Todd McLellan was rewarded with a hard day’s night after an exhausting Friday practice. The boys of Thursday emerged as able men two days later and posted a strong game in enemy territory. As you might expect, the coach was pleased.
- Todd McLellan: “We didn’t start well, but there’s a lot of things we worked on in practice that showed up in the game today. We’ve got to be happy with that. We’re disappointed that we couldn’t close it out. We’ve got to learn to do that as a team.” Source
That Friday practice might have robbed their legs early, but the Oilers had long stretches where they were the better team. If Edmonton had been able to pull out the victory, I would have defended it as a worthy result. As it is, we’ll count this in the ‘learning to fly’ category as a young team gets its wings.
DEFENSIVE STORY LAST NIGHT
- This is sorted by Corsi for % and the fancy numbers come from hockeystats.ca. A solid performance for Griffin Reinhart by eye is matched by the math, as he and partner Eric Gryba played up the road apiece in terms of ZS and TOI. I wonder how many times this season we’ll see Gryba play more EV minutes than Mark Fayne? One thing about Reinhart we need to remember: He’s a rookie. If we make sweeping statements about what he cannot do, let’s remember he’s very likely to improve in all areas when the game slows down for him. I’d like his passing to be more concise and creative and I do think the young man needs to keep his feet moving more when in possession.
- Justin Schultz capped a splendid pre-season with another solid outing, skating miles and looking pretty damn good. I did see a few online blaming him for the OT goal (saw some blame for Hall too, btw) but for me 19 played it well. If I could pinpoint one thing he’s done this fall, it would be attention to detail. His passes are now crisp, he doesn’t shoot the moon as much and he hauls ass when the situations dictates. That’s a substantial amount of improvement and credit to him.
- Sekera is a little rusty and it showed again last night but we have to keep in mind all of his mates are new as is the coach, so a period of adjustment is likely. I like his skating ability and calm feet, suspect he’ll be up and running full throttle in no time. Expert passer, we saw more of that last night, too. I’d like to see him on the power play more (Oilers got only one I believe).
- Brandon Davidson was solid save for one or two wobbly bits, One of those blasted Sedins picked his pocket on the second goal and it cost him. Beyond that, good skater, looked to be in good places and I think he performed well. I said at the beginning of camp that Andrew Ference was No. 7 on the depth chart but it could be No. 8 if Davidson is in the rotation.
- Mark Fayne tried to stand up at the blue line a couple times and got burned, he’s a guy who needs to have very good positioning and last night his sights were a little off at times. I like his game but he may not fit this team’s makeup—especially considering Gryba’s game is so similar. Not sure how this turns out, to be honest. The Sekera—Fayne pairing is functional and rational, but I believe Sekera—Klefbom may be more effective. Even Sekera—Schultz had its moments when together in pre-season. This player could be traded for a more complete, mobile defender at some point. The Gryba add (imo) means the RH side has two pure defenders with questionable puck skills and average (at best) skating.
CENTER STORY LAST NIGHT
- Nuge was wonderful last night, despite the OT GA. Skated miles, set up the first goal and scored the second. To my eye he faced the Sedins (piss cutters gonna piss cut) and they’re the devil but he hurt them too. If you’re sawing off the Sedins, well, that’s a good night. We’re not yet peak-Nugent (he is 22 so we’re a couple of years away) but what a sublime talent. I dock him for the OT goal, the man he was marking scored the goal, but 3-on-3 is damned difficult and the Oilers had a chance (via Nuge) seconds before.
- Mark Letestu hasn’t found his spot yet, I think that might be the issue. He had a good game in a complementary role but he doesn’t appear in the story as often as the wingers on his line. Not really sure what it’s about, we’ll need to see him more to identify his traits.
- Connor McDavid is incredible. He and his linemates started in the dungeon and battled their opponents to even, that’s a fine evening by any stretch. I wish we had been able to see more PP time last night, suspect he’s going to be famous for those moments. Paul Almeida and I talked about his two-way game yesterday and watching McDavid without the puck is very satisfying. He’s 18, mind. On the road, McLellan curiously used this line for the toughest ZS’s. I’d love to know why, possibly a test for the St. Louis trip.
- Anton Lander was a hair late couple of times but (like Nuge) has been doing all the right things and not even Datsyuk is perfect. Really like the player he’s turned into at age 24. You can see him emerging in the Reasoner/Horcoff mentor role now, such an impressive person and player.
- The Edmonton Oilers are beginning to look frightening at center after years of being frightful at center.
WINGER STORY LAST NIGHT
- Eight fascinating stories from last night, beginning with Gazdic and McLellan’s handling of him. The enforcer played 10 minutes of mostly uneventful hockey where he forechecked and got 14 seconds on the power play. He didn’t hit anyone though and gave the puck up at regular intervals. Every policeman sortie an offensive ZS, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. McLellan should run for office.
- Teddy Purcell made a nifty pass to Nuge for his goal and I thought he was mostly effective on that line. TP isn’t a speed demon but he’s smart and for me is not a major issue—especially with Eberle out. There may come a time to deal him but I like his presence on this young team.
- Taylor Hall looked dangerous all night, his line had the tough ZS and some wonky bounces but there was plenty going the other way too. He’s taking quite a beating on twitter for the OT goal but to my eye that was Nuge’s man and Hall was never in the transaction. Haters gonna hate, and I do think Hall has some rust, but he’s coming around and there’s magic on his line.
- Benoit Pouliot is coming on now, the big bull can feel it and the combination of size, skill and general prickishness is delightful. Enjoy this hockey player, and if you’re the guy who is bitching about not having one of these types, recognize what’s in front of you. Quality.
- Nail Yakupov is in his ‘young hearts, fun free’ phase under Todd McLellan. I think the coach may have said something like “why don’t you go out and forecheck tonight, and force the play, Nail” because Nail goes out and forechecks a LOT. I like it, good use of his boundless energy. I love him on his current line, one tiny complaint: Hit the net young man.
- Lauri Korpikoski lost a battle on the 2-2 goal (I think it was him) and that kind of disappointed me, but let’s remember he’s a veteran and is finding the range in a new town. That moment there, where he didn’t cover? That’s what he’s paid to do properly. I do like his overall ability, he does work the defense in the other end and skates well.
- Leon Draisaitl was quiet to my eye, might have had something to do with that shot off his foot (foot? leg? tree trunk?) early in the game. I believe he’s earned an NHL position but we’ll have to see.
- Anton Slepyshev had another solid night, damn near cashed on a nifty exchange with Taylor Hall. He’s in the right place at the right time. He’s physical, in the game (three shots last night) and getting chances. Todd McLellan mentioned last night he liked the young Russian’s game. When does he fade?
PREDICTED OPENING NIGHT ROSTER
- Goal (2): Cam Talbot, Anders Nilsson
- Defense (8): Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Oscar Klefbom, Justin Schultz, Griffin Reinhart (R), Eric Gryba, Andrew Ference, Brandon Davidson (R)
- Center (4): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid (R), Anton Lander, Mark Letestu
- Left Wing (5): Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl, Lauri Korpikoski, Luke Gazdic
- Right Wing (4): Teddy Purcell, Anton Slepyshev (R), Nail Yakupov, Matt Hendricks
I’ll have something up at 10:30 or so if we see anything shaking on waivers or a trade, otherwise it’ll be a 5pm post and a discussion about roster decisions. I have Ben Scrivens and Rob Klinkhammer heading out based on TC, wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Nilsson and Slepyshev are the actual demotions. We’ll discuss at 5pm unless the Oilers change the day.