Two nights after showing the Vancouver Canucks their offensive firepower, the Oilers elected to show they have the best goaltending in the tournament as well. Tyler Bunz faced 24 shots, including numerous excellent scoring chances, and stopped all of them enroute to a 2-0 shutout..
The Oilers weren`t able to generate many quality chances despite outshooting the Jets 27-24, but after a weak point shot from Ryan Lowery – that Jets` netminder John Corrazzi should have stopped – made it 2-0 it became the Bunz show.
In early August head scout of Hockey Canada, Kevin Prendergast, said on my show that he felt Bunz was the best goalie in the CHL from January through to the end of the season, and Bunz hasn`t lost any of that momentum over the summer. He had a solid world junior camp in August and was perfect against the Jets.
Here`s my thoughts on a few other players from tonight`s win.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Once again he showed he sees and thinks the game at level, or two, higher than every player here. He made numerous small, subtle plays that turned into scoring chances or kept the play alive. For the second straight night he was more physical than I would have predicted. I don’t expect him to play that way all the time, but it is an added bonus knowing that if need be he can separate a guy from the puck.
Ryan Martindale: I spoke with Todd Nelson earlier this morning and he told me that the organization wanted Martindale to be more assertive. He struggled finding the proper balance in the first game, but he was excellent in the first period. He didn’t get a point on the Schaber goal, but he made the key play that led to the goal. A few shifts later he rocked Schiefele with a clean hit at centre, that led to an Oilers PP. On the ensuing PP Lowery scored a weak goal, and without getting a point, Martindale was a key factor on both goals. Late in the first he made a solid defensive play, breaking up a good scoring chance and then blocking a shot. Unfortunately he suffered a hip flexor in the period and didn’t play the final 40 minutes.
Tyler Bunz: He wasn’t tested early in the first period, but he made two excellent saves in the final ten minutes. He looked very comfortable, played his angles well and had good rebound control. He made a series of solid saves in the 3rd to keep it 2-0. He is also a great puckhandler. I see Bunz having a better pro career with the Oilers than Olivier Roy, similar to what we saw with Dubnyk and Deslauriers. The guy who got drafted first will eventually get passed on the depth chart.
Ryan Lowery: He is a great skater and excellent in the offensive zone, but at times he was a major adventure in his own zone. Funny thing is he scored only seven goals and 46 points in 152 college games so historically he hasn’t been that great offensive, but he looked very comfortable with the puck. I don’t see him being more than a potential ECHLer.
Tyler Pitlick: He wasn’t as noticeable in his first game tonight as he was last year, and that’s probably because he was playing centre for the first time in a year and playing his first game since breaking his ankle on March 1st. That is a long time between games, and he looked a bit rusty. He was sluggish through the first 40 minutes, but he found his legs in the third, threw a few hits, and had some chances. I thought he was very good in the third and now that the rust is off look for him to make a bigger impact tomorrow.
Jeremie Blain: I liked his game. Not flashy, but steady. He got in the shooting and passing lanes often to break up plays. The biggest difference I noticed compared to last year was how much thicker he is now. He was able to put on some weight and not lose any speed. He will need a few years of seasoning in the AHL, but he might turn out to be a depth D-man down the road.
Antti Tyrvainen: He wasn’t nearly as involved like he was on Sunday. I did like his positioning on the PK though. He showed his agitating side in the 3rd when he thought Klingberg slew-fotted him as they were going to their respective benches. He stood at the bench and was giving it to anyone on the Jets bench who would listen. Being a consistent agitator and aggressive player every night is very difficult and I`m looking forward to seeing more of him at main camp.
Toni Rajala: He hasn’t improved since his first camp and I don’t see him having any part of the Oilers future. He isn’t that big, and he isn’t as skilled as the other small forwards the Oilers have. He just isn’t big enough or skilled to enough to take the next step.
Did anyone else make an impact in your eyes? Positively or negatively?
For the Oilers sake let’s hope this tournament is not foreshadowing for the season, because the Oilers now have five injured players. Travis Ewanyk was hurt before the tournament started and it sounds like he will be having shoulder surgery. Milan Kytnar is here, but he won’t play due to an ankle injury. Colten Tuebert has a broken nose, Cameron Abney has an upper body injury and Martindale is out with a hip flexor.
With so many injuries a few forwards are going to play all three game. Nugent-Hopkins will NOT play tomorrow, but Curtis Hamilton and Tobias Rieder will suit up for their third game. At least two or three more forwards will have to play three games as well, and we’ll find out who they are in the morning.
The Oilers are praying this injury bug doesn’t follow them to Edmonton.