Starting the (pre)Season Right
After a summer spent drowning the sorrows of the past spring playoffs, the Oilers returned this evening for their first action of the 2017 preseason, and boy did they do so in fine fashion! On the docket for the night was a pair of games against the Flames in the annual Highway 2, split-squad opener. For Edmonton, it was a night of success… for the Flames it was, uh, not so much.
Now let me preface the following by stating the obvious that, yes, it is only the preseason and success in these early games isn’t a guarantee of success later… However… Sweeping the Flames in both games is still a pretty damn sweet feeling. Especially considering that the orange and blue weren’t able to just register a split of the series, but rather, take the entire evening.
Indeed, the Oilers opened their schedule with an expected 5-2 victory at Rogers and a much less expected 5-4 win in the Saddledome. With 120 minutes of hockey played, there is a decent amount to takeaway, and admittedly, this wrap up is going to be focused on the game that took place in the much finer of the two cities. Even though I have two eyes, I haven’t quite mastered Charlie’s double sensory capacity.
Despite this lack of dual perception, following the look at the squad here in Edmonton, I’ll put up a few notes from the game in Calgary, gathered from around the Twitter-verse.
Oilers (Version 1.0) Evaluation
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Ryan Strome
- For a debut, 7 points spread across the trio isn’t too shabby, albeit against a weak Calgary lineup.
- Maroon doing what he does best with McDavid, which is get to the net. Good things always happen at the net when #97 is out there. Ended the night with a goal and 2 helpers. Big start for the Big Rig.
- Ryan Strome, McDavid’s shiny new winger, looked like he has learned early. He got himself to the net a couple times, and for his efforts grabbed a goal and an assist. The arrow currently points up.
- 2 points. Moments of brilliance. Not even close to full tilt. Just what the heck lies in store?
Joey Laleggia – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jesse Puljujarvi
- Hot start for the line, but faded as the game wore on.
- Laleggia is quite the determined forechecker, and his ability to do so lead directly to the Nugent-Hopkins goal. That determination, mixed with his speed, are good signs for the newly formed winger. He was the better of the wingers on this line.
- Nugent-Hopkins was… well… typical Nugent-Hopkins. No real signs of taking more offensive risk in this one, as has been much talked about, but maybe as the preseason rolls on we see more.
- Puljujarvi showed some strong 2-way capabilities with an excellent back-checking effort on a couple plays, but not much more than that. There is more here, but how long before we see young Jesse tap into his full potential? Developing better lateral movement in the offensive zone to open up shooting lanes will be a great benefit to the Fin.
Iiro Pakarinen—Mark Letestu—Zack Kassian
- Pakarinen picked up an assist early, but there was nothing much to report on for the rest of the game. Ended the night with no shots on net in 13 minutes of ice time. He will need to show more in the upcoming games in order to secure himself a spot in the bottom 6.
- Kassian with a similar night to Pakarinen. Quiet, with only a pair of shots and a penalty to dot the stat line. HIs role on the team is much more secure than the former.
- Letestu has a shot that could stun an elk, and it was in full force on his second tally of the night. With an expected 7 million power play opportunities on the way this season (based off of the referees tonight), he may just set another career year.
Ryan Hamilton—Grayson Downing—Patrick Russell
- Not much to report on here, which for these guys who were looking to make an impact, isn’t the best news.
- Downing has some speed, and showcased it with a near-goal in the 2nd, on a shorthanded breakaway.
Darnell Nurse—Eric Gryba
- Much too much chaos in Nurse’s game tonight for my liking. Hopefully it can be chalked up to the jitters of the first game of the season, and not something to expect going forward. Needed calmer feet tonight.
- We’ll talk about it below, but footspeed was an issue, and as a result, some chaos in his game slipped in. He will need to adjust his game going forward.
Caleb Jones – Ethan Bear
- Par for the course for what you would expect out of the young pair.
- For both players, their best moments were when they had the puck on their stick. Movement looked good, and decision making was sound.
- The wobble crept in at the other end of the ice, mainly with controlling zone entries by the Flames. Even with a weakened Calgary forward crew, the duo found themselves in trouble more than a few times. Definite areas to work on this year in the AHL.
- Jones lead the team in ice time with 21 minutes, and Bear followed him with close to 19 minutes. Both men can leave the rink with their heads held high.
William Lagesson—Mark Fayne
- With the game turning into a special teams war, neither man had a significant amount of ice time.
- I was excited for Lagesson, but due to the limited minutes, it was hard to get a gauge on his game. I am sure it was just as difficult for him to find his groove. Wish I could see more.
- Fayne is in the same boat as Gryba going forward in terms of footspeed causing issues, and I struggle to imagine the injuries necessary to see him get more than a game or two in the NHL this year.
Cam Talbot (Edward Pasquale)
- Talbot stopped 11 of 11 and was in fine form. Take a look below for the beautiful evidence of such. The starting goaltending for the Flames on the other hand…
- Pasquale was good in his debut night for the club, with a pair of goals against him coming late. This will be his only night in the preseason and he did just fine. Signed on July 1, he adds depth to the organization in the crease.
Down the Highway
- The Drake got himself a pair of goals on the night, which was a welcome sight after reports of his “slower” start to camp.
- The script dictates that Yamamoto will head back to junior, but a goal and assist in his debut is a nice way to turn some heads.
- All reports indicate that Draisaitl was a force this evening, playing against Calgary’s opening night top 4. Fantastic.
- Khaira also drew praise from different areas of the Twitter-verse. The bottom 6 of the Oilers is anything but set in stone.
Bench Chatter: Slick Jerseys, Quick Whistles
- Despite the Oilers wearing white for both the home and away game (just a little confusing), I have to say that these new jerseys look very sharp in action. It is sort of a blend of the 90’s Oilers with the darker, navy blue, and the signature (although slightly darker) orange of the 80’s/recent years. I am really looking forward to Friday, when hopefully, the new oranges will be in the lineup.
- You would need a pocket calculator and maybe a math degree to calculate the number of penalty minutes in the NHL preseason so far. It’s *hopefully* a sign of things to come, with the league looking to cut down on needless/dangerous stick infractions; the kind that have plagued the league for more than a few years now. If this continues into the regular season, the Oilers, a team that has a lot of speed to draw calls, and a dangerous power play to capitalize, should benefit greatly.
- In saying that, it will be interesting to watch how a player like Eric Gryba adjusts, should this be the situation. Now, perhaps more than ever, it will be difficult to succeed in the NHL without fast enough feet. Compensating with the stick will be costly, and it showed tonight already, with the likes of Gryba and Fayne drawing minors. Will players of this ilk be able to adjust?
Up Next: Winnipeg Jets
The Oilers head to Winnipeg for their next preseason action on Wednesday night. The battle rages on. Expect a series of cuts tomorrow morning, as Tood Mcllellan trims up the contenders.