The Oilers opened up the preseason with two games vs. the Flames; a 3-2 win in Calgary and a 6-5 shootout loss in Edmonton.
I don’t put much stock into preseason scores, and I believe that the first few games of the preseason give us a better view of who can’t play more than who can.
Here is what I noticed while watching the game live in Edmonton…
- Hall scored 24 seconds into the game (the replay showed it wasn’t in), but moving to centre means Hall will more often be the trailer into the offensive zone than the puck carrier, and that likely means he’ll get more shots off the rush. He’s got a great shot, and that could be one of the benefits of him playing centre.
- Omark, Yakupov and J.Schultz looked good on the PP. Schultz missed a wide open net, but they moved the puck around nicely. Of course they did it against a less-than-NHL-lineup, but their skill and offensive instincts were noticeable.
- Omark is a decent skater, but he glides too often when he enters the zone. He’ll need to keep moving his feet to be a threat on the rush.
- Flames scored on their first shot, as Ben Street came off the right hash marks and beat a screened Dubnyk. It was very noticeable how much shorter Dubnyk’s pads are. It will take all goalies some time to get used to the shorter pads, and you did notice a bigger hole in his "five hole." He didn’t get beat there, but the gap was obvious.
- Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky and Andrew Ference wore an "A". Doubt it means much, because I don’t see 83 and 94 having letters this year, but I thought those wondering who will get the "C" might be interested.
- Smyth scored on the PP, just outside the crease…Surprise, surprise. Grebeshkov made a great pass to Smyth, who slid a backhand home. I wonder if Smyth will get a bit of PP time this year to replace Horcoff who took draws and was usually slotted in front of the goalie on the man advantage last year.
- Darnell Nurse will be a good player in a few years. He’s got good hockey sense and he looked very good playing with Ference.
- It is weird seeing a forward wearing #6 like Jesse Joensuu. Every time I saw him, I thought of Jeff Beukeboom. Joensuu had good skill for a big man, and he’s good at protecting the puck.
- The first period was scrambly, as expected for the first preseason game, so it was hard to gauge the "Swarm" defence. I did notice they had two, and sometimes three, guys go to the puck carrier, but that left the wide D-man wide open, and the Flames got a few open looks from there. They didn’t turn them into a quality chance, but I’m sure as the preseason continues the players will get more comfortable at when to swarm and when to lay back.
- The 4th line scored late in the first as Brown, Martindale and Platzer and mucked it up in front of the net, before Platzer banged home a rebound. When they announced Brown assisted on the goal, and his picture came up on the scoreboard, with his new moustache, the crowd roared. Many fans appreciate Brown for his abrasive style, but I bet they respect his stache as much or even more.
- I know it was only a few inches, but the more room behind the net will allowed guys to get to the front of the net much quicker. I believe it will lead to even more goals in the paint.
- Oilers outshot the Flames 13-8…and they controlled most of the play. If you are keeping track Hall went 1 for 5 in the faceoff dot.
- Mike Brown continues to have a strong game down low. He’s created turnovers by getting on the Flames D quickly.
- Arcobello bangs home a rebound after Joensuu and Yakupov had the initial shots. Karri Ramo’s rebound control was brutal tonight. Flames have to hope it was just a preseason game, and he’ll live up to his billing of "best goalie not in the NHL." Of course, his GM said that, so I’m not sure how valid it was.
- Dubnyk faced 13 shots in 28:15, and stopped the final 12 he faced. Looked okay, but wasn’t tested very often.
- Olivier Roy gets beat on first shot he faces, and Wideman beats him clean to the blocker.
- After watching many guys do it in the first period, Joensuu uses his reach and beats Reto Berra with a quick wrap around. I’m a big fan of the shallower nets.
- After great pass in the first period, Grebeshkov allows Street to beat him wide easily and go to the net. That will be the risk with Grebeshkov. Good at moving the puck, but defensively he can struggle. He makes great plays with the puck, and if he does more of those than bad defensive plays he likely plays in the 3rd pairing. I’d like to see Anton Belov play live to see if he can push Grebeshkov.
- J.Schultz is lower to the ice when he skates this year, and he’s looked stronger. I know it was preseason against weak Flames team, but Schultz looked very good.
- Call me old school, but I miss the days when a Flames and Oilers preseason game involved some emotion, hits and fights. This game has had ZERO animosity.
- Hall went 3-for-3 in faceoff dot and was 50% after two periods.
- Yakupov’s first steps are still lightning fast, but doesn’t look like his top-end speed is much faster than last year. He seems calmer on the ice though, which is to be expected. Made many nice, smart, short passes in the game.
- I’m going to follow Brandan Davidson’s progress closely in the AHL this year. He’s big, strong, and makes smart plays.
- Flames tie it with three goals in four minutes. Roy hasn’t looked great, although Oilers really struggled getting a grasp of Eakins new defensive system. They were outshot 22-14 after goalie changes midway through 2nd period.
- The entire team seemed lost in their own end in the third period, and the Grebeshkov/Musil pairing really struggled.
- Hall got some PK time. Won a key draw. I wonder if he’ll see PK time in regular season. I wouldn’t have him as one of my top-four, only because I’d rather him play EV and PP, but the odd shift late in a PK might be a good idea.
- Keegan Kanzig, Flames draft pick, is a huge. He needs to refine parts of his game, but I feel for the kids who will have to play against him in the WHL. He’ll scare some of them.
- Grebeshkov made a ridiculously good cross ice pass to Yakupov in the final minute. Berra made a great save on the one-timer. Grebeshkov’s passing in the offensive zone tonight was great, however, his play in the defensive zone was the opposite. It was an typical eventful game for Grebeshkov. Lots of highlite reel plays, both good and bad.
- J.Schultz blocking shots in the D zone and making a great pass in offensive zone. He’s been the best Oiler tonight.
- Hall gets a hat-trick; in the form of minor penalties. Playing centre means Hall will be around the puck carrier more, and tonight was the first time he’d ever taken three minor penalties in an NHL game. He’ll fix that as he gets used to playing centre.
- Oilers lose in the shootout. Omark makes a great deke, but couldn’t beat a sprawling Berra, while Hall’s shot/deke would have been reviewed (in regular season) to see if it crossed the line. Sven Baertschi and Roman Horak both scored for the Flames.
- As the preseason continues, I suspect you will see the Oilers play with more intensity. The Oilers weren’t hard to play against tonight, and Eakins will want that changed.
- Eakins watched the game from the pressbox, to get a better overview of the game, while Keith Acton ran the bench. I’m sure he liked his team’s play in the offensive zone, and cringed at their defensive zone play, which was to be expected after only one day of practice, and one scrimmage.
- Omark is going to have to beat out Joensuu or Jones to make the team, and after last night he’ll be ranked lower on the depth chart. It is early, but for guys who have to out play others to make the team, the harsh reality is they can’t have any average or weak games. I don’t see Omark making the 23-man roster.
- I got a brief overview of the Oilers/Flames game in Calgary from a scout. Ryan Jones, David Perron, Will Acton, Martin Marincin and Jeff Petry got good reviews.
- Joensuu played well, and showed at times he can make plays with the puck which is exactly what Craig MacTavish is looking for from his bottom six forwards. I wonder if Joensuu will get a look alongside Hall, Gagner, Eberle, Hemsky or Yakupov in the coming games. I don’t see him as a top-six forward, and barely a regular 3rd liner, but his size might get him a look.