Preseason hockey is a necessary evil in my books. Sure it’s good in helping coaches evaluate players in some respects, but the level of competition they were facing can be a mixed bag. Sure it gets players into game shape and lets them hit opposing teams rather than their own, but you also run the risk of injury and setbacks in what is otherwise a meaningless contest.
And then there is the whole “what does it all mean?” aspect behind these games that I believe all fans and media alike struggle with. Some look way too much into how lines are deployed and how players preform while other fans are too dismissive of the fact “it’s just preseason hockey.”
Preseason hockey doesn’t mean anything, but it still kinda means something and to what degree of such things depends who you ask at any given moment.
Anyway, that’s my rant. On to five takeaways from tonight’s Jets / Wild preseason game…
1 – All The Penalties
Chances were good that if you were in Bell MTS Place between the hours of 7 and 10 PM, you were given a penalty for some sort of infraction.
The NHL seems to do this every year with the whole “refs clamp down on infractions now and set an example for the regular season” gimmick where nary a hold or a stick lift go uncalled, but tonight – and perhaps it’s recency bias – seemed even more ridiculous.
8 penalties taken by the Jets, 11 by the Wild, not many of them felt like they would have warranted a call in a mid-December game.
The NHL is trying to clamp down on stick infractions, especially around the hand area – of the 19 penalties called, 7 were either hooking or slashing penalties – and if it does reduce the number of times we see a player skate away from a play while shaking his hand in pain, then it’s a good thing. The only hope is that once the calendar turns to October 4th and these games count for real, the officials and the league suddenly forget their mission and everything goes back to the way it was.
2 – Top Guys Doing Top Guy Things
The line of Laine, Wheeler and Schiefele was fantastic. They created scoring chances, they looked dynamic. The only concern one may have was they might have made one pass too many a handful of times, but that’s the kind of stuff that gets figured out in preseason.
Laine looks bigger and may be more of a physical presence on the ice this season. It was actually cool to see him come to the defense of Scheifele after Mark was knocked down with a particularly hard hit as he reached for a pass in the neutral zone. His shot of course remains flat out lethal when he gets all of the puck and even when he doesn’t – he did flub on a couple of one-timer chances – it still looks like it has plenty of zip to it.
3 – Hellebuyck Played Well
He wasn’t challenged with anything overly difficult through the game (although that sequence where he stopped Charlie Coyle coming off the wing, and then stopped him again on a wraparound attempt late in the third period was pretty nice) but Connor Hellebuyck played a pretty strong game in goal stopping 34 of 26 shots faced. If the coaching staff was looking to see if Helle would make a claim to the number one goalie spot, I think tonight can be viewed as a very strong opening argument. Would have been nice to see Eric Comrie get in some time, but he’s AHL bound so it wasn’t as critical.
4 – The Not So Impressive
Logan Stanley fans, please skip ahead a bit and/or look away.
Logan Stanley was not good tonight. That’s the nicest way it can be said. He still continues to have issues with puck handling, he relies far too much on his size and reach to try and do things on the ice, he can’t seem to complete any breakout passes (he sailed at least three different attempts wide of his passing targets) … He may get another game, maybe two of preseason action, but he’s OHL bound for sure and Jets fans can only hope he figures out that he needs to move his feet more and not panic every time a puck gets near him.
Meanwhile Adam Lowry and Kyle Connor are like oil and water. Both are pretty good on their own, but they do not mix well. Lowry is a slower, more physical player, Connor is faster and his skills are better suited to a higher pace of play that Lowry just can’t keep up with. Somehow it feels like Paul Maurice will try to shoehorn these two into a line together anyway, but it’s a mistake.
5 – Poolman Was Cool Man
Tucker Poolman’s first foray into NHL waters went pretty well and he had quite a few fans buzzing on social media about how well he played. Multiple people were seen commenting that he didn’t look like a player coming of double shoulder surgery. He was poised, his zone exits were calm and done with confidence, he blew a couple of coverage assignments early in the game but got stronger as the game went on. Overall a very solid preseason debut for the kid.
And lest we overlook Tobias Enstrom who deserves a fair amount of credit for the kid’s play as well. Jets fans should be encouraged by the work from the pair.