty deep. The Jets suck. These Jets especially. For the Oilers to give them the impression that they belonged in any way was frustrating to watch. Obviously, six minutes later the Oilers went full Oilers and gave up the tying goal. But not before weathering the storm for about five of those minutes first, of course.
From here though, the Oilers remembered that the Jets are garbage and that people paid to watch them dispose of said garbage. The Oilers started to carry the play once more, and Matt Hendricks had an excellent solo rush that saw him rewarded with a penalty shot. Hendricks proceeded to do the Hendricks and calmly slotted in after he sent the goalie for a hotdog. I think he flubbed it after the deke, but I don’t care to re-watch it so I’ll just give him some credit.
From here, the game was pretty anticlimactic. There were some half chances here and there, but nothing of note. The Oilers finished regulation outshooting the Jets 34-32 (58-54 Corsi). Encouraging numbers, given the Oilers were the team in front for most of the game, but we can't forget that this is a Jets lineup featuring one forward with NHL experience. He happened to score the tying goal and was named second star, but he's a Jet and he sucks, so who cares?
And now for overtime. What? Overtime? Didn’t they win? Well yeah, but... Overtime!
Curiously, the Oilers went with Yakupov, Draisaitl, and Klefbom to start the extra frame. The Jets countered with who cares? Who actually cares? Most of the early possession went Winnipeg’s way, but it came to nothing. Winnipeg were cycling the puck around the entirety of the Oilers’ zone until they eventually turned it over and got caught on a change. Yakupov and Draisaitl were in on a 2-on-0, but fumbled away the opportunity. My read was that Draisaitl made the right play by passing back to, but didn’t execute the pass very well. Some people want to #blameyak. Some people, man.
Eberle and RNH got a run-out in the extra period as well, and looked dangerous. Both players exploit space very well and in this new OT format there is so much room. Too much room. It’s borderline boring. Honestly, there were some exciting 2-on-X half-breaks both ways but it’s so hard for these guys to make a change that they’re gassed for half of their shift. I was underwhelmed by the OT format for sure. I’m thinking it will be better when actual points are on the line, but it wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped.
Throughout the game, I saw some positive things from every line. RNH is an excellent hockey player and we’re lucky to have him. Eberle is pretty good too. Pouliot adds some physicality to that line and has the hands and feet to play the game at their speed. Yakupov’s line continues to impress. I’ve liked all three players through both games. Letestu’s line reminds me of Gordon’s, though I do get the sense that this year’s version of that line has more goals in it. Like, three more goals. Yakimov and Slepyshev didn’t stand out as much as Christoffer did, but that’s not necessarily bad. Both Russians created an excellent opportunity in the third where Yakimov drove the net hard and Slepyshev was there for the rebound. In truth, they were unlucky not to score there. Christoffer is a high energy guy and does some nice things, especially offensively, but he took some bad penalties from being over eager and created some unnecessary adversity in the third period.
On the defensive side, Schultz was surprisingly competent. He showed restraint in his positioning, and wasn’t prone to the classic ‘Jultz’ walkabouts that we’re used to. He still doesn’t engage in the defensive zone enough for my taste, but he did win some puck battles and generally put in a shift. He was the game’s first star. Outside of Schultz, Klefbom and Reinhart were both solid. Reinhart made a lot of high percentage plays and very few mistakes. He finished the game with 75% (!!!) EVCF on a 29% OZS. Wow. I saw Gryba pretty good tonight as well, as a matter of fact. I saw Nurse good and bad, but I think being paired with Oesterle was problematic. Oesterle for me is like Schultz-lite with the puck, and Jultz-like without it. I didn’t see him good at all.
All in all though, the Oilers are 2-0 in the preseason and will try to keep it rolling when they play these same, useless Jets in a couple of days. I’ll be looking forward to seeing McDavid and Hall return to the lineup, and will be curious to see who McLellan plays on the back end. Until next time, folks.