A Couple Of Promising Performances

Griffin

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.

SCHULTZ

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.

REINHART

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
better lineups.

SO?

So

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
game.

  • A-Mc

    Nurse is in Group A for todays practice. Reinhart is not.

    Because McLellan mentioned not practicing with 9 D, i think these 2 guys will swap back and forth frequently. I’ll be keeping my eyes glued to both these young men to see how they handle each stage of increased difficulty.

  • Sure it was only pre-season and it was against a bunch of AHL players but didn’t NN and Ference look suspect against a similar roster on Monday? I have a hard time seeing the two vets as a better option for the top 6 than Reinhart or Nurse as things stand right now.

  • Chongler

    Last night there were way too many whistles blown (in my mind)…there was no way to generate momentum, it was just stop and go…I sometimes wonder how that could affect the advanced stats…

    For example, let’s say Reinhart had 33% zone starts. He’ll take a whole bunch in his own zone, let’s say there’s a choppy play, and the puck bounces out, there’s a scrum/offside/whatever, and then the play is dead, and he comes off. Call it a short shift, and his stats get a boost – basically he’s there for a faceoff and then the whistle goes and he comes off.

  • LibrarianMike

    When the organization gives a player reason for hope they start to play with passion and for each other. When the organization gives the players a coach who has experience and will show the way players play harder. When the organization gives the players other good players top play with they start to believe. Every single player that plays for this team needs to improve and have better years including Schultz and I hope he has a great year.

  • Joy S. Lee

    I think I watched that Schultz clip about 42 times. I’m still not sure I believe it, but if I can believe what I’m seeing, hell yeah!!

    As for whoever was concerned about Yakimov being passive in that same clip, he was heading to cut off the original scrum but the pack suddenly went left and Schultz impeded Yakimov’s momentum a bit on his way through to…um…push someone around! So hard to deduce anything about Yakimov’s willingness to mix it up from that instance. However, did you happen to see what Justin Schultz did? Lol. Whoa, slow down, I think this ride is making me dizzy…

  • Joy S. Lee

    Wow, i don’t get it. I watched the TSN feed last night. I thought Reinhart was ok, as was Gryba, but together I thought they struggled.

    I counted three or four times that they got hemmed in by the Winnepeg forcheck and both tried to unload the puck backwards to the other around the net until a winger came back and bailed them out.

    Watching the game a few of us commented on the lack of forward direction when they had the puck on their sticks — (both Gryba and Rienhart).

    They were effective at breaking up the cycle, but to be fair there wasn’t much of one.

    I actually came away from the game disappointed in the Gryba Reinhart pairing, hoping that they would split those two going forward.

    Gryba in particular wasn’t overly effective, taking a rather dumb penalty in front of his own net. Would like to see either play with a better / more skilled D-man.