It’s the day after game three of the preseason so now seems
like as good a time as any to start reading too much into what we saw on the
ice. Here are a few of the things I saw out there from two key members of the Oiler blueline. Join me in the comment
section to tell me how little anything we observe means in September.
Before we commence reading way too much into what we saw out
there let’s be very clear: the Jets iced an AHL team. The Oilers had three NHL
lines, what could be four of their top six defensemen, and their starting goalie. Meanwhile,
the Jets played the bare minimum number of NHL vets and included nobody from
the top 15 of their scoring last season. The home team was supposed to win this
one and they did.
Ok, that’s out of the system.
When your D partner gets hit. pic.twitter.com/zYsssM4Ur1
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 24, 2015
Last night Justin Schultz sent the team and his new coach a
message: “I’m here to play.” Yes, it was against the Jets’ nobodies, we get
that. However, it wasn’t that Schultz scored his second goal in as many
games. The Oiler defender stood out for being the physical aggressor on a
couple sequences including jumping into what I think is the first scrum he’s
ever been involved in. And he didn’t just grab a guy. He came in skating like
the wind to stand up for Klefbom who had taken a late hit.
I have levelled a significant amount of criticism towards
Justin Schultz for his lack of a physical playing style. It’s only fair that I recognize
when he has a game in which he was the opposite. It’s not just about hits
though. It’s about not being passive in his own zone. Another example from last
night was when he made a diving play to clear the puck from in front of the net. In fact, he played more than six minutes shorthanded and much of his best work came during that time. It’s a bunch of little things that were out of character in a great way.
Does it mean anything? Way too early to tell, and I’d like to
see it against non-AHL competition, but allow yourself to imagine what an
effective Justin Schultz could mean for the Oilers this year.
At this point it’s going to be incredibly difficult for
anyone to convince me the Oilers are going to be better with Nikitin in the
lineup over either Nurse or Reinhart. Last night I saw Reinhart real good. He
looked calm, cool, and collected all night. He made lots of little plays
out there, and was always in a good position to receive a pass from his D partner
Gryba, after which Reinhart had the puck moving back up
the ice the other direction.
He played some very smart hockey. And, yes, it was against
mostly AHL competition but it’s not as if this is an established NHL player. As
someone who hears from fans of all the other clubs on a regular basis, I know
that many Islander fans were happy to see Reinhart go because there was a perception
that he was passed by others in their organization. Last night I watched a big,
mobile, smart, calm 21 year old defender go about his work last night like a
pro. What I saw doesn’t match up with the story I was given.
He was also extremely well supported by the numbers in
yesterday’s affair. He finished the night with the highest Corsi For percentage
of anyone in the game with an incredible 75%, with just 33% offensive zone
starts. At even strength there were 21 shot attempts for the Oilers with
Griffin on the ice and just seven against. To add to the story of his
effectiveness, three of those attempts against the Oilers he blocked himself.
Yeah, I saw him good. I look forward to seeing him against
So it was one game against a bunch of nobodies from the
Thrashers organization. Still, we’re looking for glimpses of what we can see in
the regular season. The win doesn’t matter at all, though a loss would have
been embarrassing. The score was closer than it should have been but the
possession numbers suggest the Oilers were in complete control. Reinhart and
Schultz stood out for all the right reasons against the Jets. It really wasn’t the
results so much as it was the way they went about their games. Schultz looked
more assertive. Reinhart looked like a man ready to be challenged at the next
level. There’s not much more you could have asked them to do in a preseason