Photo Credit: © Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Takeaways From The Winnipeg Jets 5-3 Loss To Edmonton

We had a little bit of fun over “Mustard-gate” last night, but what wasn’t funny is the way in which the Winnipeg Jets lost last night’s preseason contest to the Edmonton Oilers which yet again saw the Jets carry a lead into the third period only to give up three goals and lose 5-3.

You can dismiss the game and the end result as “just preseason” all you want, but last night was a continuation of a disturbing trend we have seen with the Jets going back to last season and there should be some real concern going into a new year.

The first two periods were fine enough. Not exactly technical hockey masterpieces served up by the Jets, but good enough to where you’d could say “this is fine for preseason hockey” and there wouldn’t be any issue with that statement. This is the time of year little mistakes and bad hockey habits will happen and should be corrected.

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There are two types of mistakes that can happen in a hockey game. Mistakes that are based on dumb luck or circumstances that can’t be prevented, and mistakes that CAN be prevented but happen because of lazy play or lack of awareness.

The Mathieu Perreault slip that led to the Oilers first goal? That’s one of those “dumb luck” plays. Yes there is a bit of forecheck pressure from the Oilers, but it’s nothing that Perreault hasn’t seen or dealt with before in his career and the stumble and the end result from it is due to “dumb luck” or a mistake that could happen to anyone during any game. His body zigged when his brain told him to zag.

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Here, the Jets don’t even have control of the puck. The Oilers back pedal with control of the puck and it’s in that moment that the Jets decided to go for a casual line change at the same time the Oilers collected said puck, fired it up to a streaking Connor McDavid who happens to be the best player in the world right now and current “fastest skater in the NHL” for a prime scoring chance.

This, would be an extreme example of a very preventable mistake. The Jets should have had control of the puck and fired it deep into the Oilers zone. Awareness of who is on the ice for the Oilers needs to happen and a more urgency with the line change is needed.

But this too is what preseason is for. Reminders needing to be sent out to all players that once the regular season starts in less than a week, things like this can’t happen. It’s only by the grace of McDavid also being human and needing to shake off some proverbial rust from basically sitting out a summer while recovering from a knee injury that he doesn’t finish the play, but again, that’s what preseason is for, right?

In the first two periods of last night’s game, the Jets limited those mistakes both in making them and recovering from any made. In the third period they made multiple mistakes – sometimes on the same play – and the Oilers made them pay for it.

On this goal, Anthony Bitetto has zero gap on Leon Draisaitl and doesn’t give any respect to his speed or ability to play with the puck. Tucker Poolman sprawling out of control doesn’t help matters. Connor Hellebuyck for whatever reason is late to try and cover up the puck and the forwards somehow allow Ethan Bear to get past two of them and tuck home a loose puck.

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Here Nathan Beaulieu makes a strange decision to try and attack Draisaitl just as he’s getting the puck up to Tomas Jurco and again Dmitry Kulikov in an effort to cover for that mistake takes a really bad angle to the puck carrier to the point where he probably shouldn’t have even bothered trying. Give credit to Jurco for a well placed shot here, but Hellebuyck also goes down into the butterfly a second or two too early, giving Jurco the top of the net to shoot at.

This is just horrible defending all around, but on the bright side it’s the one goal where you can at least argue that Hellebuyck didn’t have a chance on as who could possibly see through all that humanity? Nice set up by the Oilers here, a bit of luck needed for the puck to get through, but better (or at least more active) defending by the Jets on this play and a goal isn’t scored.

By my count, four of the five goals the Oilers scored last night were a result of preventable mistakes made by the Jets.

Some other thoughts from the game last night.

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Tucker Poolman has earned a roster spot

Tucker Poolman has impressed with his steady defensive play in each preseason game he’s been in and his goal last night showed good awareness of where he is on the ice, likely knowing he has two teammates behind him to cover defensively, and smartly pinch in on an offensive opportunity. If he hadn’t clinched his spot on the roster before last night, this game did it for sure.

Ville Heinola has at least earned his nine game NHL tryout

What I love about this kid is the angles he takes when defending players and how he maintains just enough room between himself and the opposing player to properly defend a play without leaving himself open to be burned. It’s hard to believe hes 18. Look at that GIF above to see how he’s defending Draisaitl – a man who has an extra four inches of height , 30 more pounds and five more years of NHL experience on Ville Heinola – like a seasoned veteran.

I think a lot of us have watched this waiting for the wheels to fall off or a series of mistakes to happen where everyone can go “oh, see, that’s where he needs help with his game” and it isn’t happening. He hasn’t panicked when handling the puck, his zone exits have been maybe the most sure thing we’ve seen from any Jet this preseason.

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My brain is telling me that the smart thing to do would be to stash him away in the AHL for a year, let him develop some more there, or even let him go back to the Finnish Elite League… But what more needs to be worked on that can’t be done in the NHL? It’s the same thing as my argument for bringing up Sami Niku last year. yes, he might make mistakes, but at this point it’s not like the Jets have better options.

He’s earned his early nine game stay, if not more.

Joona Luoto has been a revelation

That is a heck of a pass, the kind of pass that immediately leads to a scoring chance and Luoto has made a few of those in this preseason. He’s done really good work playing in the neutral zone, making safe plays with the puck and assisting in zone exits. I would argue he understand how to properly play in the neutral zone better than the likes of Mark Letestu or Gabriel Bourque and for that reason he really should be in the opening night lineup for the Jets next week.

Luoto hasn’t done anything to play himself out of a spot, but may end up being beaten out by Letestu or Bourque anyway because “veteran players” which is vintage Paul Maurice.

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If Luoto does get sent to the Moose, the only justification you can maybe make is that he still needs some time to adjust to the North American ice. I have to imagine he’s one of the first called back up.

What’s up with Hellebuyck?

Two preseason games and he hasn’t looked good in either of them. He’s 6’4″ yet hasn’t used his size to cover the net properly. His angles have been poor, he’s flailed around a lot when the defense in front of him has imploded – which given the shape of the Jets defense going into this season is not a good sign at all.

We’re at a point right now in this preseason where Laurent Brossoit has looked more like a competent and in-control goalie than Hellebuyck has. There is one more game on Sunday which Hellebuyck will likely start with Brossoit possibly getting a period in relief. Hopefully we see better from Connor in that game.

It’s not time to hit the panic button on him yet, but don’t mind us if we open up the plastic box around it. In the end “it’s just preseason” and we know players and goalies work on stuff, but we also saw this movie before last season from both Hellebuyck and the Jets as a whole.