I love everything about what happened here. Final Score: 4-0 Oilers
There’s nothing quite like the first pre-season of the year to get the juices flowing again, right? Yeah, we got to watch the Young Stars Tournament last weekend and that was fun to a point, but it’s just not the same as having a smattering of NHL regulars taking a twirl for the first time. Even though I knew we weren’t going to get anything close to our opening day roster, the fact that I was able to watch Holloway, McLeod, and Puljujarvi was enough to keep me excited. Not to mention, I was also getting my first glimpse of the boys back in those beautiful blue and orange jerseys, which anyone that reads this website knows that I’ve been pumped on for weeks. Not only did the boys look good from the second they stepped on the ice, the good vibes continued shortly after the opening faceoff when Markus Niemalainen opened the scoring with a sneaky wrister from the point. Even though I know the score doesn’t matter, how can you not like seeing the Oilers grab an early lead over the Jets?
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As the game wore on and I started to care more about specific players as opposed to what was happening on the scoreboard, the thing that stuck out most was that the players I needed/hoped to be noticeable were exactly that. I thought Stuart Skinner looked strong between the pipes, I thought Dylan Holloway was fantastic every time he was on the ice, nobody got hurt, and I thought the team as a whole played with more jump and focus than I probably expected. Overall, this afternoon’s game played out mostly as I expected as both sides traded offensive chances while also battling the rust that comes with not playing in months. That’s not to say that this first tune-up game was sloppy — both sides made plays on either side of the puck — but when you’ve only got a handful of everyday regulars dressed, you know there’s still another level of intensity to get to. Now that we’ve made it through this first game without anyone really looking out of place, I’ll be eager to see how quickly Woodcroft trims down the roster and what his approach will be like once the axe comes out.
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Things Worth Mentioning…

  • UNDEFEATED IN 2022-23, BABY!
  • Markus Niemalainen opened the scoring in the first minute of the hockey game with a quick snap that made its way through the goaltender, and I honestly forgot how gigantic he is out there. As much as his goal was probably stoppable by an actual NHL goalie — never forget, Dave — I loved seeing the kid get on the board early. I’ve got high hopes for Niemalainen this year and I can’t think of a better start for the young man. Oh, and in case you were wondering, our boy still hits like a truck.
  • The second Oilers goal (2-0) came midway through the third period after James Hamblin crashed towards the front of the net, found a loose puck, and banged the garbage in past the goaltender.
  • Ryan McLeod extended the lead (3-0) after charging towards the front of the net and chipping the loose puck up and over Rittich as he was trying to swing his stick at it.
  • Shortly after McLeod’s goal, Dylan Holloway added another dose of insurance (4-0) after Evan Bouchard’s bullet from the point took a friendly bounce off Holloway and into the net. After watching him fly around the ice all night, I am doubling down on my bet that Dylan Holloway will crack this roster for opening night. While I have no idea if he’ll stick beyond the opener or for how long, the guy has got all of the tools to make the leap to the NHL level and the fun part will be watching to see if he can put everything together.
  • Getting back to Big Save Dave, the guy hasn’t made many of ’em since the stick toss, amirite? At least, not when the games matter, that is. To his credit, Dave Rittich was pretty good for the Jets through 40 minutes and he actually made a bunch of saves that kept the game tighter than it probably should have been. The wheels really fell off in the third period, though, as the home side tagged him with a quick field goal to put this thing out of reach. Rittich finished the game with 22 saves and a .846 save%.
  • Despite seeing no NHL action since February 14th (ya, I know it’s only the pre-season), I thought Stuart Skinner looked extremely solid right from the jump, and it was the exact kind of start I was hoping for from him in his first taste of action. Even though he only played 20 minutes, how can you not appreciate that he stopped all 19 shots that were fired his way?
  • We got to see a little bit of Jesse Puljujarvi on the PK and I’m wondering if that’s a move we’ll see more of this year as the kid clearly — at least, based on the numbers — has a proclivity for defence. Makes sense to me!
  • The more I zeroed in on Xavier Bourgault, the more I noticed the sneaky little plays he was making with the puck whenever it landed on his stick. While I have no idea how long it’ll take him to make the leap to the bigs, my first impression of him is that it probably won’t be as long as some folks may think. I bet he gets games with the Oilers by next season.
  • Brett Kulak played 20:49 in TOI tonight but he was just as calm and steady as I remembered. Great success.
  • I also didn’t notice Jason Demers a whole lot outside of being confused that someone was already wearing Zack Kassian’s old number. That said, Demers did pick up an assist on Hamblin’s third period goal.
  • Oilers looked solid on the PK, killing off four-of-four shorthanded situations they faced.
  • The power play, however, was not as successful as the boys went 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
  • I thought Tyler Benson had a solid same, but I fear that there is too much competition along that left side for him to break through and land a job. We’ll see what happens, but I thought Benson was very good against the Jets.
  • THE JERSEYS ARE JUST AS SEXY AS I REMEMBERED!
  • Shout out to Verna Routh who was in attendance at the game shortly after her 101st birthday. That’s unreal!

SCORING SUMMARY

Next up, the Oilers will head to Seattle to take on the Kraken for their first meeting of the season. The game will be at 8:00 PM on Monday and will again be streamed on the Oilers website. 
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#NATIONVACATION TO LAS VEGAS

  • When: On Thursday, January 12th, we’re jumping on a flight at the Edmonton International Airport and making our way to Vegas. On Sunday evening, we’ll fly back from Vegas to Edmonton. So the dates that you need to block off for this trip are January 12th to 15th.
  • Where we’re staying: After landing in LV, we’ll jump on the free shuttle and make our way to the Park MGM before settling in for a good night’s sleep. 😉
  • What you get: Your roundtrip flight, hotel, shuttle, viewing party (Friday night), game entry — we got seats this time (Saturday night), and exclusive entry into our pre-trip ‘get to know everyone’ event.
  • How Much: The total cost for the trip, flight, hotel, and entry to the game is $1499 per person (based on double occupancy) 
  • Tickets: Ready to dive in? Click this link.