The Winnipeg Jets took on the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night at the MTS Centre. The Oilers are another Western Conference Canadian team looking to rebuild through the draft in the and, while the pieces haven't seemed to gel quite yet, are still full of talented hockey players. Both teams finished in the lottery last season and appear to have their sights aimed on a much more successful season this year. Like the Jets, the Oilers will likely need several of their young players to make significant strides in order to significantly improve on where they placed last year, and the preseason is a good opportunity for such players to show off the work they've put in over the summer.
The game got off to a much more spirited start than Monday's matchup against the Wild. Part of this is likely due to the style of play that the Oilers have relative to the Wild, the other part can be attributed to the personnel that the Jets deployed. The top line of Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler was dynamic throughout the period. They seem to have retained some of the chemistry that we saw in flashes last season. The speed and play-making ability that they possess made them a danger every time they were on the ice. While they did not capitalize on their opportunities, the line was a breath of fresh air in comparison to grind it out style of Monday's top line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien.
Kane had a breakaway opportunity in the first but was stopped by Oilers netminder Laurent Brossoit. He did draw a penalty shot on the play that resulted in the puck becoming acquainted with the crossbar.
The Jets finally got on the board when free agent acquisition T.J. Galiardi demonstrated some sweet mitts in bringing in the pass and finishing high glove side.
The Oilers may have fared better in the period if Ryan Smyth was on the ice instead of in the crowd:
Is Ryan Smyth in the crowd in Winnipeg and is he wearing a Ryan Smyth jersey? pic.twitter.com/mL322GyksH— Matt Bergen (@swervin_mervin) September 25, 2014
I know that's not Smyth, but COME ON!
The Jets did not wait long to extend their lead. Matt Halischuk scored to put the Jets up 2-0 off assists from Kane and Scheifele. The Jets managed to keep the pressure on Edmonton for the first half of the second period. Through the first thirty minutes of the game Michael Hutchinson had only faced ten shots and was rarely tested.
That changed when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins came flying in with a beautiful solo effort and managed to get the wrist shot past Hutchinson. The goal seemed to breathe life into the Oilers as they made a noticeable push to tie the game up immediately after the goal with the Jets seemingly on their heels. The Jets were able to hang on for a while, until Jacob Trouba was caught pinching and Bogdan Yakimov capitalized on a two on one breakaway. Then, just as I was hoping the Jets would be able to head into the locker room and regroup Justin Schultz made it a 3-2 lead for Edmonton with only nine seconds left in the period. I was... upset:
The Jets appeared to develop an allergy to shots midway through the second period and their third period offense featured fewer shots than an Amish high school graduation. It took until nearly the eight minute mark before Adam Lowry ended the shot drought on a delayed penalty drawn by Blake Wheeler. Unfortunately, the Jets were unable to capitalize on the subsequent power play. They did, however, manage to maintain position in the attacking zone and get a couple decent scoring chances.
The best chance that the Jets had in the third period was via a shot from Matt Halischuk that rang off the left post. The puck deflected off the post and into the pads of backup netminder Tyler Rimmer. While the Jets were able to get some sustained pressure with their goalie pulled, it didn't yield any legitimate scoring chances other than a mad scramble in front of the net with 2.4 seconds remaining.
While the Jets had a great start, they were just unable to recover from their second period collapse. There certainly is plenty for Paul Maurice to go over with his team and hopefully convert into a learning opportunity.
- Adam Lowry continued to look comfortable on the ice for the Jets. Considering his lack of girth for his size, he uses his length well to gain leverage and move people off the puck along the boards. He also isn't afraid to mix it up and hit people. While an offseason full of calf starter feed would be beneficial, he does not look out of place on the ice so far in preseason. He could be worth a look during the season to see how he fares against a full NHL roster.
- Julien Melichiori and Adam Pardy stood out for the wrong reasons tonight. Melichiori looked weak on the puck on numerous occasions throughout the night. Pardy gave up a breakaway chance to Benoit Pouliot off of a turnover. Given the combination of veteran defensemen the Jets possess along with prospects that have been making a case for a spot on the Jets, it's unlikely that Melichiori or Pardy make the opening night roster.
- Nic Petan looked impressive on both ends of the ice tonight. His offensive skill and potential is evident every time he steps on the ice. But his decision making and defense was exceptional for the most part. He is far further along in his journey to become an NHL player than I would have anticipated.
- Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers weren't as impressive as they were in Monday's game. I'm not sure if it was fatigue setting in. But it they didn't jump out to me or really make a positive impact of the game. There are growing pains that can be expected of prospects and shouldn't be a cause for concern, but they will likely need to show more than they have to this point in order to stick in the NHL this year.
- This is the second game of the preseason after a long summer and an intensive training camp. It's fun to make observations on players, but it is far too early to come to any conclusions. There are many positives and negatives that you can pick out of any game, but the sample size is still far too small and things change once both teams are featuring their full roster.