Ah, it's good to be back.
The Winnipeg Jets start their season with a bang, beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 in Edmonton. While a win is great for the team, the story coming out of Edmonton will likely revolve around the tremendous play of the Jets' newcomers, particularly rookies Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, as well as Michael Frolik, acquired at this summer's NHL Entry Draft. Scheifele, Trouba, and Frolik scored 4 goals en route to victory.
Meanwhile, the game wasn't always pretty, but it was constantly exciting. Both teams had energy, had their legs under them, and put on a great performance as the Jets came back from two goals down to pick up their first win of the season. There's a long way to go from here tough, particularly in the defensive zone.
Next up: The Los Angeles Kings visit the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Friday, October 4.
Double the Usual Number of Twenty Thoughts:
1. Michael Frolik had a tremendous game. He had a terrific shift about two minutes into the second period, creating multiple scoring chances off the forecheck, scored a goal late in the second, and added a second goal to put the Jets ahead 5-4 with five minutes to go in regulation. He might be even more underrated than we thought. It's great to see that kind of effectiveness in a third line player. Frolik would be player of the game if not for...
2. Oh yeah, that Jacob Trouba kid was had a pretty good game. He fought off Ryan Smyth quite nicely on one play, even drawing a penalty (dumb of Smyth, but a savvy play by Trouba nonetheless). Then Trouba recorded his first NHL point on Michael Frolik's goal late in the third period, putting a one-timer pass right in Bogosian's wheelhouse. It wasn't an extraordinarily difficult pass, but he's got the touch to be a decent offensive defenseman. Then just over halfway through the third, Trouba displayed great hockey sense by neatly picking off a Taylor Hall pass in the neutral zone, then turned the puck up ice and fired a slapshot past Dubnyk for his first career NHL goal and a tie game at 4-4. Trouba finished the game with a game-high 25 minutes of ice time, including a team high 4:41 shorthanded.
3. James Wright and Olli Jokinen didn't lend much support on Frolik's first goal but tried to redeem themselves a short while later with a solid two-on-one rush. Jokinen made a great pass, but unfortunately Wright didn't quite have the touch. The rush was fantastic, though; I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that this one play's lack of execution wasn't a sign of things to come.
4. Later on, things seemingly ook a turn for the better as Eric Tangradi replaced James Wright for a bit on the third line, and showed a flash of great skill. Tangradi made a gorgeous, no-look backpass to Michael Frolik to set up his second goal of the night.
5. Not the game that Jets' fans were hoping for out of Ondrej Pavelec, but I thought he played alright. He looked shaky at times, and one goal was a bit of a stinker, but the Jets put him in some tough spots as well tonight. Boyd Gordon scored a tricky deflection goal, and the whole team hung Pavelec out to dry on Ales Hemsky ‘s goal.
6. Speaking of which, Ales Hemsky has always had a soft spot in my heart and tonight he showed why. He is one of the most talented players in the entire NHL. Ales Hemsky makes hockey beautiful.
7. Jesse Joensuu, meanwhile, had a heck of a game. I find it hard to believe that any player can maintain that energy level for an entire season, but he's winning me over. Still probably shouldn't be playing 15 minutes a night,
8. Mark Scheifele made an impact fast, generating multiple scoring chances - although his execution could have been better - and scoring the Winnipeg Jets' first goal of the season. Thought #1 on Scheifele: that's got to be huge for his confidence.
9. Thought #2 on Scheifele: In addition to Trouba, we should probably brace ourselves for the Mark Scheifele hype.
10. Thought #3 on Scheifele: "Uh oh...", as Scheifele got creamed from behind by Ladislav Smid midway through the second. Boy it looked ugly, and I swear he looked immobile for a split second. But golly, aren't kids resilient? To the resilience of kids!
11. On a more serious note, I wonder if Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety will take a look at that, and I hate to say it, but I also wonder if the chances of them taking a look are the same if it's Mark Scheifele or, say...Chris Thorburn getting hit from behind instead.
12. I've heard Nail Yakupov compared to Alexander Ovechkin, but I'm not so sure. They don't seem to have the same mentality; there were a couple of times where Yakupov dialed it back in situations where Ovechkin would have fired away.
13. The Oilers' found scoring in unusual places tonight: Luke Gazdic scored his first career NHL goal, while Jesse Joensuu and Boyd Gordon also contributed. They certainly looked to miss centres Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner though. That kind of puck control and offensive skill is nearly impossible to replace and was noticeably lacking.
14. Bryan Little had a very solid game, including a nice goal and couple of good rushes, including an end-to-end solo effort just under halfway through the third.
15. Dustin Byfuglien recorded three assists, but also got dragged into taking a couple of bad penalties. As one of this team's most important players, Byfuglien needs to realize that Byfuglien's more valuable playing than sitting in the penalty box, and coincidental minors with the likes of Jessee Jonsuu aren't a worthwhile trade.
16. The Jets' penalty kill gave up two goals on five opportunities; not exactly quick out of the gate there.
17. With a minute left, Ondrej Pavelec robbed Mark Arcobello of a game-tying goal. That's noteworthy. Credit where credit is due: with a minute left and the game on the line, Ondrej Pavelec came up huge.
18. On interesting thing to watch is which players the coaches put on the ice at the end of game:
- With about a minute left and short-handed, the Jets sent out Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, James Wright, and Evander Kane.
- After a whistle with about 50 seconds left, the Jets' coaches could have put anyone they wanted on the ice. Claude Noel and Charlie Huddy threw out Mark Stuart, Jacob Trouba, Bryan Little, and Andrew Ladd. I don't think that I agree with Stuart's assignment, and Trouba didn't have an excellent shift, but they did enough to make it through and simply putting him on the ice shows an immense amount of trust in Jacob Trouba.
- With a defensive zone face-off looming after and timeout with about 25 seconds left, they played: Olli Jokinen, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd, Jacob Trouba, and Mark Stuart.
19. I approve of the use of two centres with 25 seconds left. Although I'm not sure why they weren't used with 50 seconds left, I'm glad they were used eventually.
20. The Jets' team defense needs to improve. Despite playing without two of their best offensive players, the Oilers managed to direct 38 shots Ondrej Pavelec's way. That's way too many.
Player of the Game:
Lots of options to choose from here. Michael Frolik was extremely effective, and a case could be made for Mark Scheifele, but they're both older, wiser, and more experienced than Jacob Trouba, who gets the "Player of the Game" nod for pulling it off in his NHL debut.