Hockey is back! Are we excited? I don’t think I’m as excited as I would hope to be around this time of year. With the number of unresolved questions surrounding the Winnipeg Jets, this season is feeling a bit up-in-the-air. I’ve set my expectations to “modest” for now. I did, however, know to set my expectations well below modest for tonight’s pre-season contest against the Oilers. This line-up was essentially half of the Manitoba Moose, with a blueline unit that had two NHLers in attendance.
The First Period
The opening 20 minutes of the NHL pre-season went about as well as you’d expect for a team with a top D pairing of Logan Stanley and Neal Pionk. Winnipeg spent limited time in the offensive zone and really struggled to make any breakouts from its own defensive zone. Tucker Poolman and Nate Beaulieu were about the only blueline skaters I could give passable grades to. David Gustafsson was also decent, showing a good deal of maturity to get in good defensive positions and facilitate better defensive zone work.
The rest of the team was a hot mess, and the bad DZ coverage eventually allowed Edmonton to break the ice on the scoreboard. James Neal took advantage of a missed assignment in crease chaos to tap a rebound in the net, putting the Oilers up 1-0. The shot clock showed Edmonton leading 12-10 in SOG, but I really don’t recall where the Jets got their shots from. The Winnipeg forwards were, to put it mildly, a bit invisible.
The Second Period
Winnipeg looked a bit more active in the second frame, but not by a significant amount. The early few minutes saw the Jets looking to create a bit more offensive zone pressure, with Mason Appleton and Bryan Little trying to nab a greasy goal. It didn’t lead to a marker, but the Jets eventually did draw a penalty. The power play for Winnipeg wasn’t amazing, and the Oilers began to take over the period upon its conclusion. Edmonton was all over the Jets backline, and Winnipeg netminder Eric Comrie was quite busy.
Not too many guys stood out this period, but Gustafsson continued to impress with the opposing passing lane shutdowns and nifty little finesse plays he made. He looks defensively complete, and if he continues this trend against better competition, he might not be waiting very long for a big club spot. Unfortunately for the Jets, Big Brain Dave was not able to save the team from conceding a few seconds before the end of the period and Winnipeg entered the final 20 minutes with a 2-goal deficit.
The Third Period
Hockey definitely happened, but it was mostly in favor of the Oilers. It took Winnipeg about 10 minutes to record a shot, and the subsequent scoring opportunities generated were mostly ineffective. The Jets were able to draw a penalty and get their second power play of the night, but it was once again toothless. The Oilers disrupted most of Winnipeg’s zone possession and kept goaltender Dylan Wells away from harm.
All in all, this game went about as well as you’d expect. The Jets turned out a line-up of AHLers and 4th line grinders, with limited NHL talent on-hand. Winnipeg also did a fair bit of bunkering in its own end, though the exact defensive positioning and coverages were, uh, “interesting”. It’s definitely pre-season, y’all. Hopefully, we get to see some actual offensive talent in the coming games because sitting through more of this would be more than a bit unfortunate.